European Crowdfunding Legislation: What’s Taking So Long?

While the U.S. are making major efforts to implement the JOBS Act, the European Union seems to be only capable of analyzing the developments, as J.D. Alois’ article “EC Releases Communication on Long Term Financing Including Crowdfunding” shows.

The most important conclusion was that the European Union should monitor, rather than develop and implement legislation. This apparently passive attitude can be seen as a sign of a broken and incoherent view on crowdfunding, but the opposite is true. There are several reasons why developing European legislation requires monitoring as a first, valuable step.

Implementing legislation can actually break up crowdfunding growth

Map of Europe

Europe is a diversified continent in terms of legislation. Some countries, such as Belgium and the Netherlands, work with a Twin-Peaks model meaning one party supervises the stability of the financial system (DNB) and the other party (AFM) supervises financial behavior (saving, investing, insuring, lending, etc.).

In some countries however, each financial product belongs to a sector (pensions, accountants, etc.) that has its own regulator. In such countries it is often hard to decide where crowdfunding belongs. Should lending via the crowd be regulated differently from equity-crowdfunding, for example, or is all crowdfunding equal?

As result, it is difficult for the European Union to develop and implement one set of rules that affects all European countries and systems. The risk exists that if Europe would force its countries to implement crowdfunding rules on a micro-scale, crowdfunding growth would actually be damaged, or worse, fully destroyed.

European Union Flag

The reason for this scattered legal landscape is of course that all the separate countries already came into existence before the current European Union did. Though legislation could break crowdfunding development in the European Union, European directives are preparing to set standards that all the members will have to meet while at the same time, leaving them free to implement legislation to their own understanding.

Local legislation in place poses a problem however..

Implementing European legislation at a local scale sounds like a great solution. However, in most cases legislation is already in place in order to regulate financial markets and products. Adjusting these in order to suffice European crowdfunding standards might create a stir across a country’s entire financial system.

It would not just be a case of setting up crowdfunding regulations: it would mean that countries might have to restructure their entire financial system. Countries are not willing to do that as long as crowdfunding does not yet contribute as much to the economy as most industries do, because the investment might possibly not pay off or be wrong due to unforeseen developments.

Differing legal entities across Europe

Different countries work with different legal entities for their companies. As a campaign manager at Symbid I know we often get requests from entrepreneurs across borders, who we can’t help if they do not establish a Dutch Limited Liability company first. A very strange fact if you consider the entrepreneur might only be some 60 miles away.

Crowd in Airport

In many cases, crowdfunding platforms can only service companies from their own country. Why? If the platform would want to extend the structure across Europe, they would face an increased risk of fraud. Even if they would be able to counter act this possible threat with a solid due diligence process, like some platforms already have in place, they would be liable for European legislation, while the entire legal structure was based on their homeland’s legislation in the first place. European legislation in this case might either have some holes as there is no regulation available for the structure, or might work against the platform. That is not a risk a crowdfunding platform wants to take for its investors or its entrepreneurs.

European Union Growth

Next step to actually developing legislation

The overall goal of course is to have European legislation work for all 28 countries, which is a challenging task to complete. A first step is indeed to monitor the crowdfunding developments across Europe in different countries. It will soon become clearer what structures work and which do not work. Rather than risking a downfall of the entire would-be pan-European crowdfunding legislative system, the European Union is avoiding the “all eggs in one basket”- strategy; something every good investor understands!

This article was earlier published on CrowdfundInsider.com

Startup Hubs in Europe: What’s Their Added Value for Your Startup?

Forbes already knows: smart startups start in Europe. But why? Startups are a thriving resource of jobs and competitive advantage through innovation, and what they need are great startup ecologies. Europe is well on its way to develop several entrepreneurship hubs, and the lists with the top hubs can be found all over the internet (WiredThe Atlanic Cities,VentureBeat).

Avid Larizadeh

While Sillicon Valley often seems to be the sole benchmark indicating the strength of a cities capacity to successfully develop startups, Avid Larizadeh, investor at Accel Partners London and a Kauffman Fellow, says starting your business in the U.S. is no longer “an obvious decision anymore, as it used to be ten years ago”. Though it’s indeed valuable to take a good look at successful centers like the Valley, there are more qualifications than the amount of funding available that allow a city to rise on the startup culture ranking. Here are the most important qualities you should compare.

SONY DSC

Context of a startup company

It’s great that Sillicon Valley or Tel Aviv are major players for tech startups, but if you’re about to scale your import of traditional Japanese candy into Europe, you might better develop your startup in a city that allows for great logistics and that functions as a gateway to the European transport system. Think Antwerp, Rotterdam or Hamburg. And even if you’re in the tech business, software products (the Valley) are different from innovative solar solutions (Tel Aviv). Think about it: what product or startup today doesn’t require some form of “technology”?

Pick a hub that allows you to extensively test, gain knowledge about your product and customers, and contact your partners and customers in the industry you’re working in. Having an Italian cook prepare an authentic Thai dish doesn’t make sense, even if it both involves food.

Funding types and company stage

Flag_of_Germany.PNG

Global consulting and research agency McKinsey recogninses Berlin as a promising centre for entrepreneurship. With a problem of delayed or hard to get by follow up capital raises (i.e. A/B rounds).  And while Berlin might not be the best environment to get a high score on your B-round, London, despite its higher than average first year raise compared to Berlin and the Valley, seems to reach an all time low on a raise during the fourth year, says The London School of Economics.

Does that mean you have to move your company from city to city with each raise? Of course not. Just think about when you need the money the most. For developing an initial prototype or for scaling up? It’s great a hub has the most VC capital raises, but if you’re not yet creating revenue, it’s no use trying. The same goes FFF-raises: the city best suited for your seed-capital raise is the city where your family is most easily contacted, not where the biggest amount of seed capital is being gathered.

500 Euros

Funding amounts, and investors’ ROI’s

Funding amounts can be tricky. True, the Valley raises the highest amounts of money. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy: successful entrepreneurs have money to invest in startup companies. Startup companies know there’s money, so they ask for more. In addition, until a short while ago, Europe largely depended on bank loans. It remains a major drawback that European startup centers still have to develop a private funding structure that can match the U.S. equivalent (though equity crowdfunding is well on its way to change this).

Yet, according to Ernst & Young, European VC’s have increased in profitability in the last years, while that of U.S. counterparts has dwindled, showing the success of the company is not guaranteed with a bigger investment. In addition a shift from traditionally popular VC countries to upcoming countries is taking place, fueling European startup centers. There’s just more money to spend. In addition, the Kauffman Institute says that bigger VC’s do not necessarily make more profitable VC’s.

Accelerator opportunities

The value of the hyped contest that incubators and accelerators organise, is over rated. Most investors simply don’t know about them, and only if you win you get some money. The real value for a startup is in the fact that they’re competing and thus pushing their limits in terms of performance and presentation. In addition, accelerators and incubators help you to apply some time pressure (there’s no procrastinating), to network (event calendar, other services), several services are centred and you have a coach that you discuss with.

Knowledge and knowledge sharing

sharingOne of the reasons Berlin is often mentionedas the place to be to let your company “grow up”, is because it’s open and connected. Why is knowledge sharing important to startup companies? Think of user data, understanding (technical) product developments, exchanging ideas amongst co-workers or partnerships with other startup companies. Startups need an environment where they can add to their knowledge, share and combine existing knowledge, test this knowledge and finally turn in into a tangible product or service. Innovation can only be sustained via knowledge creation, so when picking a place to settle your Corp.-to-be, take into consideration the knowledge sharing culture. Is your city full of universities and is the culture open, or is most revenue created via IP lawsuits?

The Best

Tel Aviv, London, Berlin, Paris.. I’m not going to tell you what city is best: it varies per company. The combination of requirements for your startup may differ form what the hyped lists and expensive reports show you. What is “hot” might be a “not” for your company. Think about your product, what industry you’ll be working in and where you have the best chances to decently develop your product. Quality innovative product development aimed at value creation for your customer should be your main focus as a startup, so ask yourself where you’re most likely to acquire the mile stones needed to achieve that goal before picking your startup hub.

This article was previously published on CrowdfundInsider

European Crowdfunding Legislation: What’s Taking So Long?

While the U.S. are making major efforts to implement the JOBS Act, the European Union seems to be only capable of analyzing the developments, as J.D. Alois’ article “EC Releases Communication on Long Term Financing Including Crowdfunding” shows.

The most important conclusion was that the European Union should monitor, rather than develop and implement legislation. This apparently passive attitude can be seen as a sign of a broken and incoherent view on crowdfunding, but the opposite is true. There are several reasons why developing European legislation requires monitoring as a first, valuable step.

Implementing legislation can actually break up crowdfunding growth

Map of Europe

Europe is a diversified continent in terms of legislation. Some countries, such as Belgium and the Netherlands, work with a Twin-Peaks model meaning one party supervises the stability of the financial system (DNB) and the other party (AFM) supervises financial behavior (saving, investing, insuring, lending, etc.).

In some countries however, each financial product belongs to a sector (pensions, accountants, etc.) that has its own regulator. In such countries it is often hard to decide where crowdfunding belongs. Should lending via the crowd be regulated differently from equity-crowdfunding, for example, or is all crowdfunding equal?

As result, it is difficult for the European Union to develop and implement one set of rules that affects all European countries and systems. The risk exists that if Europe would force its countries to implement crowdfunding rules on a micro-scale, crowdfunding growth would actually be damaged, or worse, fully destroyed.

European Union Flag

The reason for this scattered legal landscape is of course that all the separate countries already came into existence before the current European Union did. Though legislation could break crowdfunding development in the European Union, European directives are preparing to set standards that all the members will have to meet while at the same time, leaving them free to implement legislation to their own understanding.

Local legislation in place poses a problem however..

Implementing European legislation at a local scale sounds like a great solution. However, in most cases legislation is already in place in order to regulate financial markets and products. Adjusting these in order to suffice European crowdfunding standards might create a stir across a country’s entire financial system.

It would not just be a case of setting up crowdfunding regulations: it would mean that countries might have to restructure their entire financial system. Countries are not willing to do that as long as crowdfunding does not yet contribute as much to the economy as most industries do, because the investment might possibly not pay off or be wrong due to unforeseen developments.

Differing legal entities across Europe

Different countries work with different legal entities for their companies. As a campaign manager at Symbid I know we often get requests from entrepreneurs across borders, who we can’t help if they do not establish a Dutch Limited Liability company first. A very strange fact if you consider the entrepreneur might only be some 60 miles away.

Crowd in Airport

In many cases, crowdfunding platforms can only service companies from their own country. Why? If the platform would want to extend the structure across Europe, they would face an increased risk of fraud. Even if they would be able to counter act this possible threat with a solid due diligence process, like some platforms already have in place, they would be liable for European legislation, while the entire legal structure was based on their homeland’s legislation in the first place. European legislation in this case might either have some holes as there is no regulation available for the structure, or might work against the platform. That is not a risk a crowdfunding platform wants to take for its investors or its entrepreneurs.

European Union Growth

Next step to actually developing legislation

The overall goal of course is to have European legislation work for all 28 countries, which is a challenging task to complete. A first step is indeed to monitor the crowdfunding developments across Europe in different countries. It will soon become clearer what structures work and which do not work. Rather than risking a downfall of the entire would-be pan-European crowdfunding legislative system, the European Union is avoiding the “all eggs in one basket”- strategy; something every good investor understands!

This article was earlier published on CrowdfundInsider.com