JOBS Act Is Good News for the 99 Percent
The JOBS Act is a "game changer" that would allow "ordinary Americans…to go online and invest in entrepreneurs they believe in," says President Obama.
Do you know what PIPRs (private issuers publicly raising) are? Do you know what the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012 or JOBS Act is? If not, you are like many people who are legally and culturally cut off from Wall Street which tends to be a bastion of rich, white one percenters.
Until the JOBS Act, passed by the Obama administration in 2012, if you had a business, you could not advertise its stock unless you were registered with the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or state securities agencies. While this restriction, dating back to 1933, was designed to protect the investing public, its effect on small and start-up companies has been to shut them out of capital funding.
Thanks to Title II of the JOBS Act, which went into effect last fall, all this has changed. No longer do entrepreneurs who are not Wall Street insiders, especially women and minorities, have to wait for an invitation to appear before a venture capital company or other largesse from the "old boys' network" to get a chance at funding: they can literally advertise their stock on twitter, Facebook, in person or on TV. And many are.
There is another democratizing principle to the JOBS Act, which is not yet active but expected to go into effect before the end of the year. Per 1933 securities legislation, private companies were legally restricted from marketing stock to anyone but "accredited" investors-- defined as "as an individual with an income in excess of $200,000 per year, or a couple with a joint income of $300,000 in each of the last two years, or an individual with a net worth exceeding $1 million, either individually or jointly with a spouse." Limiting buyers to "accredited" investors obviously also perpetuates the "old boys' network"--only rich people hear about deals and the common person would miss out on the chance to invest in promising companies. Title III of the JOBS Act will let everyday, non-accredited people invest online into private companies in small amounts like $1,000 to $5,000.
Raising funds publicly "is more efficient and less time consuming than making presentations individually to one venture capital or angel investment firm after another until one decides to invest. The company seeking the money prepares one presentation that can be viewed by multiple potential investors," agrees Practical Ecommerce. "Raising funds publicly gives the company a good deal of free exposure to potential investors, customers, and the media. General solicitation gives companies that are not in 'hot' technology categories an opportunity to reach investors who might not otherwise find them."
Of course crowdfunding has been revolutionary in amassing financial support for political and environmental causes, direct action, charities, artists and movies but many socially aware people, especially women, are more comfortable donating than investing. The JOBS Act and crowdfinance should change this, letting people invest in good causes and socially aware entrepreneurs and get something back.
"Women-led businesses got only three percent of venture capital backing last year," Luan A. Cox, founder and CEO of the New York City-based Crowdnetic told me in a phone interview. "We only have 'up' to go."
Half Vietnamese and residing with her wife and small son in Brooklyn, Cox is not shy about wanting to see more women and minorities like herself wrestle away the financing prerogatives that have keep Wall Street a closed and elite game since its origins. "We are missing out on the 'next Google,'" she told me because only the "the rich are hearing about the hot deals."