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Aiming to showcase and clarify the crowdfunding developments of the past year, a group of industry leaders is assembling at a conference called Silicon Valley Crowdfund Ventures in Palo Alto on April 4th and 5th.
April 5th marks the first anniversary of the JOBS Act being signed into law. While equity-based crowdfunding, which the legislation made legal, is still far from being a reality in the U.S., the crowdfunding industry is well ahead of where it was one year ago.
The conference’s organizer, Sydney Armani, says he organized the two-day event to focus on these advancements, rather than dwell on the past.
The conference features five panels, which will be presented on the first day. The panels will be a mix of new insights into familiar topics like reaching the campaign’s goal, as well as less discussed topics like the role of crowdfunding in the private investments ecosystem. Howard Leonhardt, who is launching the California Stock Xchange for crowdfunded securities, is MCing the event, so attendees can also expect to hear about the nascent efforts to build secondary markets for crowdfunded shares.
An eclectic group of speakers will make up the panels. They include crowdfunding portal CEOs like Crowdfunder’s Chance Barnet and Seedrs’ Jeff Lynn; writes Kevin Lawton and Devin Thorpe; as well as successful crowdfunding campaign owners like Misfit Wearables’ Sonny Vu and Dragon’s Eye Production’s Dr. Cat.
Armani explained the panelists were chosen precisely to reflect the multifaceted nature of crowdfunding.
“The conference is not just focused on equity and making money,” he told Crowdsourcing.org. “The panelists represent all different aspects of the crowdfunding industry.”
One of the panelists attending is Jeremy Andrews, CEO of Smart Money Entrepreneurs, an equity- and debt-based crowdfunding platform that will allow unnacredited investors to fund startups even before the SEC finalizes all the rules around equity crowdfunding.
"I think there are a variety of experiences, which can only enhance the experience for attendees," Andrews said about the diverse group of panelists at the conference.
The second day of the event will feature workshops on crowdfunding, as well as a startup pitch competition, where roughly twenty companies will present their ideas.
Aroma Sharma, a research fellow at NYU’s Law School who is helping to conduct a workshop on crowdfunding regulation, says she is excited to present her research to the conference’s diverse panelists and attendees.
“There aren’t that many conferences focused on crowdfunding, and I’m curious to see everyone in one room,” she said, adding that the conference’s choice for the keynote speaker – Douglas Ellenoff, a securities lawyer – also appealed to her. Timothy Draper of Draper Fisher Jurvetson will deliver the second keynote speech at the conference.
As the conference will convene in Silicon Valley, Armani says it has generated interest among entrepreneurs looking to raise capital for their ideas. But given the potential of crowdfunding to enrich local economies across the country, he hopes that the conference will spur on more individuals to tap into their entrepreneurial spirit back at home.
“Silicon Valley is a brand, it could be somewhere in Ohio or in Mississippi,” he explained. “There are lots of good things happening here, and we need to take this message elsewhere.”
Ultimately, Armani hopes the conference will reignite some of the excitement around crowdfunding that came with President Obama’s signing the JOBS Act one year ago.
“Everyone is waiting for the SEC, it’s a wave of blues,” he lamented. “We need more energy and a good attitude – get the Energizer bunny out of the closet!”