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With crowdfunding continuing to grow in Europe, a new industry body, the European Equity Crowdfunding Association (EECA), formed in late May to represent specifically equity- and debt-based crowdfunding industries. Recently, EECA held its first board meeting, so we caught up with the organization's General Counsel and Manager Alessandro Lerro (who has also contributed articles to this site) to find out more about the association.
Anton Root, Crowdsourcing.org: What is the association's mission?
Alessandro Lerro, EECA: EECA’s mission is to represent and advocate the business of equity crowdfunding platforms in Europe and in particular to share knowledge and open technologies, to manage training and education, [and] to adopt a professional code of ethics. EECA wants also to offer assistance to the EU Commission and national authorities; five people appointed in the newly created European Crowdfunding Stakeholders Forum (a consulting body of the European Commission) [are] also EECA members.
There are a few crowdfunding associations already present on both the EU and on country-specific levels -- what sets you apart, and why did you feel it was appropriate to create another organization?
In Europe there was no business association exclusively devoted to equity and debt crowdfunding, which is, indeed, far different from reward, donation, and lending. Therefore, several platforms felt the need to create an entity suitable to properly represent crowd-investment in Europe, notwithstanding their continuing support to other national and international associations. Business associations represent homogeneous interests but nevertheless they could share the same goals as other business associations, so we are very open to cooperate, without any competition or contrast, for the development of a deep crowdfunding culture in investments and finance.
Which platforms make up the association so far? (Is there a link to a website with a list of members?) Who are the non-platform members?
The website will be published soon. Below is the current list of the [36 members] from 14 countries, which are founding members of the Association; several others are completing the application in these days. Aside from platforms, we have other members who are involved in [supporting] services to the industry (IT, marketing, legal, accounting, etc.).
What was discussed in the latest board member meeting?
The last board meeting was also the first one, so there was a number of corporate issues in the agenda (statute approval, board constitution, etc.). For the first biennium, the Board appointed the Italian Tommaso D’Onofrio (of Assiteca Crowd) as Chairman, and the Irish Michael Faulkner (of SeedUps) and the French Benoit Bazzocchi (Smart Angels) as Vice-Presidents. Offices will be subject to [frequent] rotation. A Scientific Committee will be chaired by Bruno Schneider Le Saout, while I have been appointed as General Counsel and Manager.
What concrete steps have you planned to promote the growth of equity crowdfunding in Europe?
Among the first decisions, the Board delegated me to open a table of discussion with the other business associations proposing to work together in order to allow cross border transactions. We hope to start executing this point in Las Vegas, during the 3rd Annual Global Crowdfunding Convention and Bootcamp, where I am also part to the Worldwide Council of Crowdfunding Leaders with several prominent crowdfunding advocates, such as Doug Ellenoff, Paul Niederer, John Medved, and, of course, Ruth Hedges. A specific yearly action plan will be presented by the Board to the Assembly in a couple of months.
There is concern among Spanish platforms around the government's attitude toward equity crowdfunding. What your members' thoughts on the future of equity crowdfunding in the country?
The original draft for the Spanish Crowdfunding Law was a mistake, both for the restrictive measures it imposed and for the deep lack of understanding of crowdfunding that it nonchalantly displayed. After a few months, very long hours of work, and a few more drafts and proposals, the whole Spanish crowd-investment sector united as a lobby and managed to talk the government into a more reasonable law – albeit one with still many shortcomings.
Daniel Oliver, President of the Associaciòn Espanola de Crowdfunding and EECA’s Member of the Board, reported that the existence of a law is good for crowdfunding in Spain, as it will give investors a regulatory background and prevent low quality platforms to cheat the market; our five Spanish members expect this to jumpstart investment flow through crowdfunding and foresee a brilliant future for the industry.
What do you hope to accomplish before the next EECA meeting, and beyond?
We will have a website up and running, that will be a first information step for whoever is approaching crowd-investment in the 14 member countries. Then, we hope to make some steps in the coordination with the other business associations in order to start working for the building of an international market.