Calgary — ATB Financial and SeedUps Canada are partnering to help educate small businesses and investors about a new phenomenon: equity crowd funding. Formed in 2014, Calgary-based SeedUps, with its exempt market dealer partner Waverley Corporate Financial Services, is the first online equity crowd funding platform in Canada, allowing early-stage companies an opportunity to raise capital from a broad range of investors. Through equity crowd funding, investors become part owners of the businesses they support.
“We call it being an owner, not a donor,” says Sandi Gilbert, founder & CEO of SeedUps. “Crowd funding has been around for a long time. I grew up on a farm and when we needed to build a new barn, we just got the neighbourhood together and they came and helped us build the barn. At SeedUps, we’re using technology to give companies a broader reach so they don’t have to go door to door to raise capital.”
ATB—the largest Alberta-based financial institution—and SeedUps will work together to build and distribute educational materials for both early-stage companies and investors so they can learn how to participate and benefit from equity crowd funding.
“We’re working hard to be the bank supporting entrepreneurs in Alberta,” says Sean Ballard, ATB’s director of innovation. “We want to help show entrepreneurs and investors how to raise and use capital, where equity crowd funding fits in and how to grow. It’s a great way to serve our customers better.”
Jump On was the first company to be profiled on SeedUps and the first to generate an investment. Based in Calgary, Jump On books unused charter aircraft and offers low airfare to destinations across North America. So far, Jump On has raised $100,000 in capital through SeedUps investments that will go towards development of new computer software. It was capital the company may not have otherwise been able to raise.
“It was an opportunity to put our name in front of a new group of individuals that was beyond our reach,” says Roger Jewett, Jump On’s founder and CEO. “We were looking for a simple way to give our customers a way to become shareholders and, on the flip side, we wanted our shareholders to become customers. It just seemed to be the perfect fit. It’s been phenomenal.”
Equity crowd funding is also a way for non-accredited investors to participate in high risk/high reward venture capital.
“Typically in North America, investing in private companies has been restricted to accredited investors or, in a word, millionaires,” says Gilbert. “Demographically in Canada, that’s a very small amount of people, maybe three or four per cent of the population. But what about the people who make $150,000 a year or who have $400,000 in their investment portfolio? That’s a large group and we’re opening up new investment opportunities for them.”