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SEC lifts advertising ban: big win for equity crowdfunding

Crowdfunding sites were handed a huge win today in the form of the SEC lifting an 80 year old ban that restricted businesses from advertising their need for funding beyond their personal networks, along with measures designed to protect investors.

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Crowdfunding sites get a nod from the SEC

In a 4-1 vote today by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), an amendment has passed to lift the 80 year ban on the general solicitation and advertising of Regulation D (“Reg D”) offerings which will go into effect in 60 days. While most analysts have focused on hedge funds, the ruling reduces many of the limitations that equity crowdfunding sites have been restricted by – a huge win for companies seeking alternative financing.

EarlyShares CEO Joanna Schwartz explains, “Historically, entrepreneurs and small business owners have been prohibited from advertising their need for capital beyond their personal networks. This presented a huge challenge. How can you raise money if you can’t tell anyone that you need money? With this ruling, advertising will be permitted, eliminating a major barrier to raising capital from accredited investors.”

John A. Kallassy, President and Founding Partner of I-Bankers Direct said, “This ruling will dramatically alter the capital-raising process for private companies, especially for early-stage businesses, which can now cast a much wider net. The welcome transparency that the SEC ruling brings to the process will allow a significantly larger number of investors, many of whom are unaware of their accredited status, to participate in opportunities that, until now, fell almost exclusively in the domain of the investing elite.”

Michael Nugent and Rasmus Goksor, Co-Founders of Bison stated that lifting the solicitation ban brings new Form D filing requirements and enables information to be more freely shared with the public. “There remains, however, a fundamental data problem in the industry stemming from the disparate sources and unstructured format of data. There is a strong need for actors that can augment all industry data and create a true information platform for private equity. This is what we continue to work on at Bison.co.”

The ruling was not unanimous

The approved amendment and others still under consideration are part of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act) and supporters of this specific rule have criticized the SEC for delaying enforcement of the bi-partisan supported Act.

The SEC ruling was not unanimous, and the sole vote against it was Democratic Commissioner Luis Aguilar who said in a statement, “I am disappointed and saddened by the reckless adoption [of the rule].”

SEC Chair Mary Jo White said, “In my view, given the explicit language of the JOBS act as well as the statutory deadline … the commission should act without any further delay.”

In a show of support for investor protection, the SEC unanimously adopted rules that block felons from pitching specific types of private investment deals and in a 3-2 vote adopted a rule that requires firms offering private placements to make additional disclosures to regulators prior to being able to advertise it.

Although strong bipartisan support has been voiced for the JOBS Act amendments, Aguilar’s negative sentiment echoes that of Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) who said, “It’s as if the SEC is jumping out of an airplane today, and then proposing to check the safety of its parachute on the way down.”

Changing the face of crowdfunding

Regardless of criticism, the new rules will soon be in place, and equity crowdfunding will no longer have to persistently disclaim, “once the Securities and Exchange Commission rules are finalized and effective,” as organizations like EarlyShares have been doing since their inception.

Jason Burmer, VC and Angel Relations at EarlyShares said in a statement, “The face of raising capital is changing… in a good way. The convergence of technology and new laws has enabled us to streamline the once cumbersome capital raising process to a more pragmatic approach that enables investing in startups and small businesses over the internet.”

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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Business Finance

Under-representation of women in fintech: Let’s talk about it

(BUSINESS FINANCE) Representation of women in fintech remains scarce despite a prevalent population of interest. Why is this the case, and what can we do about it?

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Woman reading a document in front of her computer, one of the women in fintech.

Women are 50% of the population – so why are there only 9 of us on the 2020 Forbes Fintech 50?

I’m personally shocked by how underrepresented women are in such a lucrative industry. By 2022, it’s predicted that fintech, or financial tech, will be worth $26.5 trillion, and we cannot afford to miss out.

And I’m serious when I say fintech is truly taking over. This includes payment processing, online and mobile banking, person-to-person payments (think Venmo or Cash App), financial software, to name a few. For some perspective, half of consumers use digital banking services as the primary way to manage their money. That’s a big deal.

So why does it matter that women are drastically underrepresented in leading roles at these companies?

  • Women CEOs receive only 2.7% of all VC funding – that is astonishingly low, considering that the remaining 97.3% is secured by their male counterparts.
  • While a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review on leadership skills found that women scored higher than men in 17 out of 19 categories (I could’ve told you that), women founders make up only 17% of fintech companies. Some of the categories tested on were:
    • Bold leadership
    • Taking initiative
    • Resilience
    • High integrity & honesty
    • Collaboration and teamwork (this is a big one!)
    • Inspiring & motivating others

If you’re a woman interested in business, tech, or entrepreneurship looking to break into the big leagues, here’s some exclusive advice from lady CEOs, founders, and COOs:

  • Stay Passionate
    Suneera Madhani, Founder + CEO of Fattmerchant, says: “…remember why you started and hold that close to your heart when times get tough.”
  • Be Open to Learning
    “Never behave as the smartest person in the room because you may miss some of the best ideas.” Says Snejina, Co-founder + CEO of Insurify.
  • Trust Your Intuition
    As the Founder + CEO of Tala, Shivani Siroya urges us to: “Stay excited, focused on results and be incredibly optimist. It’s okay to really believe in your gut – just make sure that you see the results with it.”

2021 is a new year full of opportunity – even though the odds are (and always have been) stacked against us, let’s have this be the year where women techies and business owners capitalize on their leadership skills. We have lost time – and profit – to account for.

Author’s Note: Thank you to CreditRepair for the linked infographic!

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Business Finance

TikTok users are making bank by copying Congress peoples’ investments

(FINANCE) TikTok, the short-form video platform, has users trading stocks tips. The newest strategy: following Congress peoples’ stock moves.

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TikTok isn’t just for funny dances, crude jokes, and kids born after the year 2000 (but crazy to think, they aren’t kids anymore, they could be 21…time flies). The short-form video platform that soared to be the #1 most downloaded app during the pandemic is giving tips to youngsters and millennials for their finances. The newest strategy: following and copying Congress’ stock moves.

This is in part to the not-so-surprising news of insider trading among politicians and the ability to duplicate trades of another user on platforms such as Iris, whose website says…

“Invest together with your family, friends, and brilliant people all over the world. Get real-time notifications when others make trades and copy their moves.”

Nancy Pelosi and her husband, Paul, are the prime examples of government traders (or traitors, you decide) to watch. For example, Paul made $5.3 million through call options to buy 4,000 shares of Alphabet before the House Judiciary Committee voted on antitrust regulations. He also exercised $1.95 million worth of Microsoft stock just 2 weeks prior to the company’s awarded contract worth $22 billion for the use of their VR headsets in military training. Lastly, before President Joe Biden announced another incentive program for EV manufacturers, he also paid Tesla stock options for $1 million.

Nancy Pelosi at the podium.

Christopher Johns, the cofounder of Iris, said that every trade “inevitably turned out to be such a long-term winner.” Wonder how that’s possible (eye roll). He adds, “if they’re the ones passing the laws, it’s probably smart to keep up and see what they’re buying.”

And yes, their stock picks are considered public trading activity and this is perfectly legal. Trading is no longer a lone man in a dark room behind 3 large computer screens of graphs or Jim Cramer screaming in the background- it’s a full-on social activity, just like everything else nowadays.

There is a whole community behind these meme cryptos, penny stocks, and short squeezes. You’ll find them on r/wallstreetbets, Elon Musk’s Twitter, Facebook groups, and of course, trading TikTok, all contributing to the “Eat the Rich” scheme of Gamestop/AMC, the elaborate rise and fall of Dogecoin, and the now trending, 2nd dog-specific coin, Shiba Inu.

Laugh all you want, but these kids are working smarter, not harder, and even outsmarting the best in the league, by following the best in the league.

AMC, Gamestop, and Dogecoin.

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Business Finance

Mastercard partners with Bakkt to offer crypto services to its vast network

(FINANCE) The thousands of banks and millions of merchants on the Mastercard network could soon integrate cryptocurrency in their products and purchases

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Man holding Mastercard

Mastercard has announced a partnership set to change the financial industry forever.

The major payments network is teaming up with Bakkt, a crypto-focused firm spun off of Intercontinental Exchange, that would be the provider of custodial services for users that sign up. This means that the thousands of banks and millions of merchants on Mastercard’s network could soon integrate cryptocurrency in their products and purchases. Bitcoin wallets, cards that earn rewards in crypto, and loyalty programs like airline travel or hotel points that convert to bitcoin would be included. The benefit is that the rewards or points in the form of crypto will allow users to earn a yield. Bakkt CEO Gavin Michael said in an interview,

“It’s an easy way to get going because you’re not using cash, you’re putting something that’s an idle asset sitting on your balance sheet, and we’re allowing you to put it to work.”

cryptocurrency

With Mastercard being a dominant force in the global payments industry alongside Visa, and 2.8 billion Mastercards in use, the announcement could bring a noteworthy expansion to how Americans interact with bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Sherri Haymond, the executive vice president of digital partnerships says,

“Our partners, be they banks, fintechs, or merchants, can offer their customer the ability to buy, sell, and hold cryptocurrency through an integration with the Bakkt platform.”

The development of crypto, and bitcoin in particular, has dramatically increased in just the last year. Bitcoin has reached the record price of $60k this month and U.S. regulators have now allowed bitcoin-linked ETFs.

In a U.S. Consumer Crypto survey by Bakkt consisting of 2,000 consumers, 48% said that they purchased some form of crypto in the first half of 2021. 32% that had not yet purchased crypto reported that they were heavily interested in purchasing by EOY.

According to the Mastercard New Payments Index, 77% of millennials stated their interest in learning more about crypto while 75% said that they would put it to use if they could understand it better.

“We want to offer all of our partners the ability to more easily add crypto services to whatever it is they’re doing.”

Cryptocurrency on top of US dollar.

And just announced, due to the popularity and interest in cryptocurrencies in the Asia Pacific, consumers and businesses there will have the ability to apply for crypto-linked Mastercard credit, debit, or prepaid cards allowing them to convert their crypto into traditional currency to use globally. Mastercard is partnering with Amber Group, Bitkub in Thailand, and CoinJar in Australia to offer this service. Be on the lookout for the rollout of these services in the States soon!

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