Startups and Venture Capital

The Legal Pitfalls of Rewards-Based Crowdfunding Campaigns

crowdfundingRewards-based crowdfunding sites, such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, have become a common way to get innovative businesses and products off the ground. The premise behind these crowdfunding sites is that, by raising small monetary contributions from a large number of people interested in supporting the business idea via the Internet, companies and entrepreneurs can amass enough capital to fund a fledgling project or venture. In exchange for supplying the funds, the funders are to receive the product being developed or certain other specified incentives, assuming that the entire funding goal is met by a certain deadline. If it’s not, the funds are to be returned to the backers.

The concept of crowdfunding has actually existed for some time. Players in the music industry launched online campaigns to fund tours and albums as far back as the late 1990s. It wasn’t until the mid to late 2000s when the word “crowdfunding” began to be used, and with the launch of major crowdfunding sites like IndieGoGo in 2008 and Kickstarter in 2009, the phenomenon took off and reached the popularity it sees today.

This post describes the common legal pitfalls associated with conducting a rewards-based crowdfunding campaign and steps to take to alleviate those pitfalls. [Read more…]

What Do Startups Need to Know About Data Privacy Law?

data privacyIt’s hard to imagine a startup that does not collect some form of sensitive information in digital form, and the collection, use, and disclosure of such information is regulated under federal, state, and even international laws. The purpose of this post is to outline the legal framework that creates your obligations to safeguard customer data and the consequences of failing to comply with these laws. Startup founders that understand their legal obligations and make the investment to comply with them can reduce the likelihood of liability and ultimately compete more effectively by earning a reputation for protecting their customers. [Read more…]

Can Initial Coin Offerings Be Regulated As Securities? The SEC Says Yes.

investors exchaging cryptocurrencyRecently, there has been a lot of buzz involving so-called “Initial Coin Offerings” (ICOs), which are crowdfunded offerings powered by distributed ledger technology (a.k.a. “the blockchain”), which is also the technology behind cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin. Instead of selling equity, companies that use ICOs sell digital “tokens” to investors. These tokens entitle the holders to certain rights, such as the right to a portion of the future cashflow of the company or voting rights. Unlike a traditional legal contract, the rights of token holders are not enforced through courts but rather through software code (also called “smart contracts”). Although the ICO concept has gained traction very quickly and allowed various companies to raise over a billion dollars’ worth of digital currency directly from investors, many have suspected that ICOs, like their IPO counterparts, involve the issuance of securities; however, until recently, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had not yet weighed in.

On July 25, 2017, the SEC, in order to “caution the industry and market participants,” released an investor bulletin highlighting the risks of an ICO for investors and publicized an in-depth investigative report on a recent ICO that the SEC determined involved a sale of securities. [Read more…]

New Options for Raising Capital for Startups and Growth Companies

“illustrationTraditionally, when raising capital, an overwhelming majority of businesses have used Rule 506 of Regulation D, also often known as the “private placement exemption” as their exemption from securities registration requirements. In recent years, Congress, the SEC, and state regulators have enacted a number of alternative exemptions designed to make capital formation easier for growing businesses, such as equity crowdfunding and “mini-IPOs,” as well as made refinements to existing exemptions, such as Rule 147 (intrastate offerings) and Rule 504. In this post, I’ll provide an overview of these newer options. [Read more…]

Convertible Equity Options for Startups: SAFEs and KISSes

illustration of raising capitalWhen it comes to raising capital to get your new business off the ground, there’s a range of investment structures available, from common stock to exchangeable shares. One of the newer and most popular forms of financing for startups is convertible equity.

When raising an angel or seed round of financing, many startups increasingly opt to offer investors some form of convertible equity rather than more-traditional convertible notes, which require the company to repay the investment plus interest if the company is unable to raise future rounds. Convertible equity, on the other hand, removes the stress of possible repayment with interest, and gives the company the potential of starting out free of significant debt. [Read more…]