Dr Swart’s in many ways is a barometer for the global industry. Globally recognized for his thought leadership, he is often called by governments, think tanks, corporations, funds and foundations for insights into the market and advises many global institutions and investors. We asked him to make predictions based on his knowledge of what corporations, governments and investors are expecting in 2015.
1. The US Congress will act to amend the JOBS Act. There is wide consensus that Title III crowdfunding is dead on arrival, but the new Republican leadership in Congress intends to modify Title III and increase the cap on raises and decrease compliance costs.
2. The UK will continue its direct investment in and support of alternative finance. The UK is leading the world in its support to SME finance and job creation through investing in and loaning money through alternative finance platforms. They are also discussing more tax incentives to spur SME lending through platforms like FundingCircle (and others). Expect continued growth of the already red hot UK market
3. The US Government will start discussions around regulation of alternative lenders. There are discussions swirling around DC about the rates charged by MCA lenders and concerns about predatory lending practices. While I doubt they will act, the industry is under more scrutiny than many realize
4. Indiegogo and Kickstarter will grow very slowly in the US – these mature platforms are not growing substantially in the US and most of their growth opportunities lie abroad – which is the core of Indie’s strategy
5. Corporate America will expand their use of hybrid crowdfunding and crowdsourcing campaigns. While Sony was recently found using Kickstarter, many Fortune 100 firms are actively experimenting with crowdfunding as a product launch/testing mechanism, and also as a distributed venture capital model (why run own venture group, just track and invest).
6. Rewards crowdfunding gets crowded. With more and more agencies, consultants and corporate campaigns, the bar is getting higher for small businesses and the costs and effort to successfully execute large campaigns is going to be prohibitive for many small firms and entrepreneurs
7. IPO fever in alternative lending. With LendingClub leading the way, Prosper expected to soon follow, and OnDeck having just filed (though receiving very mixed press and reviews) – it is time for many of the early VCs to start taking profits and pushing for exits and IPOs. The appetite for VC investing in equity crowdfunding is cooling in the US (though growing in the UK) and most US institutional money is chasing marketplace and alternative lenders – here and abroad
8. Major foundations and NGOs expand their use crowdfunding. Some of the largest foundations in the world have been meeting and discussing the role of crowdfunding. In an interesting paradox, many foundations want to leverage crowdfunding to directly connect to recipients of aid and disintermediate the NGOs – while many NGOs want to use crowdfunding to build in more sustainable revenue and decrease dependence on foundation support. Not-for-profits and NGOs will dramatically increase engagement in crowdfunding.
9. Diaspora and Impact Investing with crowdfunding. Active programs will launch in 2015 to see how effectively diaspora communities can use crowdfunding models to make an impact on SMEs in their home countries, in part based on the success of HomeStrings.com.
10. Major corporations will launch additional crowdfunding business models to capture revenue. With YouTube being the first major company to use crowdfunding, I know that eBay, PayPal, Amazon, Facebook and others are not far behind. The entrance of some of these firms in 2015 will dramatically alter the market.
11. Aggressive prosecutions begin. Both the SEC and several State Attorney Generals intend to actively prosecute firms that test the limits of securities regulations. Expect to see more SEC actions and some criminal prosecutions in 2015 as the regulators seek to dampen the growth of the market.
12. Crowdfunding continues to grow at least 100% a year. Alternative and marketplace lending will grow closer to 200% a year globally, and the various forms of non-debt crowdfunding will grow around 100% yearly. The most commonly cited figure in crowdfunding press – the $5.1 Billion figure from the 2013 Massolutions report includes both P2P and crowdfunding — but is usually reported as growth of the crowdfunding market (the fault of readers not the report). Crowdfunding will continue to grow, but alternative lending is the sector where hypergrowth will transform markets.
13. Banks will partner with and invest in alternative lenders. Banks are hamstrung by regulation and cannot directly compete with alternative lenders, and BBVA and others have started partnering with their apparent competitors. Wells Fargo may be about to make a move. We will see banks emerge as players this year
14. Many platforms fail. The global market has too many platforms chasing too little revenue. We will see a large number sell to their competitors or cease operations this year. Many are undercapitalized and lack a deep enough bench of financial professionals.
15. Real Estate Crowdfunding flourishes for the few very smart platforms. With something like 200 real estate crowdfunding platforms by the end of Q1 2015, we will see a rapid sorting of the serious platforms from those who believe real estate crowdfunding can be run like a 2/20 fund with online marketing. Few emerging platforms understand the role of data or the business model necessary for success in real estate crowdfunding, but hundreds more will launch in 2015. This sector will continue its incredible growth, but needs much better understanding of crowdfunding dynamics.
Richard Swart directs the research program in Entrepreneurial and Social Finance at UC Berkeley. He also is a partner and directs research for Crowdfund Capital Advisors, the world’s leading advisory firm in Crowdfunding and Alternative Finance. He is an acknowledged thought leader on crowdfunding and works closely with Jason Best and Sherwood Neiss, the Principals at Crowdfund Capital Advisors on projects. They recently recently released the World Bank White Paper on crowdfunding as well as the first major study of the impact of Crowdfunding on companies.