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Once in a Lifetime

Last October I quit my job as a restaurant GM and decided to move to Atlanta. I didn’t have a job or too many friends in the area (most of my college buddies are in the Richmond area), but I did have a business idea that involved crowdfunding securities.

How did I get here?
During the summer of my junior year of college I stumbled upon a book, Portfolios of the Poor: How the world’s poor live on $2 a day. One segment of the book detailed Microfinance, a banking concept that was new to me, and I thought it was the coolest idea. Over the next two years I tailored much of my school work towards understanding why microfinance is necessary and how it works. I interned with a Microfinance organization in Costa Rica, and researched the water and sanitation micro loan market for an Indian entrepreneur. Also, around that time, sites like Profounder (started by Jessica Jackley, founder of Kiva) and Kickstarter were gaining attention, and both opened my eyes to the potential of local capital formation in the United States through web portals. My interests morphed from a Microfinance habit into a business crowdfunding habit. The only thing that stood in the way was some antiquated securities legislation from the 1930’s. No big deal to get that changed, right? Wrong!

I graduated from college in 2011. Unfortunately, 2010 and 2011 were considered some of the worst times to be graduating from college. It seemed like nobody was hiring low-skilled liberal arts college graduates. One industry that was hiring was restaurants. I worked for a Five Guys franchisee while I was in college, and I took the opportunity to work for the company and develop my management skills in some of the busiest and most profitable stores in the company.

What is crowdvesting and why is it important?
In a nutshell, crowdvesting is selling securities (debt or equity) to large numbers of people through a website. Why is this a big deal? Well, in the 1930’s the government thought it was a good idea to limit the number of unsophisticated investors that could own privately held companies. It was an attempt at protecting investors from loosing their savings in risky investments. The recent financial collapse began to change public opinion and exposed a need for different funding sources. Many people believe that unaccredited investors can play a major role in local capital markets that used to be filled by local and regional banks.

I have been waiting for the climate for business crowdfunding to change since I graduated college, and I just got tired of waiting. Last year, North Carolina almost passed a law that would’ve made business crowdfunding legal at the state level. It passed overwhelmingly in the NC house, but someone had the bright idea to try and pass the bill in the NC senate with a tax hike along with it. Great idea! Georgia, it turns out, was one of the first states in the country to adopt favorable crowdfunding securities legislation. It appeared to me that the crowdfunding industry was starting to roll. Bohemian Guitars raised a successful offering through SparkMarket and Opportunity Hub was in the process of raising their own crowdfunding round. Upon my arrival in Atlanta, I quickly learned the crowdfunding community was much less developed than I had initially thought. Originally I was planning a management company that utilized crowdfunding as an acquisition/financing strategy. Unfortunately, the infrastructure to conduct these types of offerings was not present, so I figured I should build something that I could use.

MainMarket and Tech Talent South
I choose TTS for a few different reasons:

  1. A friend of mine took the program in Charlotte and had great things to say
  2. Full-Stack
  3. Can’t beat the price tag

My TTS experience so far has been great! Mandy and Richard have been awesome, and they set up a tour of Groundfloor (real estate crowdfunding) in September. I have some front end web development experience, but it has been very helpful to be in a structured class for the back-end learning. Being able to develop a product is a top priority for me, but it was very easy to go down different rabbit holes of back-end languages when I was learning on my own. Sometimes access to too much information is a bad thing! If all goes according to plan you will be able to visit a functional MainMarket.co by the start of October! Check out the site and stay tuned for more! Oh and if you are reading this and happen to be a securities attorney located in the Atlanta area, get in touch with me on twitter @eamon_penland.

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