Crowd-Sourced Equity Funding
Ramsden Lawyers has quickly established itself as the pre-eminent Gold Coast Crowd-Sourced Equity Funding (‘Crowdfunding’) law firm following recent changes to the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth). As a result of our firm’s existing networks with both established M&A players and emerging start-up entrepreneurs, we are well-placed to provide you with the legal expertise and industry connections necessary to utilise Crowdfunding as part of your business strategy. Download the Ramsden Lawyers Crowd-Sourced Equity Funding book.
WHAT IS CROWDFUNDING?
Crowdfunding has been available in Australia for a number of years in one form or another. Traditionally, crowdfunding has been limited to charitable or ‘rewards based’ campaigns (i.e. if you invest $x, the company will give you a reward usually a limited release product etc.). In late 2018, the Corporations Amendment (Crowd-sourced Funding for Proprietary Companies) Act 2018 allowed propriety limited (i.e. Pty Ltd) companies to offer ‘equity’ crowdfunding.
Contact our Crowdfunding Team
Ramsden Lawyers regularly assists small to medium businesses in conducting capital raises including Crowdfunding. We can also assist Intermediaries in AFSL applications/variations and achieving general compliance. Should you require our assistance please do not hesitate to contact us via our online enquiry system or alternatively on 1300 749 709.
Equity crowdfunding allows the general public (i.e. retail investors) to buy shares in companies through crowdfunding campaigns. Businesses can crowdfund up to $5,000,000 in a 12 month period. Essentially, a crowdfunding campaign involves a business preparing an ‘Offer Document’, having their offer published on a crowdfunding website (often called a platform) and marketing the offer as widely as possible, generally through social and traditional media.
WHAT ARE THE RESTRICTIONS ON OFFERS ?
The following restrictions apply to Crowdfunding offers:
- Retail investors must receive a five-day ‘cooling-off period’ during which they may withdraw from the offer and must sign a risk acknowledgement;
- A maximum of $5 million can be raised in any rolling 12-month period using the CSF regime and certain other prior offers (‘Issuer Cap’); and
- A maximum of $10,000 can be raised per retail investor (‘Retail Cap’).
The Issuer Cap does not restrict the Company from later conducting additional capital raises should the Board consider it to be in the Company’s best interests to do so (eg through small scale personal offers or pursuant to an AFSL).
WHO CAN UNDERTAKE CROWDFUNDING ?
In order to undertake CSF an Issuer must (among other things):
- be registered as a propriety limited (pty ltd) or unlisted puclic limited company limited by shares (ltd);
- have gross assets and annual revenue each less than $25 million at the time of offer;
- have a principal place of business and majority of directors ordinarily residing in Australia;
- not have a substantial purpose of investing in securities/interests in other entities;
- limit the funds it directly or indirectly raises to the Issuer Cap and abide by the Retail Cap;
- engage an Intermediary to operate and host a platform through which to publicise your offer; and
- expressly state in your offer document that the offer is made pursuant to the CSF regime and is for the issue of new fully paid ordinary shares.
HOW CAN AN OFFER BE MADE ?
An offer must be made through a disclosure document called an ‘offer document’ that contains important information and a prescribed risk warning. Offers on the Intermediary’s platform close at the earlier of:
- three months after being made;
- in accordance with the offer document;
- when the offer is fully subscribed;
- when the offer is withdrawn; or
- when an Intermediary’s obligations require that it be removed.
While an offer document must be comprehensive (eg by including important details of the company, its business and associated risks), it does not require the same level of detail as a prospectus.
ASSISTING CROWDFUNDING ?
Ramsden Lawyers can provide comprehensive restructuring advice and ongoing corporate advisory services to both businesses looking to conduct Crowdfunding and Intermediary’s seeking to uphold their general AFSL and specific Intermediary obligations.
For Crowdfunding businesses, Ramsden Lawyers are experts at:
- outlining the various benefits and risks of Crowdfunding and providing an overview of the process and requirements;
- identifying the most optimal target market for your offer;
- developing a funding strategy that blends Crowdfunding with other available alternatives (such as small-scale offerings, debt facilities, and so on);
- assisting you to establish important details such as terms of the offer;
- ensuring your internal policies and governance satisfy legislative requirements and are sufficiently robust to take on additional shareholders; and
- providing ongoing corporate advisory services both during and after the Crowdfunding raise.
ASSISTING INTERMEDIARIES ?
We can assist prospective Intermediaries to conduct the necessary AFSL application required to become licensed. For existing Intermediaries, we can assist you in meeting obligations specific to your Intermediary status (as well as your general AFSL obligations). In broad terms, these requirements are designed to ensure market integrity and investor confidence.
As an Intermediary you will be responsible for (among other things):
- conducting active due diligence on Crowdfunding campaigns and companies;
- providing market warnings;
- publishing offer documents;
- issuing warnings;
- holding monies on trust pending offer completion; and
- contracting with a share registry or similar third party to give effect to transfers.
From a regulatory perspective, ASIC is particularly concerned with ensuring market integrity by requiring that Intermediaries prevent investors being misled and maintain robust conflict of interest mechanisms due to the dependence of Intermediaries’ remuneration on hosting successful capital raises on their platform.
Ramsden Lawyers can assist Intermediaries by explaining in detail your obligations to monitor offers on your platform to ensure they are not misleading or deceptive, meeting compliance obligations and ensuring the appropriate legal and risk disclaimers are made.
Ramsden Lawyers are also experts in conducting due diligence on businesses seeking to Crowdfund on your platform and can provide these services on an ongoing basis.
Traditionally, crowdfunding in Australia has been primarily ‘rewards-based’ meaning that contributors in the crowdfunding campaign are ‘rewarded’ for their pledge with something from the company. The contributor does not receive equity in the company. Given that rewards are offered rather than equity in the company, legislative compliance is substantially different to that required for equity based raises. Generally, the ‘reward’ is related to the business / product being crowdfunded and includes things like exclusive access to a limited product / experience, a gift, invites to events etc. Once the crowdfunding campaign reaches its minimum raise target, rewards are delivered to the contributors.
Certain industries such as alcohol (breweries / distilleries) / beverage producers and early / development stage tech start-ups often utilise this method of raising capital as it allows companies to raise capital while also testing the market for their products and broadly advertising their brand. Successful crowdfunding campaigns can build the business’ client database and can result in ongoing customer loyalty and support.
Donation-based crowdfunding allows a contributor to make a ‘donation’ to the project or venture. Generally, the contributor will not receiving anything in return for their donation however in some campaigns, the donor may receive an acknowledgement for example, on the crowdfunding website, social media etc.