What is the Size of the Crowdfunding Industry?
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Ever since the first crowdfunding platforms launched in the early-to-mid 2000s, the crowdfunding industry has seen some enormous growth. If you factor in all of the different types of crowdfunding, the industries that crowdfunding has affected, and the fact that new platforms are launching around the world each year, you can’t help but notice how ubiquitous crowdfunding has become. Still you might be wondering, “How big is crowdfunding really?”
There are several organizations who have taken an interest in the crowdfunding market for a number of reasons. Since the financial crisis in 2008, SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) have used crowdfunding to obtain financing and avoid high interest rates and constraints associated with traditional financing. Others see potential in crowdfunding to help jumpstart development in Third World countries.
In 2013, the World Bank commissioned a study on these and other related issues. Richard Swart, who helped develop the report, said that their findings were somewhat surprising. “Crowdfunding is going to be a disruptive global influence, but in some cases, not quite in the way you might think,” he shared in a MediaShift post. The study predicted that by 2025 the crowdfunding industry could grow to $93 billion.
Another study done by Massolution, which was also published in 2013, resulted in more useful insights. Their crowdfunding industry report collected data from 308 crowdfunding platforms worldwide and estimated that crowdfunding platforms raised $2.7 billion for more than a million projects in 2012, a shocking 81% increase over 2011. According to Massolution CEO, Carl Esposti:
“Consistent with our 2012 forecast, total crowdfunding volume nearly doubled last year, and with regulatory bodies continuing to pave the way, we expect global crowdfunding volumes to exceed $5 billion in 2013. While lending-, donation-, and reward-based crowdfunding have thus far been leading this global financial revolution, equity-based crowdfunding is about to take center stage in the U.S.”
This comment was made in reference to the expected passing of the Title III of the JOBS Act, which is now expected by October 2015. The passing of this act will help loosen crowdfunding restrictions on smaller ventures, allowing non-accredited investors to take part. Still, equity fundraising platforms such as Fundrise have taken advantage of state laws to allow non-accredited investors the chance to participate in online equity real estate investments a way that was previous not available to them.
Crowd Valley’s third quarter market report in 2014 gives us more recent numbers on how the crowdfunding market is changing. Crowd Valley is a platform that enables entrepreneurs to launch different types of crowdfunding marketplaces. They found that equity crowdfunding was in the highest demand (54%), lending was next (26%), and rewards platforms only accounted for 1%. Private companies, real estate, and peer-to-peer investments were the top assets being offered on the platforms launched through Crowd Valley’s service.
Difficulties with Measuring the Industry
There are 3 main difficulties with measuring the size of the crowdfunding industry.
1. Which types of crowdfunding should be included? Would you consider personal fundraising campaigns, like on Gofundme or Indiegogo Life to be considered “crowdfunding” projects? Should real estate crowdfunding platforms be included, if they are more-so online portals to invest in real estate (at the moment)?
2. How is the data gathered? Naturally, all data gathered by surveys and collected by institutions or organizations who stand to benefit from a certain statistical outcome will be biased. I think the only true way to measure the size of the industry would be gaining access to platform data or writing scripts that can track campaigns on each website and go backwards in time.
3. How is true growth measured? This is a question that I think about a lot. Does it matter that there are more people creating campaigns if there are not more people backing campaigns? Which numbers are most directly tied to widespread adoption of crowdfunding and therefore growth of the industry as a whole?
Estimates on the size of the crowdfunding industry provided by different platforms give us a good idea of just how big crowdfunding will potentially get. Still, there are other trends that hint at the future of crowdfunding. For example, the increasing presence of established investors like venture capitalists and angel investors in the crowdfunding industry helps bring credit to the practice and encourages others to try it.
Not only are investors taking part in crowdfunding campaigns such as real estate and loan investments – many investors are also putting their money into the platforms themselves. A Fortune article mentions:
“Indiegogo, Crowdtilt, Patreon — to name just a few — may seem like grassroots efforts, but they’re doing remarkably well at drawing investments of their own. Indiegogo raised $40 million in a Series B round in January. Not long before, Crowdtilt garnered $23 million in its own Series B. Arts-focused Patreon pulled in $2.1 million in a seed round last summer. And the list goes on.”
Many investors see the potential in these crowdfunding platforms because of how they democratize finance. Investors are hoping that they will put their money into the next Kickstarter. As regulations are worked out regarding crowdfunding and larger companies and investors embrace it, the more users will be drawn to launch or support crowdfunding efforts. An article by Entrepreneur suggests that niche platforms are on the rise:
“By utilizing these platforms, startups now have a better chance at reaching their targeted audience … For instance, there are new platforms that specialize in areas like book publishing. Examples include Pentian and Pubslush that connect self-publishing authors with investors. Pentian affords average investors, who put in as low as $10, the opportunity to fund a book publishing project. In return, early supporters receive a signed copy and a share of the author’s royalty in the future.”
These platforms are helping average people with big ideas and the drive to pursue them a chance to get funding when they may have been turned down for a traditional loan. They are also helping change the relationship between businesses and consumers, allowing them to interact on the platforms, give their input, and get exclusive things in return (on reward platforms). Real estate crowdfunding is allowing people to invest in their communities, profit from and shape the places close to where they live.
At the same time, there are sectors of the crowdfunding industry, like rewards-based crowdfunding, which seem to be slowing down.
People have compared the way that crowdfunding is evolving to the way that different social media platforms have grown. An infographic by We Are Social shows that social media usage has grown to more than 2 billion users – and many people are hoping that crowdfunding will reach the same volume. So the answer to the question, “What is the size of the crowdfunding industry?” doesn’t exactly have a simple answer. It is currently big, but it is still growing and could potentially get much larger over the next couple of years.
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