“Crowdfunding is no longer a trendy buzzword,” cooed Venture Beat this January. “It’s a movement with active participants, proven financial potential, and maturing seemingly by the month.” Some months on and it appears that Venture Beat was right: crowdfunding has indeed taken strides in becoming a bona fide market in a frighteningly short space of time. At the top of the agenda is equity crowdfunding. But because of difficult and evolving legal frameworks, the market is currently fragmented. That’s where Invesdor comes in.
Lasse Mäkelä began his financial career in London at Merril Lynch in 1997, spending four years as an investment banker offering equity and M&A consulting. Then he moved back to his native Finland, where he has held several roles in the field. By 2011 Mäkelä had co-founded Brainshop.com, a talent pool for creatives in the Nordic region.
But Brainshop had a problem. It needed funding, but it also involved a lot of freelancers. Mäkelä thought that it would be great if they could be given shares in the company, to allow them to feel more involved. “At that time we started to wonder where we can get this share offering to be done,” says Mäkelä. “There were Crowdcube and Soonbid in the U.K., but in northern Europe there were no companies in that field.”
Because of legal difficulties neither of the British firms could help Brainshop. Mäkelä was sure other companies in the Nordic region were in the same position, so in 2011 he began work creating Invesdor, a crowdfunding service dedicated to Northern Europe. In May 2012, the service went live with six founding members. It has rarely looked back. Today, Invesdor commands 60% of the Finnish market and has since expanded to allow Swedish, Danish, and Estonian companies to use its services, which it claims will “ease and democratize” investments.
“So far more than 300 companies have done applications,” says Mäkëla. “59 have been accepted to the process to raise funding. And of those, 17 have had successful equity offerings. We’ve so far raised about $3.1 million, so we are still small. But if you look at last year, we had a turnover of $122,000. The year before it was $12,000. That shows that we are really at the beginning, but we are really well known in northern Europe, and when people look at equity crowdfunding, we are in the top ten.”
The company has thus far raised $340,000 from its founders’ pockets and two local wealth management firms, whose 60,000 customers Mäkëla sees as a huge boost to the knowledge being pumped into Invesdor. “We have a small round open at the moment,” he adds, “and we’ve opened the possibility for the people who have invested through us, as a gratitude for them being behind us from the beginning.” This summer Invesdor is aiming to bring in larger amounts in the summer, as the market, Mäkëla claims, consolidates.
And the total addressable market, should Invesdor continue to expand, is massive. “The Crowdfund Global Expo presents the leaders of the investment and crowdfunding industries,” writes Venture Beat. “Dr. Richard Swart, who heads the Crowdfunding Research Program at the University of California, Berkeley, has cited several experts who project that the size of the securities crowdfunding market will range from ‘$3.98 billion (Nest, Neiss, Stralser & Fleming 2013) to as much as $300 billion over the coming years depending on the level of enabling regulation adopted by governments.’”
Mäkëla is looking to that top number with excitement, and points out a 40% market growth for the next ten years. But what astounds him the most is how crowdfunding is changing the way companies raise money. “What I’m seeing on the stock exchange is that before, you called a broker to buy shares. But now, most people do their trading on online banks.
“I’m seeing the same transformation in the fundraising business,” he adds. “We’re taking the bankers and brokers with their pinstripe suits, and making it lean with the Internet. Transaction sizes can be much smaller and the costs can be much lower. The whole fundraising business is changing. I’m extremely thrilled I can use my information to do things differently, break the old structures.”