Three months in, equity crowdfunders are buying into booze

Title III Crowdfunding

Claire Brown

Title III Crowdfunding

Claire Brown

Tech? Not so much. Early insights into a new breed of investor

Do equity crowdfunders heart tech? Maybe not as much as they heart beer, West Coast-based researcher Grant Harvey tells us. It’s been three months, give or take, since the equity crowdfunding rules became official in May, and Harvey has been watching for trends. While it’s still too early to come to a definitive conclusion about who wins and loses across the board, Harvey seems to think small beverage companies are doing especially well. And that’s perhaps not what we expected.

The numbers seem to suggest that crowdfunders aren’t necessarily looking for the financial gains VCs expect.

Harvey analyzed data collected by equity crowdfunding platform Wefunder via a statistics page it released on “The Status of Equity Crowdfunding,” which followed the progress of the industry since the May16th launch of the rules, and tracked successful raises hourly. The site features data from 25 of the top funded or closed campaigns from five of the top platforms, including NextSeed, StartEngine, SeedInvest and FlashFunders, alongside how much money has been raised by each campaign, and from how many investors. 

“After reviewing the top 25 successfully funded campaigns listed, I began to form a conclusion that the type of companies you would expect to see outperforming the others from an investing standpoint were actually less likely to make their goal,” Harvey says. “The traditional tech platforms that have successfully funded represented only 2 of the 25 companies (Snapwire and Everpedia). Meanwhile, 10 of the 25 campaigns were bar- or alcohol-related ventures that offered perks alongside their investments, and who doesn’t love alcohol-related perks, right?”

“Most brewery owners are just passionate about beer and want to give back to communities.”

Harvey sums it up this way: “The reality is that for small businesses like breweries, equity crowdfunding can actually be a boon for raising capital that wouldn’t have been open to them otherwise. Breweries in particular are typically in a difficult spot when it comes to raising capital from the usual sources because of the lack of an ‘astronomical’ potential return for VCs, coupled with the inherent difficulty to acquire bank loans unless it’s against huge equipment.”

Venture capitalists, in other words, tend to prefer business models that allow for exponential scale—products like software and digital platforms that, once you’ve built them, can be sold to ten million people almost as readily as ten thousand. But beer doesn’t work that way, since every phase of growth is hard-won, requiring added infrastructure and increased investment. The numbers seem to suggest that crowdfunders aren’t necessarily looking for the financial gains VCs expect. They don’t need profits if they get to drink some good craft beer along the way. As Harvey puts it:  

“Most brewery owners are just passionate about beer and want to give back to communities. And their communities have been coming out en masse to fund them. Maybe this boon for alcohol-related investing is just a phase, and maybe we’ve simply yet to see the really exciting projects pursue this avenue for funding. But something has to be said for the benefit these rules are having for entrepreneurs pursuing businesses that don’t revolve just around the next best app.”

Kate Cox is The Counter's editor. She oversees partnerships and edits investigative, feature, and senior staff reporting. Prior to joining The Counter in 2015, Kate was a freelance reporter for radio and text, focused on health policy and the American age boom. She has written for The Guardian, The Nation, Huffington Post, and others. She holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, where she produced and reported a three-part radio documentary on the nation's first emergency shelter for victims of elder abuse.