Berkeley crowdfunding symposium produces international research agreement

The first international agreement to share research data on crowdfunding — an increasingly popular financing model that allows entrepreneurs to raise capital using social media — was framed during an Oct. 17–18 symposium organized by the College of Engineering’s Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership.

The symposium, Crowdfunding: Setting the Research Agenda, convened more than 100 scholars, policy experts and government officials from more than 20 countries to describe the rapid growth of crowdfunding in their regions. Organizers say this is the first international academic symposium on crowdfunding, an innovative funding technique that connects small businesses and start-up ventures with multiple investors.

Symposium participants formed an international working group on data sharing and cooperation in crowdfunding and appointed Richard Swart, director of research for the Fung Institute’s Program for Innovation in Social and Entrepreneurial Finance, and Dan Marom, co-author of The Crowdfunding Revolution, as co-chairs. The working group has received agreements from several crowdfunding associations to aggregate their data in a platform being developed by Swart at Berkeley.

“We see significant international interest in crowdfunding and crowdfund investing, but regulators are very concerned about possible misuse,” says Swart. “Having access to impartial and reliable information will be key for regulators around the world, and for businesses and investors alike.”

Continues Swart, “Openness and transparency in capital markets help build trust and result in better investment decision-making and donation allocation. Here at Berkeley, we’re proud and excited to be building a data enclave that will become a resource for governments, academics and policy researchers around the world.”

The symposium also served as a forum for releasing the first international study of crowdfunding’s potential for the developing world. The report, published by the World Bank, outlines the promise as well as the risks of crowdfunding as a tool to finance innovation and growth in such regions as East Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. It also provides an in-depth case study of crowdfunding’s potential in funding clean energy and climate technologies.

Co-written by Swart and Fung Institute entrepreneurs-in-residence Jason Best and Sherwood Neiss, the World Bank study projects that crowdfunding could become an annual market of $96 billion in the developing world by the year 2025. The report is available at www.infodev.org/crowdfunding.

“The crowdfunding market is in its infancy, especially in developing countries, but the potential market is significant,” say the authors. “It is estimated that there are up to 344 million households in the developing world able to make small crowdfund investments in community businesses. These households have an income of at least US$10,000 a year, and at least three months of savings or three months’ savings in equity holdings.”

The symposium was supported in part by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.


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