Startups seeking venture capital now have more options than pitching to angel investors and VC partners, thanks to crowdfunding platforms. These platforms enable founders to appeal directly to a mass of retail investors, who don't have accredited investor status, but do want to help ideas they support to take off.
What is startup equity crowdfunding?
Today's startup crowdfunding mostly uses equity crowdfunding sites, where each person who supports the startup gets a share in the company in exchange for their investment. Other types of crowdfunding include debt-based crowdfunding, reward crowdfunding, and donation crowdfunding, but they are less relevant for startups.
Successful equity crowdfunding is a lot like any capital fundraising round. You'll still need a compelling pitch, a target amount, and to explain what you'll do with the funds, but you're pitching to thousands or millions of potential investors who could be spread around the world. Supporters donate throughout the campaign period, and you'll receive the funds in your linked account when the campaign ends.
But every startup crowdfunding site is not equal. Each one has policies governing which campaigns they'll accept, what fees they charge, and when you can withdraw funds, for example. The fund audience, level of service, and campaign management and marketing tools also make a difference to your success, so do your research before setting up your campaign.
To get you started, here are our recommendations for the top 7 startup crowdfunding sites
The top 7 crowdfunding sites
Wefunder is primarily home to campaigns from tech and food companies, and its biggest successes are startups from a combinator. It has a high success rate of around 75%, and sets minimum fundraising goals of $50,000 and a maximum amount of $1.07 million, which is the most any company can raise through non-accredited investors.
The platform charges a 7% platform fee, but no other fees. It's an all or nothing site, so you won't get your funds if you fall short (but you also won't have to pay a fee), and it offers a lot of resources to help startups succeed, like legal help, customer support, and useful tools.
Wefunder won't accept applications form startups involved in cannabis, porn, gambling, or investment, but otherwise its approval process is relatively light.
StartEngine targets smaller investors, accepting investments of as little as $100, which means that you could end up with more shareholders than you anticipated. It's helped companies raise over $450 million since it was established in 2014, and has a network of over 750,000 users.
StartEngine charges a platform fee of between 7% and 12%, depending on your funding goals, with a minimum funding amount of $10,000 and a maximum of $1.07 million, or $50 million if you're running a Regulation A+ campaign that only accepts funds from accredited investors.
One benefit of using StartEngine is that it allows you to collect funds once you reach $12,000, so you don't have to wait to reach your goal or end the campaign.
It's worth noting that Kickstarter doesn't support equity crowdfunding, so you can only use it to raise money for your startup through rewards or donation crowdfunding.
However, its massive base of over 15 million project backers across the globe makes it attractive, especially for smaller startups deciding between GoFundMe vs Kickstarter. The platform boasts having helped companies raise over $6 billion in more than 210,000 successful campaigns.
Kickstarter has a competitive approval process with a long list of prohibited items, but campaigns that get approved often find success. Kickstarter users have to pay a platform fee of 2.9%, plus 3% + $0.20 per pledge (or 3%+$0.05 for payments under $10).
A big advantage of Indiegogo is that you can keep raising funds even once you reach your goals, so although the standard campaign duration is 60 days, you don't have to stop when your campaign ends. The platform pays out your funds within 15 days from the end of the campaign.
Like Kickstarter, Indiegogo has a big global footprint and is available in 235 countries and territories. Indiegogo charges a 5% platform fee, plus a payment processing fee of 3% plus $0.20 per transaction, and it has a number of useful tools, including integrations with Meta and Google.
SeedInvest is one of the most successful crowdfunding platforms, helping over 250 startups raise more than $350 million since 2012. That's partly because it has one of the most rigorous screening programs, accepting only about 1% of applicants. It takes a good 60 days for your application to be processed. It's one of the few platforms to accept cannabis companies.
SeedInvest is quite expensive, charging 7.5% of the funds you raise, plus a 5% equity fee and up to $10,000 to cover due diligence, escrow, marketing, and legal expense reimbursements. However, if you don't hit your goal, you won't have to pay the fees.
SeedInvest allows campaigns to run from 45 days up to 6 months, and permits a maximum fundraising goal of $30 million.
Republic is an all or nothing, very selective crowdfunding site with high success rates and a base of over 1 million investors. Almost 90% of startups hit their campaign goals, raising $500,000 on average. Your campaign on Republic can run for up to 12 months.
The downside is that Republic is one of the more expensive crowdfunding platforms, charging 6% of the cash you raise, 2% in securities, and escrow agent and payment processing fees of 1.5%-2.25%, plus it'll cost $3,000-$5,000 to meet their due diligence requirements.
Microventures is a selective all or nothing crowdfunding platform that accepts around 5% of applications, with a vetting process that takes around 6 weeks. You can expect to pay approximately $5,500 to $7,500 in application fees, 5% in cash and 2% in equity as commission on the funds you raise, and $1,000 for escrow.
Microventures is aimed at businesses that need $150,000 or more in funding, and which have unique ideas with demonstrated market traction and an experienced team, so it's not for startups at the very beginning of their journey. The platform has raised over $450 million so far.