Obtaining financing is one of the biggest hurdles most entrepreneurs will have to overcome. If a bank loan won't cover what you need and you don't have any connections to investors, it can be tough to know where to begin. Online crowdfunding — raising smaller amounts of money from multiple backers — has become an increasingly common solution to this dilemma because it allows startups to reach out to a large number of potential investors at once.
Although Kickstarter and Indiegogo are two of the most popular crowdfunding platforms, success there isn't always guaranteed: For every project that meets its goal, there are dozens that just didn't pick up enough steam to get funded. So, where else can you turn?
Whether you're looking for a small investment to jump-start your company or a large round of capital to grow it to the next stage, here are 10 sites that can help you raise the money you need. [Equity Crowdfunding: What Entrepreneurs Should Know]
This site brands itself as a platform for startups to be matched with potential investors. AngelListhas a network of investors called syndicates, who cover all setup costs and carried interest so that startups pay nothing to raise funds. Any startup incorporated in the United States or the United Kingdom can apply for funding by creating an AngelList profile, but syndicates typically look for companies with a credible founding team, demonstrable postlaunch traction or a reputable offline investor already involved with the company.
CircleUp operates under the belief that entrepreneurs should be able to raise money based on their business's merit, not on who they know. This site offers consumer product and retail startups access to a community of high-quality investors who can help them raise funds ranging from $100,000 to upward of $10 million. Though CircleUp typically requires crowdfunding companies to have around $500,000 minimum in revenue, it will consider exceptional earlier-stage companies for its Seeds program. There are no listing or introduction fees, and you are charged only when you achieve your fundraising goal.
Crowdfunder is an equity crowdfunding platform that makes it easy for businesses to raise capital from its network of accredited investors. The site allows startups to raise money through equity, debt, convertible notes or revenue share, and to choose if their deal is private or public. Instead of taking a percentage of the funds raised, Crowdfunder sets a flat monthly fee (starting at $299) for entrepreneurs to use its capital.
Startups interested in equity investors can sign up for EquityNet, a business crowdfunding platform that allows entrepreneurs to share their profiles and business plans with a network of more than 20,000 angel investors, venture capitalists and business supporters. EquityNet's patented business plan and analysis software help you optimize your planning and reach the investors who would be most interested in your project.
Created by a team of startup founders who understand the challenges of raising capital, Fundable allows entrepreneurs to raise money from investors, customers and friends. Companies seeking funds can create a profile on the site, set their goals and rewards, and promote their campaign. Fundable offers companies the opportunity to provide reward-based fundraising and equity fundraising. Reward fundraising allows companies to offer rewards from companies seeking less than $50,000 and allows investors to donate any amount. Equity fundraising, on the other hand, is for companies looking to raise a larger amount of money, and requires a minimum commitment of $1,000 from backers.
Since 2009, MicroVentures has been helping companies — including Facebook — access capital from both accredited and nonaccredited investors. The site focuses primarily on businesses in the software, mobile, media and entertainment, social, gaming and green-tech industries that want to raise $150,000 to $1 million. MicroVentures reviews an applicant's idea, team, traction, market size and other factors before selecting the startup to be featured on its site. From there, the funding process typically takes six weeks, according to the company's website.
Peerbackers focuses on funding entrepreneurs and innovators. The company offers startups campaign consulting services as well as marketing and media production, which includes promotion of your private offering to investors across the Web through its media division, Crowdcast Network. Peerbackers also hosts workshops and speaking engagements to provide education and support for entrepreneurs who want to crowdfund.
Although RocketHub is not exclusively dedicated to startup funding, entrepreneurs are a significant part of its diverse community of artists, scientists, philanthropists, designers and other professionals. The company does charge a commission and credit card handling fee regardless of whether you reach your goal, but unlike other sites that return money to backers of uncompleted campaigns, RocketHub allows you to keep any funds you raised through its platform. In addition to running its Crowdfunding Success School to educate entrepreneurs, the company has partnered with A&E Project Startup to help a select group of RocketHub projects to receive not only funding, but also on-air, online and magazine exposure through A&E.
Many crowdfunding sites allow for a wide range of projects and categories, but Smallknot is exclusively dedicated to helping small, independently owned businesses. This site allows campaigners to reward people who choose to support a local business and contribute to their fundraising goal. For example, a local bakery might offer participants a dozen cupcakes for donating $20 to its campaign. Smallknot receives a 3 percent commission for successful campaigns, and the payment processor receives an additional 2.9 percent. The service does not take any percentage if campaigns are not successful.
With nearly 12,300 accredited investors in its network, SeedInvest makes it easy for startups to raise the funds they need. Entrepreneurs can promote their companies through the site's fully integrated social media and advertising tools; host remote meetings with potential investors and shareholders through its Virtual Boardroom; and streamline the investment process for quicker, earlier closings. SeedInvest accepts listings from U.S.-incorporated companies with a minimum viable product, proof of concept and at least two full-time team members.
This story was originally published in 2013 and was updated Aug. 19, 2015. Additional reporting by Business News Daily social media specialist Dave Mielach.