Angels & Devils: The promise and pitfalls of crowdfunding for capital raising

The following views and opinions presented in this post are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of CSE – Canadian Securities Exchange.

Crowdfunding conceptLove it or hate it, crowdfunding looks like it is here to stay. Although the debate on whether crowdfunding is ultimately beneficial or harmful is still ongoing, it appears that major stakeholders from investor groups to securities regulators are beginning to take the idea of crowd-sourced capital raising seriously.

Fairness is a Two-Way Street

Like most promising ideas, the devil, it seems, is in the details.

The spirit of crowdfunding espouses greater access to investing opportunities by smaller, non-accredited investors.  On the other hand, the rules currently in place are designed around curbing widespread participation in “risky” investments.

Striking a balance between investor participation and protection is no easy feat. This balancing act directly impacts industry’s ability to access capital while meeting disclosure requirements.

To be considered as an alternative to current methods of capital raising, crowdfunding needs to be in-line with existing controls on capital raising in a heavily regulated and highly structured capital market infrastructure. After all, the premise is that crowdfunding should increase the ‘fairness’ of market participation.  In the spirit of ‘fairness’ however, that should mean that crowdfunding doesn’t undermine the existing regulatory checks and balances put in place to protect both investors and industry.

Exactly how stakeholders will come to some consensus of balancing participation and protection is still being ironed out. One of the voices in the ongoing conversation about crowdfunding in Canada is the well-respected angel investor, Mike Volker.

A Moving Target

In a recent blog post – entitled “Crowdfunding = Going Public“, Volker presents a picture of an evolving capital-raising landscape in which crowdfunding will essentially mirror the existing landscape but in a much more fragmented way.

Volker’s article highlights the key issues confronting crowdfunding and makes several interesting points.

First, it simply is not fair to exclude investors based their economic standing (ie. the 99%), and that fundraising should be more democratic and inclusive of “non-accredited investors”. (Note the recently implemented “Existing Security Holder Exemption” is a step in the right direction).

In addition, Volker challenges the assertion that fraud is the bigger culprit for investors losing money, pointing instead to businesses failures that plague early stage companies. Simply put, the overriding risk that investors must take-on when making an investment in an early-stage company is that the company or idea simply won’t succeed.

Regardless of fairness or risk,  the main point Volker highlights is that capital is being left on the sidelines as a result of the current system. Non-accredited investors are being held out of the market, due to regulation, and not able to participate in the high-risk, high-reward investments extended to the “wealthy” 1%.

Crowdfunding Hurdles

Letting non-accredited investors participate in earlier stage deals is a key driver behind crowdfunding, but as Volker points out, implementation will be a challenge.

Three points in particular stand out:

  • Share registration and logistics of shareholder management;
  • Standardized continuous disclosure, and
  • Enabling liquidity for investors.

Volker tallies all of the above points and comes to the conclusion that innovations at the stock exchange level, similar to what the CSE has undertaken, could be a good answer to the questions that crowdfunding is trying to answer.

Specifically, with innovation, existing infrastructure can enable companies to efficiently raise growth capital from the public while enabling all investors with adequate, continuous disclosure within a regulatory framework that is fair to all parties involved.

Change is Inevitable

The writing on the wall is clear. There is an appetite by both investors and companies to connect and participate in capital flow in ways that the current system just isn’t providing. Whether this participation need is met by crowdfunding or via existing channels, it is clear that the angels and demons would be better served preparing for change rather than arguing over it.

To read Mike Volker’s full post, click here: http://mikevolker.com/crowdfunding-going-public/

CSE Exhibiting at the Upcoming Canadian Investor Conference 2014

The Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE) is happy to announce that it will be exhibiting at the upcoming Canadian Investor Conference in Vancouver on June 1-2. This show will be a slight departure from the usually scheduled World Resource Investment Conference as it will be broadening the scope of the show across three sectors including resource, technology, and diversified industries.

Vancouver_CC_blogThe CSE is scheduled to be housed at exhibit booth #620. We applaud the organizers at Cambridge House International for organizing a show that presents investment opportunities across several sectors as this is certainly tailoring the show to the appetites of today’s investment community in Vancouver.

It’s early yet, but mark your calendars for this show and we will be sure to see you there. Pre-registration is free by following the link here.

See you in June!

The CSE listed market posts record trading month in March

March was a great month for the CSE. From the record high trading volumes to the increased number of trades and the growing list of institutional partners, the CSE is continuing to fulfill its pledge to be “The Exchange for Entrepreneurs.”

The strength of the listed market was impressive. Two major components drove the growth – attractive listings that captured the imagination of retail investors as well as the attention of professional traders. This dynamic formula manifested itself in gains posted by the big banks of between 50 and 100 percent of their previous month’s trading figures. Additionally, when factoring in the performance gains from loyal, medium-tiered dealers, the numbers demonstrate that the Exchange is moving in the right direction and gaining traction.

March trading metrics speak volumes

Never in the past 11 years of CSE’s history has it seen a trading month that rivalled what was experienced in March 2014. Key trading metrics across the board attained all-time highs on CSE’s listed-market, including the following metrics for March:

Trades: 38,278
Total Volume: 310,645,194
Total Value: $105,276,255
Avg Price per Share: $0.34

When compared to the previous month it becomes apparent how significantly trading activity can move within a 30 day period:

February 2014
Trades:
8,690 (up 440% in March ’14)
Total Volume: 137,936,188 (up 225% in March ’14)
Total Value: $23,778,038 (up 443% in March ’14)
Avg Price per Share: $0.17 (up 200% in March ’14)

Even more dramatic is the comparison of trading activity from March of last year. Looking at the following numbers for March 2013 demonstrates how much CSE trading has gained traction over the past 12 months:

March 2013
Trades: 3,890 (up 984% in March ’14)
Total Volume: 82,839,702 (up 375% in March ’14)
Total Value: $7,810,053 (up 1348% in March ’14)
Avg Price per Share: $0.09 (up 377% in March ’14)

Of course, a chart of recent trading on CSE says it all (click to enlarge):
Trading_chart_CSE_Mar2014

Continuing to Build

Although online access is an on-going concern, CSE sees continued reason for optimism. This past month it was positive to see bank-owned dealers contribute to the bump in trading, including Scotia iTrade, who joined the list of online brokerages that have enabled online trading for CSE stocks.

There is still a lot of work ahead for CSE but the performance numbers from March validate a sentiment that the Exchange has championed all along: “if they want to trade, they will find a way to access the market.”

It’s official – Scotia iTRADE® now connected to the Canadian Securities Exchange

The CSE is happy to announce another key addition to the ranks of online discount brokers connected to the exchange by welcoming Scotia iTRADE®, who are now offering its clients online trade execution services for the CSE.

Formally announced in a press release that can be read here, this is a significant development for CSE and the investment community in Canada.  Scotia  iTRADE® is a popular platform for Canadian investors and another venue through which retail investors can access CSE stocks. We applaud Scotia for responding to client demand and adding this service.

Acknowledging the significance of this development, CSE CEO Richard Carleton had the following comment:

“As one of Canada’s largest online brokers, Scotia iTRADE is an extremely important part of the investment community,” said Richard Carleton, CEO of CNSX Markets Inc. “Scotia iTRADE’s provision of CSE client online trading and CSE market information services marks an important milestone in our efforts to increase visibility and access to the exchange. On behalf of our listed companies and their investors, we welcome Scotia iTRADE to the CSE”

For more information about  Scotia  iTRADE® simply visit their website at www.scotiabank.com/itrade

Upcoming Event: Make the Switch to CSE – Canadian Securities Exchange

maketheswitchtitle

The CSE will be hosting its next “Make the Switch to CSE – Canadian Securities Exchange” session on April 8th, 2014 in Vancouver. The event will be held from 1:30pm to 2:30pm at the Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver and is free to register by clicking here.

Event Description

Making life easier for public companies is at the forefront of everything we do at CSE. Some examples include:

No Transaction Reviews! CSE offers a streamlined regulatory environment that saves issuers significant management and administrative time;

Low Cost Structure! Costs and overhead on CSE are contained by virtue of our flat monthly maintenance fee ($500) – there are no additional fees for filings or ordinary course transactions, and no percentage charged for financings conducted by listed companies; and

Free Real-Time data via Google Finance! CSE provides market access and liquidity on a transparent auction market for Canadian investors – the only Canadian exchange to offer free real-time data via Google Finance.

This session is essential for anyone who is interested in learning how to reduce their regulatory burden and costs by being listed on CSE.

Please RSVP by clicking here

Reminder: OSC Participation Fee Relief Application Deadline Coming Up

The March 31st deadline to apply for OSC participation fee relief is just around the corner.  As a reminder, earlier this year OSC Staff Notice 13-704 mentioned that certain reporting issuers (class 1 and 3C) and smaller registered companies may be eligible for OSC participation fee relief.

According to the OSC, this initiative was developed as a response to the challenging conditions faced by market participants, specifically those who experienced significant decreases in market capitalization (for reporting issuers) and revenues (for registered companies).

For reporting issuers, the fee relief may range from $160 to $13,350 and for registered firms, the range is projected to be between $235 and $17,725. The notice states that most firms will end up qualifying at the lower end of the range.

To help ensure the application process goes smoothly, it is recommended that supporting documentation be provided on how previous fiscal market cap has been calculated.

The full details on eligibility, documentation and support can be found by clicking on the following link.  There is no cost to apply.

Real-Time CSE Quotes Now Available on RBC Direct Investing

RBC Direct Investing Connected to CSEThe CSE continues to expand market access to its listed securities and can now confirm that in addition to order-entry, RBC Direct Investing is now fully connected with CSE real-time data enabling investors to trade CSE stocks with the full advantage of real-time quotes.

RBC Direct Investing is one Canada’s most popular online brokerages and has allowed clients the benefit of order-entry of CSE stocks for several years. For more information on RBC Direct, visit their website at rbcdirectinvesting.com

For more information on where investors can access CSE quotes and online trading, please visit our investor centre at Sparx Trading. 

CSE Included in CSA Notice 45-312, Exemption for Existing Security Holders

Provincial flags of CanadaThe CSE is happy to report that the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) have included the CSE to changes made to Multilateral CSA Notice 45-312 – Proposed Prospectus Exemption for Distributions to Existing Security Holders. This rule applies in all provinces except Ontario and Newfoundland, and we are encouraging those jurisdictions to climb aboard ASAP.

It should be noted that the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) will also be introducing several capital raising prospectus exemptions in the coming week – more to come on this topic as details emerge.

In effect, this exemption allows companies to raise funds from existing shareholders via private placements without having them meet other exemption criteria such as accredited investor status. Incumbent investors will benefit from expanded investment opportunities as a result of this exemption – a win-win for listed companies and their shareholders.

Regarding the additions to exemption, Bill Rice, Chair of the CSA and CEO of the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC), had this comment:

“Certain changes to the exemption were made in response to suggestions that were submitted, including expanding it to include issuers listed on the TSX and CSE.”

CSE is pleased to know that its comments on the matter were recognized and responded to. You can read the CSE comment letter here, originally submitted on January 17th, 2014.

The Exchange would also like to thank its community supporters, including many in the legal community that also forwarded their support of CSE’s inclusion into the exemption.

Further Information Regarding CSA Notice 45-312

To read the full press on the BCSC website please visit: https://www.bcsc.bc.ca/release.aspx?id=19338

The full exemption can be found on the BCSC website as well: https://www.bcsc.bc.ca/policy.aspx?id=19324&cat=4%20-%20Distribution%20Requirements

Medical Marijuana Stocks: A Look at the Budding Industry

Colbert_Marijuna_webThe recent interest in marijuana as an investment idea is garnering more than just a little buzz from the investment community and beyond.

As the regulatory landscape around marijuana continues to evolve in the US and here in Canada the conversation has also begun to change. The concerns, it appears, have been shifting away from whether or not it is acceptable to use, and towards understanding circumstances for appropriate use and how best to structure as well as regulate the cultivation, processing, distribution and (of course) taxation.

While some of the conversation on the wave of ‘ganjapreneurs’ is tongue-in-cheek (see Stephen Colbert’s recent view on the matter here), the Canadian conversation is currently focused on how marijuana for medicinal purposes can be made more widely available.

The following piece by Proactive Investors, provides some background to the recent interest in medical marijuana stocks here in Canada.  It highlights two CSE-listed companies, Enertopia (CSE:TOP) as well as Abattis Bioceuticals (CSE:ATT) as emerging players in this space.

Another recent addition to the CSE listed company roster – Next Gen Metals (CSE:N) – has also identified itself as a participant in the hemp and medical marijuana space having recently created a division to address this market opportunity. Southbridge Resources (CSE:SOU), a CSE listed company, also recently announced that they are making possible inroads into the sector with the potential acquisition of Vodis Innovative Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Without question, the road ahead on marijuana as investment appears to be paved with uncertainties. Nevertheless, entrepreneurs and investors are already at work trying to find where and when ‘budding’ opportunities in the ‘pot-com’ industry are going to present themselves next.

For further context, read the full article on the topic at Proactive Investors.