L’annuncio: equity crowdfunding in Italia oltre alle “startup innovative”

10 Luglio, Politecnico di Milano. Evento intitolato: “Crowdfunding & Entrepreneurship: an European Perspective”. Auditorium pieno di persone. Età media: più alta di quello che avviene normalmente negli eventi di crowdfunding europei, ma che ci vuoi fare, è un nostro tratto demografico.
Primo intervento, in diretta da Roma, Mattia Corbetta del Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico. Tipo in gamba, è stato una delle menti della legge in vigore per l’equity crowdfunding in Italia. Peccato che questa legge serva a poco o a nulla, visto che la scena dell’equity crowdfunding nostrano è praticamente inesistente.

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Più energia (rinnovabile) con il crowdfunding!- More (green) energy with crowdfunding!

Quando ho sentito Jeremy Rifkin parlare alla Commissione Europea della Terza Rivoluzione Industriale e del suo impatto sul settore energetico e sull’economia in generale, sono stata travolta da un senso di trasognato ottimismo. Il futuro prossimo, descritto da Rifkin, è un’epoca in cui, grazie a una sempre più stretta convergenza tra comunicazione ed energia, sarà possibile creare un sistema distribuito di energia pulita, dove i singoli individui saranno consumatori e allo stesso tempo produttori di energia[1]. Questo futuro distribuito è già in atto, anche se ancora ai suoi esordi. Basta pensare che più del 50% dell’energia rinnovabile in Germania è di proprietà della comunità. Grazie ad una riduzione vertiginosa dei costi per la produzione dei pannelli solari avvenuta negli ultimi anni, i progetti che impiegano energia solare sono sempre di più, senza contare quelli che usano altri tipi di energia rinnovabile. La ricerca ha quindi imboccato la giusta via per realizzare l’auspicata Terza Rivoluzione Industriale di Rifkin. -E il crowdfunding cosa c’entra in tutto ciò? -, qualcuno si chiederà.

Trattandosi di un’innovazione in forte diffusione, il crowdfunding trova ogni giorno applicazioni diverse, fino ad arrivare, appunto, alle energie rinnovabili. Recentemente, abbiamo di fatti assistito alla nascita di piattaforme di equity e debt crowdfunding, dedicate esclusivamente a progetti per la green energy. In questo campo operano, ad esempio, Mosaic, Abundance e SunFunder.

Nel settore delle rinnovabili gli investimenti da parte di organizzazioni professionali e investitori privati, in realtà non mancavano. Nel 2011 l’investimento complessivo in energie rinnovabili ha raggiunto 257 miliardi di dollari, secondo Wikipedia. Ed allora perché il crowdfunding, se il capitale non è un problema? Douglas Parr, di Greenpeace UK, ha dichiarato in un’intervista al The Guardian che il crowdfunding si è rivelato utile più che altro per risolvere i problemi legati alla logica Not-In-My-BackYard, che prevede ostilità e lotte da parte di quelle comunità che dovrebbero ospitare progetti di energia rinnovabile, come, ad esempio, le pale eoliche. Permettendo alla popolazione locale di diventare proprietaria, sia materialmente sia emotivamente, di una parte del progetto green si riesce ad abbattere più facilmente gli ostacoli legati alla logica NIMBY e a favorire l’effettiva realizzazione di progetti con le rinnovabili. Gli investitori locali, in questo modo, possono sentirsi effettivamente parte attiva della transizione verso un futuro più pulito ed ecosostenibile.

Un’ altra importante lancia è stata spezzata in favore di questa applicazione del crowdfunding: il fatto che dia la possibilità di realizzare progetti che utilizzino le rinnovabili anche in paesi in via di sviluppo, dove c’è un gran bisogno energetico, ma poca sensibilità verso la questione del riscaldamento globale e pochi investitori. Ridurre l’uso del cherosene comporterebbe miglioramenti per la salute della popolazione locale e un maggiore risparmio, poiché il prezzo di tale combustibile non è a buon mercato. Qualche sveglio social entrepreneur non se l’è fatto ripetere due volte ed ha colto subito l’opportunità. SunnyMoney, per esempio, ha portato a casa 25000 dollari sul sito SunFunder, per finanziare l’installazione di pannelli solari per 4500 studenti in Tanzania.

Sembra perciò che il crowdfunding si stia insinuando nel mondo delle rinnovabili, aprendo la possibilità a chiunque lo voglia di contribuire attivamente alla costruzione di un futuro più ecologico e più sostenibile. SunnyMoney è solo una delle prime storie con lieto fine di questo recente sviluppo, speriamo ce ne siano talmente tante altre da non sapere quale raccontare.

When I heard the first time Jeremy Rifkin giving a speech at the European Commission about the Third Industrial Revolution and its impact on the energy sector and on the economy more in general, I was overwhelmed with a sense of dreamy optimism. The near future, described by Rifkin, is a period where, thanks to a closer and closer convergence between communication –e.g. Internet – and energy, it will be possible to create a distributed energy system, where the individuals will be consumers and at the same time producers of green energy. This distributed future is already here, even though only in its early phase. Take for example Germany, where over 50% of the renewable energies is community-owned. In the last years, due to a drastic reduction of the costs of production for solar panels, the projects using solar energy have hugely increased, without taking into account all those using other forms of green energy. The research has thus taken the right direction to realize the Third Industrial Revolution as predicted by Rifkin. –What does crowdfunding has to do with all this? – someone will probably ask himself.

Since crowdfunding is a fast-spreading innovation, everyday it finds different new applications, like, for example, the renewables. Recently, we saw the birth of equity and debt crowdfunding platform, dedicated exclusively to green energy projects, for instance Mosaic, Abundance and SunFunder.

In the green energy sector, investments from professionals were actually not lacking. In 2011, the total investment in renewable energies reached 257 billions of dollars, according to Wikipedia. But if capital is not the problem, why there are dedicated crowdfunding platforms? Douglas Parr, from Greenpeace UK, stated during an interview for The Guardian that crowdfunding revealed to be mostly useful to solve problems related to the Not-In-My-BackYard logic. In fact, by allowing the local community to become owner – both materially and emotionally – of part of a green project, it is possible to reduce the NIMBY obstacles and to foster the effective realization of projects with renewables. In this way, the local investors may actually feel active part of the transition towards a cleaner and more eco sustainable future.

Another important point was raised in favour of this new application of crowdfunding: it gives the possibility of realizing projects that utilizes renewables also in developing countries, where there is a great need of energy, but low sensibility towards the global warming issue and a low number of investors. Reducing the use of kerosene would already cause significant improvements for the health of the local population and money savings, since the price of this fuel is not at all cheap.  Social entrepreneurs immediately seized the opportunity. SunnyMoney, for example, raised 25000 dollars on SunFunder to finance the installation of solar panels for 4500 students in Tanzania.

It looks like crowdfunding is making its way in the green energy sector, allowing anyone wlling to take part to the construction of a more ecological and more sustainable future. SunnyMoney is  only a story; I hope that soon there will be so many that you don’t know what to tell.


[1] Questo è solo uno dei punti della Terza Rivoluzione Industriale di Rifikin. Per chi volesse approfondire qua il testo.

Who’s next? L’Equity crowdfunding al di fuori dell’Italia – Equity crowdfunding outside of Italy

“E’ con orgoglio che possiamo dire che l’Italia presto sarà il primo paese in Europa ad avere un regolamento per l’equity crowdfunding!”. Mi echeggiano ancora nella testa le parole del Vice-direttore della CONSOB, D’agostino, e mi provocano quasi i brividi dall’emozione.  Davvero non ci credo, per una volta non siamo tra i followers, ma tra i trend setters. Complimenti alla CONSOB e a tutti coloro che hanno reso possibile questo importante step verso il futuro del crowdfunding.

Ma gli altri? A che punto sono? Chi sta provvedendo a regolamentare la materia e chi no?

Molti di voi avranno sentito parlare del JOBS Act, la proposta di legge bipartisan americana, firmata ad Aprile 2012 da Obama. Uno dei suoi punti centrali è proprio la regolamentazione del crowdfunding, a cui la SEC sta provvedendo da quasi un anno ormai. E’ notizia di qualche giorno fa che la SEC ha approvato il Title II che permette alle imprese di promuovere pubblicamente la loro campagna di fundraising, cosa che era severamente proibita fino a pochi giorni fa. Per il Title III, quello che apre l’equity crowdfunding anche a chi non è investitore accreditato, bisognerà aspettare ancora due o tre mesi, durante i quali la SEC ha intenzione di avviare una consultazione pubblica (seguendo l’esempio italiano).

Sempre poco tempo fa, in Canada, l’autorità di vigilanza del mercato finanziario dell’Ontario (Ontario Securities Commission) ha permesso l’equity crowdfunding per le imprese che abbiano un impatto sociale e/o ambientale. L’investimento, in questo caso è limitato ad investitori professionisti.

In più paesi europei, l’equity crowdfunding è in funzione da qualche anno ormai. Tuttavia, come spiegato da un articolo pubblicato qui sul blog di ICN in precedenza, le piattaforme operative non  sono regolate da una legislazione apposita, ma bensì da regolamenti già vigenti, a cui, a seconda del caso, sono magari state applicate delle esenzioni. E’ così possibile investire tramite piattaforme di equity crowdfunding in Olanda, UK e Germania. Attenzione però, non tutti i paesi consentono a chiunque di poter fare investimenti su piattaforme di crowdfunding. Infatti, in Gran Bretagna, tale possibilità è limitata a investitori accreditati o a persone che dispongono di un certo (elevato) reddito. In Olanda e Germania, invece, i siti rimangono aperti a tutti.

In Spagna è stato recentemente lanciato l’hashtag #yocrowdfunding, per promuovere la petizione fatta al governo per ottenere una legislazione in merito all’equity crowdfunding.

In Francia l’equity crowdfunding è possibile, ma soggetto a regole alquanto stringenti, che, ad esempio, non ammettono a più di 149 investitori di chiedere informazioni riguardo all’investimento. Il ministro per le PME ha però annunciato la sua disponibilità a ricevere proposte al fine di rendere l’equity crowdfunding più attraente.

L’Italia rimane quindi il primo stato, almeno in Europa ad avere emanato una legislazione per l’equity crowdfunding. Tuttavia non è detto che sia necessario averne una, se le attuali regole dei rispettivi mercati finanziari esteri funzionano bene abbastanza (ad esempio, in Germania). Rimane comunque utile ed interessante tenere gli occhi aperti sul mondo e vedere come i vari stati gestiscano quest’innovazione finanziaria, per poter poi valutare la nostra ed eventualmente migliorarla.

 

We can now proudly say that Italy is going to be the first country in Europe to have a regulation for equity crowdfunding!” The words of CONSOB vice-director, D’Agostino, still echo in my head and I still feel excited because of them. I really can’t believe it, this time Italy is not a follower, but a trend setter! Congratulations to the CONSOB and everyone who made possible to take this big step towards the future of crowdfunding. But what about the others? Which country is regulating the subject and which is not?

Many of you might have heard of the JOBS Act, signed in 2012 by President Obama. One  of its main points is the regulation of crowdfunding, on which the SEC has been working for almost one year. It is  recent news that the SEC approved the Title II which allows to the enterprises to promote to the general public their capital raising campaign. This was in fact strictly forbidden until a few days ago. To see the Title III – i.e. the one allowing the general public to make investments through equity crowdfunding – approved, however, we will have to wait for two or three months more. During this period the SEC is going to start a public consultation (like the one that was undertaken from the CONSOB in Italy).

 Not long time ago, the Canadian Financial authority for the state of Ontario (Ontario Securities Commission) released a decision that allows the enterprise with a social and/or an environmental impact to raise capital through equity crowdfunding.

 

In a few European countries equity crowdfunding has been running already for a while. However, the CF platforms in these cases are not regulated by a specific legislation, but they exist, instead, under other regulations, to which, depending on the case, are applied some exemptions. In this way it is possible to invest through equity crowdfunding platforms in the Netherlands, UK and Germany. Nevertheless, it is important to consider that, in the United Kingdom, the investment possibility is restricted to accredited investor and high net worth individuals. In the Netherlands and in Germany, on the contrary, the CF websites are open to anyone wishing to make an investment.

In Spain was recently launched the hashtag #yocrowdfunding, in order to promote the petition to the government to obtain a regulation for equity crowdfunding.

In France, equity crowdfunding is possible. However, it is subject to some very strict rules, which, for example, do not permit to more than 149 investors to ask information regarding the investment. The French minister for the SMEs announced his availability to receive proposals for ideas on how to make equity crowdfunding more attractive.

Italy thus remains the first country – at least in Europe – to have adopted a regulation for equity crowdfunding. Nevertheless, it shall be said that it is not necessary to adopt a specific legislation if the current ones for the financial markets work fine enough (e.g. in Germany). It is in any case interesting to keep the eyes open on the world and see how different countries manage this financial innovation, to then evaluate the Italian one comparing it to the others.

SPOILER ALERT: dalla CONSOB le prime voci sul regolamento dell’equity CF- Equity crowdfunding law for Italy

Poche ore fa alla conferenza di Mission Continuity, a Milano, il vicedirettore della CONSOB, D’Agostino, ha anticipato che il regolamento per il crowdfunding sarà rilasciato domani o al più tardi lunedì.

Dalla presentazione riguardo alla normativa che verrà presto pubblicata, spiccano i seguenti cambiamenti rispetto al testo di consultazione rilasciato a marzo scorso (vedi il post):

  • Le imprese innovative si potranno registrare ad una piattaforma anche senza avere già trovato un investitore professionale disposto ad investire almeno il 5% del capitale offerto. Questa figura sarà richiesta solo al fine di perfezionare la raccolta del capitale.
  • Tra le categorie di investitori professionali che la CONSOB ammette rientrano anche gli incubatori.
  • Sui gestori delle piattaforme di CF ricade il divieto di interlocking, cioè di prestare la propria professionalità per gestire altre piattaforme di CF, e di fare consulenza agli investitori  sulla piattaforma.
  • Per quanto riguarda gli amministratori delle piattaforme non esecutivi, la Consob ha ridimensionato i requisiti di professionalità, permettendo l’accesso a tale posizioni anche a persone che non abbiano avuto esperienze nel settore finanziario, requisito che invece permane per i CEO dei portali.
  • Maggiori garanzie informative sono richieste ai crowdfunders che dovranno rispondere a dei test per dimostrare di stare investendo consapevoli del rischio che corrono e di essere in grado di sostenere economicamente l’eventuale totale perdita della somma investita.

 

Infine la CONSOB ha predisposto alcuni indicatori, con i quali, nel giro di un anno, andrà a valutare la normativa e il suo impatto sul mercato del CF.

Come sottolineato dal commissario CONSOB, Vittorio Conti, l’Italia è orgogliosa di essere il primo paese in Europa ad avere adottato un regolamento per il CF. Il commissario ha inoltre auspicato che questo possa costituire un virtuoso esempio per tutta la società di come con la collettività si possa creare qualcosa di concreto, fidandosi gli uni degli altri.

Certo è che per sfruttare al massimo questa innovazione, c’è bisogno che gli Italiani superino i loro limiti culturali, abbracciando un atteggiamento un  po’ più aperto al rischio e meno avverso al fallimento, sia dalla parte degli investitori che da quella degli imprenditori. Altrimenti il CF non decollerà mai, proprio come è successo al private equity in Italia.

Se volete avere più dettagli, sotto trovate le slides riguardo al regolamento presentate oggi(scusate la qualità un po’ scadente).

 

A few hours ago at a conference organized by Mission Continuity, in Milan, D’Agostino, the vice-director of  CONSOB – the Italian financial authority- gave some spoilers regarding the law concerning equity crowdfunding, which will be released tomorrow or on Monday at latest.

From the presentation of the vice-director, the following points were highlighted as new compared to the open-hearing text released in March (see the post about it):

  • The innovative startups are now allowed to register on the CF portal, even without having a professional investor who has already agreed to commit at least the 5% of the capital offered by the company. The accredited investor is only needed in order to start to raise capital on 
  • Incubators are now included among the categories of accrediated investors allowed to lead the investments on equity CF.
  • For the CF platforms managers it is forbidden to practice any interlocking activity, that is they cannot use their names and their professionalism to manage other CF portals. They also cannot consult any crowdfunder on the investments.
  • Non-executive administrators of CF platforms saw their requirements lowered to the extent that now they are not required anymore to have had experiences in the financial sector, before joining the platform. This requirement, however, remains for the platforms’CEOs.
  • More informational guarantees are requested to the crowdfunders, who now are have to take a test to show they are aware of the risks they are taking when investing and that they can afford the possible loss of the amount invested.

Last but not least the CONSOB set some indicators, that will be used to evaluate, in one year time, the impact the law had on the CF market.

As the CONSOB commissary, Vittorio Conti, said, Italy is proud to be the first country in Europe to adopt a law for equity CF. Mr. Conti has further wished that this can become an example for the entire society of how the community can create something concrete, just by trusting each other.

Nevertheless, to unleash the full potential of equity CF it is necessary that the Italians overcome their cultural limits, embracing a more open to risk and less failure adverse attitude, both on the investors side and on the entrepreneurs side. Otherwise it will never grow and develop as it happened with private equity in Italy.

Below you find the slides of the presentation of CONSOB about the law for equity CF. ( Sorry it is in Italian only! However if you should have questions do not hesitate to contact me).

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Portrait #2 : Nerdalize

I remember, the first time I heard Boaz telling me  how they were planning to turn computers into heating systems, I thought: “what the hell is he talking about”?! I was not the only one not understanding, also some of my course mates’ faces were assuming the shape of unanswered question marks.

Now, 10 months after that presentation, I understand that it was not science-fiction. It is reality, it is called Nerdalize and it is now collecting funds on the equity crowdfunding platform, Symbid.

The name, Nerdalize, already tells you a lot: you probably need to be a real nerd to understand at the first time what Nerdalize does. However I will try to make it easy for everyone, because it is definitely an idea worth sharing. To do that I asked help  from  a person that better knows Nerdalize, one of its co-founders,, Boaz Leupe.

Boaz is 28 years old, Dutch, from Gouda  – the city of cheese! – , an excellent public speaker and an entertaining talker. And I can tell you he is all but a nerd.                                                              NerdalizeLogoOnly_transparent_square

 

Hi Boaz, can you tell us how the idea of Nerdalize was born?

About a year ago I was with my flatmate, Mathijs, at home. It was a pretty cold night and our thermostat was not working. We had a couple of glasses of wine to try to warm us up, but still it was way too cold. At a certain point during the evening Mathjis jumped out in front of me hugging his laptop and said: “Hey Boaz I had an idea, I know what I am going to do to warm myself up. I am going to build a radiator out of a thousand of laptops!” I looked at him and I thought he had lost his mind. A few moments later it hit us, this actually was not a bad idea at all.  So the next day we started doing some calculations, searching for more information and eventually the idea looked more and more possible. However it seemed so simple that is made us weary of what we had stumbled upon. Nevertheless we were still convinced that, since a computer chip converts almost 100% of the energy into heat, we could make more efficient use of that energy. In the following days we started talking to different experts and criticasters and they could not find any argument against the idea either. We then realized that this idea actually has potential  and would be interesting to pursue.

 

So this is how Nerdalize was born… In a few words how does Nerdalize work?

Nerdalize brings to bare a new concept of electrical heating. In a nutshell, we want to take servers out of datacenters (i.e. the big buildings where servers are stored and operated today) and place them into people’s houses. Of course we remodel the computing units so they act, look and feel like a normal heater. The heat these servers normally produce in the datacenter can then be used for heating the home. We can do this because servers produce a great amount of heating; so much even that datacenters need to be cooled down. Building a datacenter and cooling it down is of course quite inefficient in terms of energy and costs and not very good for the environment either. By putting them into houses we then solve two things: 1. We don’t need to cool the servers down with expensive cooling installations, 2. we don’t need to build a datacenter. Scrapping those two things of the bill saves up to 60% of the costs! Of course the homeowner also needs to be convinced that they get a convenient electrical heating system. Convenient, because Nerdalize pays the home owner for every  KwH hour of use. The house owner thus actually heats for free and can even generate a profit if he plays it smart.

If it is very warm outside, I would want to turn my heating system off, thus interrupting the server activity as well. How are you going to deal with this issue?

We have been looking around to choose what market would be the most suitable for our product and Scandinavian countries are quite attractive for us. In particular, we are aiming to enter Norway, at first, because it is pretty cold almost all year long, using electric panel heaters is already very popular (69% of the market) and the market is growing fast. Furthermore Norwegians have a good high speed internet infrastructure and they are open to innovation. Just catching a small fraction of their market would be a big thing for us. We currently have a design on the table that would allow the customers to turn the heating off, while not interrupting the server’s work. That is, there is a way to ditch the heat when there is no need for heating but there is a need for computing power.

 

Your idea sounds pretty innovative and like something professional investors would be eager to have a look at. Why did you opt for crowdfunding to get the first funds?

I think the major advantage you get from crowdfunding is that you validate the idea. You are exposed to a lot of feedback, people ask you critical questions you might not have thought about before. And then it is very accessible, so it was actually one of the first things that came to my mind when we started looking for funding. Since we are at a risky stage right now, we need to validate our idea further and the power of the crowd is a good way of doing it. We try to get people involved, get as much input and help from them as possible and send a signal to professional investors.

 

Why should people invest in Nerdalize on Symbid?

Because we are a young driven entrepreneurial team, with complementary skills and the right background. The project has room to grow – we are one of the early players in this new market – and it has already attracted the attention of bigger parties, which we can unfortunately not name at this time. Last but not least, people investing in Nerdalize are investing in a piece of their future and in the environment.

If after reading this interview you want to contribute to the development of Nerdalize, you can buy shares from 20 euros onwards by following this link.