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Putting the Crowd Back Into Crowdfunding

This week, we announced a major expansion of GROUNDFLOOR (press release; coverage in USA Today). After several months piloting our concept in Georgia, we’re ready to open micro-lending in real estate to more people in more states, and to start funding projects throughout the U.S.

It’s a big moment for GROUNDFLOOR, those waiting to join us, and for the promise of crowdfinance. With a breadth that will now reach 43 million Americans, the offering we’ve now launched with six states and the SEC is the largest ever in crowdfinance. We’re proud of this achievement-in-progress. It’s an important milestone along an expensive and complex journey to build a new financial product that is accessible to all--not just those investors who are deemed “accredited” by federal regulations.

Why take on all the complexity and expense? My co-founder Nick Bhargava and I have never accepted the false notion that 2% of a population qualifies as a “crowd.” As entrepreneurs, we are passionate about equality of opportunity. That’s not only for political and social reasons, but because we also believe it’s good business. Power and insight lies in true diverse numerosity--the "wisdom of crowds." We refuse to stand down and take the tempting shortcut of mediating big money transactions between big money interests. This, despite everything in our nation’s legal and regulatory superstructure having been optimized for the purpose of serving those interests, by those interests and with them.

At two recent industry conferences, it became obvious that even the crowdfunding industry itself has lost its way. In a desperate bid for relevance, the industry blithely heralds even a recently launched online financing platform with a million dollar minimum investment as a “crowd” funding platform. Principles of fairness and equal opportunity are losing out to how much capital can be funneled to which landmark projects, how quickly. While that development may offer much for the real estate industry, it offers nothing for the 98% of us who are not "accredited" investors. If unchecked, it risks leaving our financial prospects and voice to whatever Wall Street serves us--the status quo as it's always been.

GROUNDFLOOR won’t stand by or join in to let that be the case. This week in Atlanta at the Crowdfunding USA Conference, we offered a more precise and normative definition of crowdfunding. That sparked a vibrant conversation about semantics, values and purpose. We’ll have more to say about that soon. Meanwhile, and more importantly, we’re leading the way in the market. Building off our success in Georgia, we’re not waiting for Title III of the JOBS Act to open a new class of investment product previously restricted to the wealthy and well-connected. We're doing it now, using existing regulations to tread a path much less traveled by--but that is ultimately much more rewarding.

Questions, comments or have your own observations to share? Add them below and we’ll look forward to interacting with you.

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