3 Pitch Deck Secrets for Startups

A well-crafted pitch deck for startups is a cornerstone of successful fundraising, acting as your company’s first impression and primary tool for communicating its value and vision. So we can say that the pitch deck is one of the keys to unlock a startup’s potential. It’s often the first impression you make on investors, and ensuring it resonates is crucial.

This guide unveils the secrets to crafting a flexible pitch deck that adapts to different audiences. You’ll get strategic tips to use in your day by day, regardless of experience. Seasoned entrepreneurs or those just starting their startup journey will gain the knowledge and skills to create a pitch deck that opens doors and propels your startup forward.

The basics: Understanding Your Audience

When it comes to pitch decks for startup, one size does not fit all. Each group has distinct concerns, priorities, and expectations that you must address to captivate their interest and secure their investment.

  1. Venture Capital Firms: VCs are typically looking for scalable business models with high growth potential. They are also interested in your management team’s background and your product or service’s competitive advantage in the market.
  2. Family Offices: These entities manage the wealth of affluent families and may prioritize long-term value and stability. They might be more interested in your company’s vision and values, and how these align with their investment philosophy.
  3. Institutional Investors: Large institutions like pension funds or endowments might seek stable investments with predictable returns. They are particularly keen on risk management strategies and robust financial projections in your pitch deck.
  4. Accredited Investors: Generally more sophisticated than the average individual investor, accredited investors look for detailed and transparent information about the potential risks and rewards.
  5. Non-Accredited Investors (General Public): When regulations allow fundraising from the general public, such as through crowdfunding platforms, the startup pitch deck should be straightforward, avoiding technical jargon, and emphasizing more on the mission and broader appeal of the product or service.

The secret lies in your ability to adapt your deck to suit different types of investors—venture capital firms, family offices, institutional investors, accredited individuals, and even the general public.

Crafting a Flexible Pitch Deck Framework (and tips for pitch deck for startups template)

To address the needs of these diverse audiences effectively, consider creating a modular pitch deck for startups that you can tailor for each presentation without starting from scratch. Here’s how you can build this framework:

  1. Core Slides (Common to All Decks): Company Overview: Briefly introduce your company, what it does, and why it exists. Mission and Vision: Convey your company’s core mission and long-term vision.
Content Section Description
Product or Service – Showcase your offering with clear explanations and, if possible, demonstrations. – Include visuals (screenshots, mockups) to enhance understanding. – If applicable, consider incorporating a short video demonstration.
Market Opportunity – Present market research to back up your claim of a scalable opportunity. – Highlight the size and growth potential of the market you’re addressing. – Emphasize any pain points your solution directly addresses.
Business Model – Explain how you make money. – Be specific about pricing structures, revenue streams, and customer acquisition strategies. – Consider including a simple financial projection to illustrate future growth.
Team – Highlight key team members with bios highlighting their relevant experience and expertise. – Showcase achievements and credentials that demonstrate their ability to execute the vision. – Briefly mention any advisory board members to add further credibility.

Pitch deck for startups template: strategic tips

  1. Customizable Slides (Tailored to Investor Type):
  • Growth Strategy: Vary the emphasis on short-term vs. long-term growth strategies depending on the investor.
  • Financials: Adjust the level of detail and the financial metrics you present based on the sophistication of the investor.
  • Competitive Analysis: For VCs, focus on market disruption. For family offices, emphasize sustainable competitive advantages.
  • Use of Funds: Explain how the investment will be used, tailored to show how it aligns with the investor’s goals.
  1. The Ask: Clearly state what you are asking for (funding amount) and what you are offering in return (equity, debt).

Tips for a Compelling Pitch Deck for startups

  1. Tell a Story: Begin with a problem statement, then show how your product or service provides the solution. Engage your audience with a narrative that makes the need for your business obvious.
  2. Focus on Design: Use professional designs with consistent branding. Avoid cluttered slides; use visuals and charts to make your point wherever possible.
  3. Practice Transparency: Especially with financials, be as transparent as possible. Show both best-case and conservative scenarios for growth projections.
  4. Highlight Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP): Make it clear how your business stands out from the competition.
  5. Include Testimonials or Case Studies: Real-world examples of your product or service in action can build credibility and trust.
  6. Rehearse Your Delivery: No matter how good your pitch deck, the delivery can make or break your presentation. Rehearse in front of unbiased observers who can provide constructive feedback.
  7. Follow Up: After your presentation, send a thank you note and offer to answer any further questions. Include a link to your pitch deck or additional resources that can support your claims.

Final insights

In your capital raising journey, understanding how to tailor your pitch deck to different investor types is crucial. By developing a flexible framework and focusing on the elements that resonate most with each type of investor, you can increase your chances of a successful fundraising effort. Remember, your pitch deck is more than just a presentation; it’s a reflection of your startup’s potential and professionalism. With the right approach, it can open doors and build lasting partnerships with investors who believe in your vision.

Raising capital for startups: 3 red flags for not being tricked

Can a startup pay a transaction-based fee for capital raising assistance? This is a very common question. For the most part, the answer is a clear “no,” but why is that? 

The short answer is that—except under certain limited circumstances—it is illegal. Regulatory protections provide investors with the right to their money back with interest and attorney fees, and it may result in, among other things, the founders not only being held personally liable to investors but also getting listed on a  bad-actor list. 

Finding investors is one of the biggest challenges that  companies face. This is especially true for startups because most founders don’t have an established network of investors ready to invest capital. 

Often, founders who are seeking to expand their network of investors will run into someone who would be happy to make a few introductions … for a fee. RUN AWAY!!

Here are 3 Red Flags while raising capital for your company.

Red Flag #1: Transaction-based compensation

Most often, someone who wants a fee for helping to raise capital (often referred to as a “finder”) is not licensed to do so, and generally speaking, use of a finder who is not a licensed broker-dealer is a violation of federal and state securities laws. Below we summarize how to identify a broker-dealer and then look at the potential negative consequences of using an unlicensed broker-dealer.

What is an unlicensed broker-dealer?

The answer is simple: Just ask the finder, “Are you a registered FINRA Broker-Dealer?” The answer is either yes or no.

For decades, the SEC & FINRA have defined a four-factor test to determine when a “finder” is required to register as a broker-dealer. The SEC’s position is that these 4 factors will be analyzed in determining when someone is acting as a broker-dealer, with no one factor being dispositive:

  1. Whether the person receives commissions or other transaction-based compensation;
  2. Whether the person makes buy/sell recommendations and provides investment details;
  3. Whether the person has a history of selling securities (regular activity); and
  4. Whether the person takes an active role in negotiations between the investor and the issuer.

“What if a finder receives a percentage of the money raised through finder introductions, but does not make recommendations, does not have a history of selling securities, and does not take an active role in negotiations between the investor and the issuer?” 

Despite its emphasis on four factors, the SEC has stated in several no-action letters that transaction-based compensation represents a hallmark of being a broker-dealer, even when the other three factors are absent. Consequently, an individual or company that receives a commission substantially increases the risk that the party receiving the commission will be considered a broker-dealer. For decades, the best advice has been that in view of the risks involved, issuers should typically not engage finders on a percentage-based compensation basis.

Red Flag #2: Reliance on No-Action Letters

On several occasions, we have come across finders who refer to a no-action letter issued by the SEC in 2014 as evidence they can receive a commission despite not being a licensed broker-dealer.

The problem with that position is that the letter has several conditions, including that the buyer of the securities being sold has, following the sale of the securities, (i) control of the company, and (ii) must actively operate the company.

Nearly all startup financings do not fit into this scenario, so the no-action letter does not apply.2

Finders will also often attempt to find (and share with the startup’s leaders) comfort by relying on the 1991 SEC No-Action Letter involving the singer Paul Anka. While often cited by finders, the SEC staff’s decision to not recommend enforcement against Mr. Anka—if, without registering as a broker-dealer, he provided the company a list of potential investors in exchange for a commission—is of limited relevance and utility.

The SEC staff noted its no-action decision was conditioned on several factors, including that Mr. Anka was not engaging in the following activities: soliciting the prospective investors, participating in any general solicitation, assisting in the preparation of sales materials, performing independent analysis, engaging in “due diligence,” assisting or providing financing, providing valuation or investment advice, and handling any funds or securities.

Red Flag #3: Liability for using an unlicensed broker-dealer in capital raise

What Possible Liability Is There for Using an Unlicensed Broker-Dealer to Raise Capital? 

Using a finder will create liability under federal and state law. Agreements for the sale of securities made in violation of federal securities law may be held void.4 This would certainly apply to the agreement with the unregistered broker who attempts to collect a fee for assisting in the sale of the securities.

While the startup may feel that this is not such a bad thing, a violation of federal securities laws also will void (or make voidable) the agreement between the startup and investors under which the startup raised the funds. If the agreements are held void by a court, then all parties to those agreements would have a right of rescission that would last for the later of three years from the transaction or one year from the date the violation is discovered.

A right of rescission is simply a right to cancel the agreement and return each party to its original position, which means returning investments back to investors. In other words, the use of a finder who is not but should be a registered broker-dealer in effect gives the investors a multi-year redemption right.

Are There Other Potential Consequences of Engaging an Unlicensed Broker-Dealer to Raise Capital?
Yes, otherwise we would not have posed the question. Founders who engage unregistered broker-dealers to raise capital may:

  1. SEC Enforcement Actions: Face enforcement actions from the SEC as an aider and abettor8;
  2. State Regulatory Actions: Face enforcement actions from state securities regulators; and
  3. Prohibition and Labeling: Be labeled a “bad actor” and prohibited from participating in or being involved with companies that do securities offerings made under commonly used securities exemptions.9

Additionally, the startup and its principles may be prohibited from using the updated JOBS Act regulations such as Rule 506, Regulation CF, and Regulation A+ securities offering, which is the most commonly relied-upon securities exemption for startups and emerging growth companies. And, just because the list goes on, the use of an unlicensed broker-dealer could impact the ability to close future rounds of financing because of the contingent liability associated with the initial violation, which is likely to come up in investor due diligence.

Online Capital Formation for Private Companies

In the fast-paced private company landscape, understanding Online Capital Formation dynamics is not just a strategic advantage – it’s imperative. As we commemorate the twelfth anniversary of the JOBS Act in 2024, it’s evident that evolving capital-raising regulations have paved the way for a transformative approach to business financing. In this ever-changing scenario, everyone in the private market needs to grasp the significance of Online Capital Formation to unlock myriad opportunities for their ventures.

Table of Contents

  1. Making Capital Formation Accessible for Private Enterprises
  2. The Complexity of RegCF and RegA+
  3. Beyond Conventional Crowdfunding
  4. Seizing the Future with Online Capital Formation
  5. Final Insights

 

Making Capital Formation Accessible for Private Enterprises

At its core, the democratization of capital is a driving force behind Online Capital Formation. Gone are the days when crowdfunding merely conjured images of Kickstarter campaigns. Today, it has evolved into a sophisticated financial tool, especially with the maturation of Regulation CF (RegCF) and Regulation A+ (RegA+) over the past decade.

RegCF and RegA+ are two sets of rules established by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to govern equity crowdfunding. They were both introduced as part of the JOBS Act (Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act) and their primary goal is to make it easier for businesses and startups (from small to enterprises) to raise capital by offering and selling securities online.

The concept of digital securities involves representing traditional financial instruments (such as stocks or bonds) in digital form using blockchain technology. Digital securities enable more efficient and transparent transactions, and they can be traded on digital securities exchanges.

The Complexity of RegCF and RegA+

RegCF and RegA+ transcend the traditional crowdfunding model, where entrepreneurs pitch ideas for product launches. Instead, they empower companies to transform investors into shareholders. The focus has shifted from merely selling stories to selling stock – a nuanced shift that goes beyond the conventional understanding of crowdfunding.

In order to fit in each of these regulations, companies must pass the eligibility criteria for each of them and provide certain disclosures to investors, including information about their business, financial condition, and the terms of the offering. The level of disclosure required is less extensive compared to traditional IPOs, but it aims to provide investors with enough information to make informed investment decisions.

Beyond Conventional Crowdfunding

These regulations are more than regulatory frameworks; they’re a paradigm shift that offers private companies a more expansive and flexible avenue for raising capital. They allow them to raise capital from both accredited and non-accredited investors, which includes their own clients and employees. RegCF allows them to raise up to 5 million dollars while with RegA+, it’s possible to raise up to 75 million dollars.

Equity Crowdfunding is an alternative pathway to access capital markets, offering a more cost-effective and less burdensome option than a full IPO. It has helped more people invest in early-stage funding, making investment opportunities available to a wider range of investors. With these regulations, you can leverage the internet and technology to connect with more investors and grow the business.

Seizing the Future with Online Capital Formation

While the term “crowdfunding” remains rooted in popular imagination, it falls short of encapsulating the depth and complexity of RegCF and RegA+. We must recognize these exemptions have matured into a robust mechanism that demands a more nuanced understanding. They must carefully navigate the regulatory requirements and considerations as this is monitored by the SEC aiming to ensure investor protection and maintain market integrity.

To shed light on this evolution, we have collaborated with industry experts, including Sara Hanks, CEO/Founder of CrowdCheck, and Douglas Ruark, President of Regulation D Resources, now known as Red Rock Securities Law. Together, we aim to redefine the landscape by emphasizing what we believe heralds a new era in crowdfunding: Online Capital Formation

Additionally, success in equity crowdfunding often depends on effective marketing, transparent communication, and a compelling value proposition for investors.  From accessing diverse investors to increasing brand visibility, this overview highlights seven key benefits. Take a look at the chart.

# Top 7 Benefits of Democratizing Capital Formation
1 Access to Diverse Investors
2 Engagement of Customers
3 Increased Brand Visibility
4 Flexibility in Fundraising
5 Gathering Early Feedback
6 Cost-Effectiveness
7 Potential for Liquidity

A Closer Look at the Top 7 Benefits of Democratizing Capital Formation

Final insights

As private company owners and managers, the onus is on you to comprehend the evolving dynamics of Online Capital Formation. It’s not merely a trend. Embrace the opportunities, stay informed, and position your venture at the forefront of this new era in crowdfunding. The journey begins with understanding. If you’re looking to raise capital and want to know more about your company’s suitability and which steps to take first, book a call with one of our specialists.

Subsidiaries using RegCF

Subsidiaries using RegCF: introduction

This came up no less than three times last week, so I figured it was worth a blog post.

Subsidiaries can raise funds under Reg CF, even if they are subsidiaries of companies who cannot use Reg CF themselves, because they have a class of securities registered with the SEC, or they are not US companies. To determine eligibility, you look at the status of the potential issuer. Is it a US company? Have you confirmed it’s not an investment company? If it’s raised funds under Reg CF before, is it in compliance with ongoing reporting requirements?

We need to add another element to this determination: is the US sub genuinely the issuer under Reg CF, or is there a “co-issuer” in the picture? And if there is, is the co-issuer prevented from using Reg CF because it’s an SEC-registered or foreign company?

There’s no useful definition of “co-issuer” under securities law (and if you go looking for one, what you will find will only confuse you) but when faced with the issue, we often ask clients to take a step back and ask themselves: “Whose performance is the investor relying on when they make their investment?” If the funds raised are going to be used at the subsidiary level, and the subsidiary is a genuine operating company, with employees, and a business plan, then everything may be ok, even if some portion of the funds end up at the parent level; for instance, payments for contracted support functions, or as license payments. But if the US sub is being effectively used as a finance sub, has no employees, and the funds are sent upstream to the parent, then you probably have a co-issuer, who is subject to the same eligibility, financial statement, and disclosure requirements as its sub.

It’s always going to be a matter of judgement, and as the SEC loves to remind us, dependent on facts and circumstances. It is worth going through the above analysis with your counsel to determine if the subsidiary is eligible to raise funds under Reg CF.

 

 

* Subsidiaries using RegCF was originally published on Crowdcheck.

Communications and publicity by issuers prior to and during a Regulation CF (RegCF) Offering

The idea behind crowdfunding is that the crowd — family, friends, and fans of a small or startup company, even if they are not rich or experienced investors — can invest in that company’s securities. For a traditionally risk-averse area of law, that’s a pretty revolutionary concept.  

In order to make this leap, Congress wanted to ensure that all potential investors had access to the same information. The solution that Congress came up in the JOBS Act with was that there had to be one centralized place that an investor could access that information — the website of the funding portal or broker-dealer that hosts the crowdfunding offering (going forward we will refer to both of these as “platforms”). 

This means (with some very limited exceptions that we’ll describe below) most communications about the offering can ONLY be found on the platform. On the platform, the company can use any form of communication it likes, and can give as much information as it likes (so long as it’s not misleading). Remember that the platforms are required to have a communication channel — basically a chat or Q&A function — a place where you can discuss the offering with investors and potential investors (though you must identify yourself). That gives you the ability to control much of your message. 

So with that background in mind, we wanted to go through what you can and cannot do regarding communications prior to and during the offering. Unfortunately, there are a lot of limitations. Securities law is a highly regulated area and this is not like doing a Kickstarter campaign. Also, bear in mind this is a changing regulatory environment. We put together this guide based on existing law, the SEC’s interpretations that it put out on May 13, and numerous conversations with the SEC Staff. As the industry develops, the Staff’s positions may evolve. 

We do understand that the restrictions are in many cases counter-intuitive and don’t reflect the way people communicate these days. The problems derive from the wording of the statute as passed by Congress. The JOBS Act crowdfunding provisions are pretty stringent with respect to publicity; the SEC has “interpreted” those provisions as much as possible to give startups and small businesses more flexibility. 

What you can say before you launch your offering 

US securities laws regulate both “offers” and sales of securities; whenever you make an offer or sale of securities, that offer or sale must comply with the SEC’s rules. The SEC interprets the term “offer” very broadly and it can include activity that “conditions the market” for the offering. “Conditioning the market” is any activity that raises public interest in your company, and could include suddenly heightened levels of advertising, although regular product and service information or advertising is ok (see discussion below). 

Under new rules which went into effect on March 15, 2021, companies considering making a crowdfunding offering may “test the waters” (TTW) in order to decide whether to commit to the time and 2 expense of making an offering.1 Prior to filing the Form C with the SEC, you may make oral or written communications to find out whether investors might be interested in investing in your offering. The way in which you make these communications (eg, email, Insta, posting on a crowdfunding portal site) and the content of those communications are not limited, but the communications must state that: 

  • No money or other consideration is being solicited, and if sent in response, will not be accepted; 
  • No offer to buy the securities can be accepted and no part of the purchase price can be received until the offering statement is filed and only though the platform of an intermediary (funding portal or broker-dealer); and 
  • A person’s indication of interest includes no obligation or commitment of any kind.2 

You can collect indications of interest from potential investors including name, address, phone number and/or email address. The rule does not address getting any further information, such as the manner of any potential payment. If you do make TTW communications, you must file any written communication or broadcast script as an exhibit to your Form C. And TTW communications are subject to the regular provisions of securities law that impose liability for misleading statements. 

Before the point at which you file your Form C with the SEC, the TTW process is the only way you can make any offers of securities, either publicly or privately. This would apply to meetings with potential investors, giving out any information on forums which offer “sneak peeks” or “first looks” at your offering, and public announcements about the offering. Discussions at a conference or a demo day about your intentions to do a crowdfunding offering must comply with the TTW rules and you should read out the information in the bullets above. Any non-compliant communication made prior to filing the Form C may be construed as an unregistered offer of securities made in violation of Section 5 of the Securities Act — a “Bad Act” that will prevent you from being able to use Regulation CF, Rule 506, or Regulation A in the future. 

Normal advertising of your product or service is permitted as the SEC knows you have a business to run. However, if just before the offering all of a sudden you produce five times the amount of advertising that you had previously done, the SEC might wonder whether you were doing this to stir up interest in investing in your company. If you plan to change your marketing around the time of your offering (or if you are launching your company at the same time as your RegCF offering, which often happens), it would be prudent to discuss this with your counsel so that you can confirm that your advertising is consistent with the SEC’s rules. 

Genuine conversations with friends or family about what you are planning to do and getting their help and input on your offering and how to structure it, are ok, even if those people invest later. You can’t be pitching to them as investors, though, except in compliance with the TTW rules. 

What you can say after you launch 

After you launch your offering by filing your Form C with the SEC, communications outside the platform fall into two categories: 

  • Communications that don’t mention the “terms of the offering”; and 1 We are talking here about Crowdfunding Regulation Rule 206. There is another new rule that permits testing the waters before deciding which type of exempt offering (eg, Regulation CF or Regulation A) to make, which does not preempt state regulation; using that rule may be complicated and require extensive legal advice. 2 We advise including the entirety of this wording as a legend or disclaimer in the communication in question. The convention in Regulation A is that “it it fits, the legend must be included” and if the legend doesn’t fit (eg, Twitter) the communication must include an active hyperlink to it. 3 
  • Communications that just contain “tombstone” information. 

Communications that don’t mention the terms of the offering 

We are calling these “non-terms” communications in this memo, although you can also think of them as “soft” communications. “Terms” in this context are the following: 

  • The amount of securities offered; 
  • The nature of the securities (i.e., whether they are debt or equity, common or preferred, etc.); 
  • The price of the securities; 
  • The closing date of the offering period; 
  • The use of proceeds; and 
  • The issuer’s progress towards meeting its funding target. 

There are two types of communication that fall into the non-terms category. 

First, regular communications and advertising. You can still continue to run your business as normal and there is nothing wrong with creating press releases, advertisements, newsletters and other publicity to help grow your business. If those communications don’t mention any of the terms of the offering, they are permitted. Once you’ve filed your Form C, you don’t need to worry about “conditioning the market.” You can ramp up your advertising and communications program as much as you like so long as they are genuine business advertising (e.g., typical business advertising would not mention financial performance). 

Second, and more interestingly, offering-related communications that don’t mention the terms of the offering. You can talk about the offering as long as you don’t mention the TERMS of the offering. Yes, we realize that sounds weird but it’s the way the statute (the JOBS Act) was drafted. Rather than restricting the discussion of the “offering,” which is what traditional securities lawyers would have expected, the statute restricts discussion of “terms,” and the SEC defined “terms” to mean only those six things discussed above. This means you can make any kind of communication or advertising in which you say you are doing an offering (although not WHAT you are offering; that would be a “term”) and include all sort of soft information about the company’s mission statement and how the CEO’s grandma’s work ethic inspired her drive and ambition. 

You can link to the platform’s website from such communications. But be careful about linking to any other site that contains the terms of the offering. A link (in the mind of the SEC) is an indirect communication of the terms. So linking to something that contains terms could mean that a non-terms communication becomes a tombstone communication (see below) that doesn’t comply with the tombstone rules. This applies to third-party created content as well. If a third-party journalist has written an article about how great your company is and includes terms of the offering, linking to that article is an implicit endorsement of the article and could become a statement of the company that doesn’t comply with the Tombstone rules. 

Whether you are identifying a “term” of the offering can be pretty subtle. While “We are making an offering so that all our fans can be co-owners,” might indirectly include a term because it’s hinting that you are offering equity, it’s probably ok. Try to avoid hints as to what you are offering, and just drive investors to the intermediary’s site to find out more. 

Even though non-terms communications can effectively include any information (other than terms) that you like, bear in mind that they are subject, like all communications, to the securities antifraud rules. So even though you are technically permitted to say that you anticipate launching your “Uber for Ferrets” in 4 November in a non-terms communication, if you don’t have a reasonable basis for saying that, you are in trouble for making a misleading statement. 

Tombstone communications 

A tombstone is what it sounds like — just the facts — and a very limited set of facts at that. Think of these communications as “hard” factual information. 

The specific rules under Regulation CF (RegCF) allow for “notices” limited to the following, which can be written or oral: 

  • A statement that the issuer is conducting an offering pursuant to Section 4(a)(6) of the Securities Act; 
  • The name of the intermediary through which the offering is being conducted and (in written communications) a link directing the potential investor to the intermediary’s platform; 
  • The terms of the offering (the amount of securities offered, the nature of the securities, the price of the securities, the closing date of the offering period, the intended use of proceeds, and progress made so far); and 
  • Factual information about the legal identity and business location of the issuer, limited to the name of the issuer of the security, the address, phone number, and website of the issuer, the e-mail address of a representative of the issuer and a brief description of the business of the issuer. 

These are the outer limits of what you can say. You don’t have to include all or any of the terms. You could just say “Company X has an equity crowdfunding campaign on SuperPortal — Go to www.SuperPortal.com/CompanyX to find out more.” The platform’s address is compulsory.

“Brief description of the business of the issuer” does mean brief. The rule that applies when companies are doing Initial Public Offerings (IPOs), which is the only guidance we have in this area, lets those companies describe their general business, principal products or services, and the industry segment (e.g.,for manufacturing companies, the general type of manufacturing, the principal products or classes of products and the segments in which the company conducts business). The brief description does not allow for inclusion of details about how the product works or the overall addressable market for it, and certainly not any customer endorsements. 

“Limited time and availability”-type statements may be acceptable as part of the “terms of the offering.” For example, the company might state that the offering is “only” open until the termination date, or explain that the amount of securities available is limited to the oversubscription amount. 

A few “context” or filler words might be acceptable in a tombstone notice, depending on that context. For example, the company might state that it is “pleased” to be making an offering under the newly- adopted Regulation Crowdfunding, or even refer to the fact that this is a “historic” event. Such additional wording will generally be a matter of judgement. “Check out our offering on [link]” or “Check out progress of our offering on [link]” are OK. “Our offering is making great progress on [link]” is not. Words that imply growth, success or progress (whether referring to the company or the offering) are always problematic. If you want to use a lot of additional context information, that information can be put in a “non-terms” communication that goes out at the same time and through the same means as a tombstone communication. 

The only links that can be included on a tombstone communication are links to the platform. No links to 5 reviews of the offering on Kingscrowd. No links to any press stories on Crowdfund Insider or CrowdFundBeat. No links to the company’s website. The implicit endorsement principle applies here just as with non-terms communications, meaning that anything you link to becomes a communication by the company. 

An important point with respect to tombstone notices is that while content is severely limited, medium is not. Thus, notices containing tombstone information can be posted on social media, published in newspapers, broadcast on TV, slotted into Google Ads, etc. Craft breweries might wish to publish notices on their beer coasters, and donut shops might wish to have specially printed napkins. 

What constitutes a “notice” 

It is important to note that (until we hear otherwise from the SEC) the “notice” is supposed to be a standalone communication. It can’t be attached to or embedded in other communications. That means you cannot include it on your website (as all the information on your website will probably be deemed to be part of the “notice” and it will likely fail the tombstone rule) and you cannot include it in announcements about new products — again, it will fail the tombstone rule. 

We have listed some examples of permissible communications in Exhibit A. 

Websites 

It’s a bad idea to include ANY information about the terms of the offering on your website. However, some issuers have found a clever solution: you can create a landing page that sits in front of your regular website. The landing page can include the tombstone information and two options: either investors can continue to your company’s regular webpage OR they can go to the platform to find out more about the offering on the platform. We have attached sample text for landing pages on Exhibit A. 

“Invest now” buttons 

Under the SEC’s current interpretations as we understand them, having an “invest now” button on your website with a link to the platform hosting your offering is fine although you should not mention any terms of the offering on your website unless your ENTIRE website complies with the tombstone rule. Most of them don’t. 

Social Media 

As we mention above, the medium of communication is not limited at all, even for tombstone communications. Companies can use social media to draw attention to their offerings as soon as they have filed their Form C with the SEC. Social media are subject to the same restrictions as any other communications: either don’t mention the offering terms at all or limit content to the tombstone information. 

Emails 

“Blast” emails that go out to everyone on your mailing list are subject to the same rules as social media: either don’t mention the offering terms at all or limit content to the tombstone information. Personalized emails to people you know will probably not be deemed to be advertising the terms of the offering, so you can send them, but be careful you don’t give your friends any more information than is on the platform — remember the rule about giving everyone access to the same information. 

Images 

Images are permitted in tombstone communications. However, these images also have to fit within the “tombstone” parameters. So brevity is required. Publishing a few pictures that show what the company does and how it does it is fine. An online coffee table book with hundreds of moodily-lit photos, not so much. Also, a picture tells a thousand words and those words better not be misleading. So use images only of real products actually currently produced by the company (or in planning, so long as you clearly indicate that), actual employees hard at work, genuine workspace, etc. No cash registers, or images of dollar bills or graphics showing (or implying) increase in revenues or stock price. And don’t use images you don’t have the right to use! (Also, we never thought we’d need to say this, but don’t use the SEC’s logo anywhere on your notice, or anywhere else.) 

While the “brevity” requirement doesn’t apply to non-terms communications, the rules about images not being misleading do. 

Videos 

Videos are permitted. You could have the CEO saying the tombstone information, together with video images of the company’s operations, but as with images in general, the video must comport with the tombstone rules. So “Gone with the Wind” length opuses will not work under the tombstone rule, although they are fine with non-terms communications. 

Updates and communications to alert investors that important information is available on the platform 

Updates can and should be found on the crowdfunding platform. You can use communications that don’t mention the terms of the offering, to drive readers to the platform’s site to learn about updates and things like webinars hosted on the platform. They may include links to the platform. 

Press releases 

Yes, they are permitted, but they can’t contain very much. Press releases are also laden with potential pitfalls, as we discuss below. Press releases that mention the offering terms are limited to the same “tombstone” content restrictions that apply to all notices. Companies may say that they are pleased (or even thrilled) to announce that they are making a crowdfunding offering but the usual quotes from company officers can’t be included (unless those quotes are along the lines of “ I am thrilled that Company will be making a crowdfunding offering,” or “Company is a software-as-a-service provider with offices in six states”). The “about the company” section in press releases is subject to the same restrictions and if the press release is put together by a PR outfit, watch out for any non-permitted language in the “about the PR outfit” section of the press release (nothing like “Publicity Hound Agency is happy to help companies seeking crowdfunding from everyday investors who now have the opportunity to invest in the next Facebook”). 

You could also issue non-terms press releases that state you are doing an offering (and you can identify or link to the platform) but don’t include terms and still include all the soft info, including quotes, mission statements and deep backgrounds. It’s likely, though, that journalists would call asking “So what are you offering, then?” and if you answer, you are going to make your non-terms communication into communication that fails the tombstone rule. 

Press interviews and articles 

Interviews with the media can be thorny because participation with a journalist makes the resulting 7 article a communication of the company. In fact, the SEC Staff have stated that they don’t see how interviews can easily be conducted, because even if the company personnel stick to the tombstone information (which would make for a pretty weird interview), the journalist could add non-tombstone information later, which would result in the article being a notice that didn’t comply with the tombstone rule. 

The same thing could happen with interviews where the company tries to keep the interview on a nonterms basis. The company personnel could refrain from mentioning any terms (again, it’s going to be pretty odd saying, “Yes, we are making an offering of securities but I can’t say what we are offering”), but the first thing the journalist is going to do is get the detailed terms from the company’s campaign page on the platform’s site, and again the result is that the article becomes a non-complying notice. 

These rules apply to all articles that the company “participates in.” This means that if you (or your publicists) tell the press, “Hey, take a look at the Company X crowdfunding campaign” any resulting article is probably going to result in a violation of the rules. By you. 

Links to press articles are subject to all the same rules discussed in this memo. If you link to an article, you are adopting and incorporating all the information in that article. If the article mentions the terms of the offering then you can’t link to it from a non-terms communication (such as your website) and if it includes soft non-terms information, then you can’t link to it from a tombstone communication. And if it includes misleading statements, you are now making those statements. 

Remember that prior to the launch of the offering you should not be talking about your campaign with the press (or publicly with anyone else). If you are asked about whether you are doing a campaign priorto launch you should respond with either a “no comment” or “you know companies aren’t allowed to discuss these matters.” No winking (either real or emoji-style.) 

Press articles that the company did not participate in 

In general, if you (or your publicists) didn’t participate in or suggest to a journalist that he or she write an article, it’s not your problem. You aren’t required to monitor the media or correct mistakes. However, if you were to circulate an article (or place it or a link to it on your website), then that would be subject to the rules we discuss in this memo. You can’t do indirectly what you can’t do directly. 

Also, if you add (or link to) press coverage to your campaign page on the platform’s site, you are now adopting that content, so it had better not be misleading. 

Demo Days 

Demo days and industry conferences are subject to many of the same constraints that apply to press interviews. In theory, you could limit your remarks to a statement that you are raising funds through crowdfunding, but in reality people are going to ask what you are selling. You could say “I can’t talk about that; go to SuperPortal.com,” but that would lead to more follow-up questions. And following the tombstone rules means you can’t say too much about your product, which rather undermines the whole purpose of a demo day. 

Demo days might be easier to manage when you are still in the testing-the-waters phase. 

“Ask Me Anythings” 

The only place you can do an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) that references the terms of the offering is on the 8 platform where your offering is hosted. You can’t do AMAs on Reddit. Unless you limit the AMA to nonterms communications or tombstone information. In which case, people aren’t going to be able to ask you “anything.” 

Product and service advertising 

As we mentioned above, once you’ve filed your Form C, ordinary advertising or other communications (such as putting out an informational newsletter) can continue and can even be ramped up. Most advertising by its nature would constitute non-terms communication, so it couldn’t include references to the terms of the offering. So don’t include information about your offering in your supermarket mailer coupons. 

What about side by side communications? 

You are doubtless wondering whether you could do a non-terms Tweet and follow it immediately with a tombstone Tweet. It appears, at least for the moment, that this works. There is the possibility that if you tried to put a non-terms advertisement right next to a tombstone advertisement in print media or online, the SEC might view them collectively as one single (non-complying) “notice”. It is unclear how much time or space would need to separate communications to avoid this problem, or even whether it is a problem. 

“Can I still talk to my friends?”

Yes, you can still talk to your friends face to face at the pub (we are talking real friends, not Facebook friends, here) and even tell them that you are doing a crowdfunding offering, even before you file with the SEC. You aren’t limited to the tombstone information (man, would that be a weird conversation). After you’ve launched the offering, you can ask your friends to help spread the word (that’s the point of social media) but please do not pay them, even in beer or donuts, because that would make them paid “stock touts.” Don’t ask them to make favorable comments on the platform’s chat board either, unless they say on the chat board that they are doing so because you asked them to. If they are journalists, don’t ask them to write a favorable piece about your offering. 

“What if people email me personally with questions?” 

Best practice would be to respond “That’s a great question, Freddie. I’ve answered it here on the SuperPortal chat site [link]”. Remember the Congressional intent of having all investors have access tothe same information. 

Links 

As we’ve seen from the discussion above, you can’t link from a communication that does comply with the rule you are trying to comply with to something that doesn’t. So for example, you can’t link from a Tweet that doesn’t mention the offering terms to something that does and you can’t link from a tombstone communication to anything other than the platform’s website. 

Emoji 

Emoji are subject to antifraud provisions in exactly the same way as text or images are. The current limited range of emoji and their inability to do nuance means that the chance of emoji being misleading is heightened. Seriously people, you need to use your words. 

 

After the offering 

These limitations only last until the offering is closed. Once that happens you are free to speak freely again, so long as you don’t make any misleading statements. 

And what about platforms? 

The rules for publicity by platforms are different, and also depend on whether the platform is a broker or a portal. We have published a separate memo for them. CrowdCheck is not a law firm, the foregoing is not legal advice, and even more than usual, it is subject to change as regulatory positions evolve and the SEC Staff provide guidance in newly-adopted rules. Please contact your lawyer with respect to any of the matters discussed here. 

 

Exhibit A Sample Tombstones

  • Company X, Inc. 

[Company Logo] 

 

Company X is a large widget company based in Anywhere, U.S.A. and incorporated on July 4, 1776. We make widgets and they come in red, white, and blue. Our widgets are designed to spread patriotic cheer. 

 

We are selling common shares in our company at $17.76 a share. The minimum amount is $13,000 and the maximum amount is $50,000. The offering will remain open until July 4, 2021. 

 

This offering is being made pursuant to Section 4(a)(6) of the Securities Act. 

For additional information please visit: https://www.SuperPortal.com/companyx or Invest Button URL Link direct

  • Freddy’s Ferret Food Company is making a Regulation CF Offering of Preferred Shares on FundCrowdFund.com. Freddy’s Ferret Food Company was incorporated in Delaware in 2006 and has its principal office in Los Angeles, California. Freddy’s Ferret Food Company makes ferret food out of its four manufacturing plants located in Trenton, New Jersey. Freddy’s Ferret Food is offering up to 500,000 shares of Preferred Stock at $2 a share and the offering will remain open until February 2, 2021. For more information on the offering please go to www.fundcrowdfund.com/freddysferretfoodcompany. 

 

Sample “non-terms” communications 

  • We are doing a crowdfunding offering! We planning to Make America Great Again by selling a million extra large red hats and extra small red gloves with logos on them, and to bring jobs back to Big Bug Creek, Arizona. The more stuff we make, the greater our profits will be. We think we are poised for significant growth. Already we’ve received orders from 100,000 people in Cleveland. Invest in us TODAY, while you still can and Make Capitalism Great Again! [LINK TO PLATFORM]. 
  • Feel the “Burn”! We are making a crowdfunding offering on SuperPortal.com to raise funds to expand our hot sauce factory. Be a part of history. Small investors have been screwed for years.This is your chance to Stick it to the Man and buy securities in a business that has grown consistently for the last five years. 

 

Sample Communications on Social Media:
Note all these communications will have a link to the platform. 

 

  • Company Y has launched its crowdfunding campaign; click here to find out more. 

 

  • Interested in investing in Company Y? Click here. 

 

Sample Landing Page: 

Thanks to Regulation CF, now everyone can own shares in our company. 

 

[Button] Invest in our Company 

[Button] Continue to our Website

 

CrowdCheck is not a law firm, the foregoing is not legal advice, and even more than usual, it is subject to change as regulatory positions evolve and the SEC Staff provide guidance in newly-adopted rules. Please contact your lawyer with respect to any of the matters discussed here.

Online Capital Formation And Why You Have To Understand It

The JOBS Act reached its tenth anniversary in 2022. We celebrated the date with the launch of our Podcast, KoreTalkX, recently mentioned by Spotify as in the top 10% of the most shared shows globally. But the regulations that brought a lot of novelties to the capital raising process still face some misconceptions. Especially regarding Crowdfunding. We are introducing Online Capital Formation and why you have to understand it.

We do write a lot about the democratization of capital because we believe that everyone should be able to participate and share in the benefits. Whether as entrepreneurs, brand advocates, innovators, or investors (both accredited and non-accredited). What we may be missing here is that Regulation CF (RegCF) has matured over the past decade, and it is time to look at it in a more complex way.

Crowdfunding?

For many individuals, the word  “crowdfunding” still evokes Kickstarter as a Top of Mind idea. Entrepreneurs that need money to launch a product pitch their ideas online. People can contribute based on a variety of rewards listed on a website. But that is far from being a regulated entity.

RegCF helps companies turn investors into shareholders. Companies and product makers are not selling their stories anymore. They are selling their stock. And that is why we feel the word “crowdfunding” doesn’t encompass the whole idea behind it.

That is why we put together our KorePartners, like Sara Hanks (CEO/Founder of CrowdCheck) and Douglas Ruark (President of Regulation D Resources) to help us put a flag in the ground to what we believe is the new era in Crowdfunding: Online Capital Formation.

Sara Hanks, Douglas Ruark. and Oscar A Jofre, our CEO and co-founder, will join our communications coordinator Rafael Gonçalves in a webinar next Monday, on December, 19th, at 4 PM EST, to remind us all of the paths we have traveled while pointing the way forward for the Online Capital Formation idea.

Join us on LinkedIn Live or subscribe on Airmeet.