What is Regulation A+?

Regulation A+ (RegA+) was passed into law by the SEC in the JOBS Act, making it possible for companies to raise funding from the general public and not just from accredited investors. Since March 2021, companies have been able to take advantage of the limit’s increase to $75 million. This provides companies the ability to pursue equity crowdfunding without the complexity of regular offerings. So, what investments does RegA+ allow?

Outlined in the act, companies can determine the interest in RegA+ offerings by “testing the waters.” While testing the waters allows investors to express their interest in the offering, it does not obligate them to purchase once the Offering Statement has been qualified by the SEC. Also allowed by the Act, companies can use social media and the internet to both communicate and advertise the securities. However, in all communications, links to the Offering Statement must be provided and must not contain any misleading information.

It is important to understand the two tiers that comprise RegA+. Tier I offerings are limited to a maximum of $20 million and call for coordinated review between the SEC and individual states in which the offering will be available. Companies looking to raise capital through Tier I are required to submit their Offering Statement to both the SEC and any state in which they are looking to sell securities. This was a compromise for those who opposed the preemption that is implemented in Tier II.

For offerings that fall under Tier II, companies can raise up to $75 million from investors. For these offerings, companies must provide the SEC with their offering statement, along with two years of audited financials for review. Before any sales of securities can take place, the SEC must approve the company’s offering statement, but a review by each state is not required. It is also important to note that for Tier II offerings, ongoing disclosure is required unless the number of investors was to fall below 300.

In contrast to typical rounds of fundraising, investors are not required to be accredited, opening the offering up to anyone for purchase. Under Tier I, there are no limits that are placed on the amount a sole person can invest. For unaccredited investors under Tier II, limits are placed on the amount they can invest in offerings. The maximum is placed at ten percent of either their net worth or annual income, whichever amount is greater. To certify their income for investing, unaccredited investors can be self-certified, without being required to submit documentation of their income to the SEC. Additionally, there is no limit placed upon the company as to the number of investors to whom it can sell securities.

Once investors have purchased securities through RegA+ investments, the trading and sale of these securities are not restricted. Only the company that has created the offering can put limits on their resale. This allows investors to use a secondary market for trading these securities.

Through Regulation A+, companies are given massive power to raise funds from anyone looking to invest. With the Act allowing for up to $75 million to be raised, this enables companies to raise capital from a wide range of people, rather than only from accredited investors. With two tiers, companies have the freedom to choose the one that best fits their needs. Regulation A+ and the JOBS Act have the potential to drastically change the investment landscape.

Investing in Startups 101

This article was originally written by our KorePartners at StartEngine. You can view the post here

The high-speed world of startups, and the risks of investing in them, are well documented, but startup investing can be complicated and there is a lot of information you should know before making your first investment.

This article will try to answer the question “why should you invest in a startup?” by giving you information about the process and what to expect from investing in an early-stage business.

Why invest in startups?

Through equity crowdfunding, you can support and invest in startups that you are passionate about. This is different than helping a company raise capital via Kickstarter. You aren’t just buying their product or merch. You are buying a piece of that company. When you invest on StartEngine, you own part of that company, whether it’s one you are a loyal customer of, a local business you want to support, or an idea you believe in.

Investing in startups means that you get to support entrepreneurs and be a part of the entrepreneurial community, which can provide its own level of excitement. You also support the economy and job creation: in fact, startups and small businesses account for 64% of new job creation in the US.

In other words, you are funding the future. And by doing so, you may make money on your investment.

But here’s the bad news: 90% of startups fail. With those odds, you’re more than likely to lose the money you invest in a startup.

However, the 10% of startups that do succeed can provide an outsized return on the initial investment. In fact, when VCs invest, they are looking for only a few “home run” investments to make up for the losses that will compose the majority of their portfolio. Even the pros expect a low batting average when investing in startups.

This is why the concept of diversifying your portfolio is important in the context of startup investing. Statistically, the more startup investments you make, the more likely you are to see better returns through your portfolio. Data collected across 10,000 Angellist portfolios supports this idea. In other words, the old piece of advice “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” holds true when investing in startups.

Who can invest in startups?

Traditionally, startup investing was not available to the general public. Only accredited investors had access to startup investment opportunities. Accredited investors are those who:

  • Have made over $200,000 in annual salary for the past two years ($300,000 if combined with a spouse), or
  • Have over $1M in net worth, excluding their primary residence

That meant only an estimated 10% of US households had access to these opportunities. Equity crowdfunding changes all of that and levels the playing field. On platforms like StartEngine, anyone over the age of 18 can invest in early-stage companies.

What are you buying?

The Breakdown of Securities Offered via Reg CF as of December 31, 2020

When you invest in startups, you can invest through different types of securities. Those include:

  • Common stock, the simplest form of equity. Common stock, or shares, give you ownership in a company. The more you buy, the greater the percentage of the company you own. If the company grows in value, what you own is worth more, and if it shrinks, what you own is worth less.
  • Debt, essentially a loan. You, the investor, purchase promissory notes and become the lender. The company then has to pay back your loan within a predetermined time window with interest.
  • Convertible notes, debt that converts into equity. You buy debt from the company and earn interest on that debt until an established maturity date, at which point the debt either converts into equity or is paid back to you in cash.
  • SAFEs, a variation of convertible note. SAFEs offer less protection for investors (in fact, we don’t allow them on StartEngine) and include no provisions about cash payout, so you as an investor are dependent upon the SAFE converting into equity, which may or may not occur at some point in the future.

Most of the companies on StartEngine sell a form of equity, so the rest of this article will largely focus on equity investments.

How can a company become successful if they only raise $X?

Startup funding generally works in funding rounds, meaning that a company raises capital several times over the course of their life span. A company just starting out won’t raise $10M because there’s no indication that it would be a good investment. Why would someone invest $10M in something totally unproven?

Instead, that new company may raise a few hundred thousand dollars in order to develop proof-of-concept, make a few initial hires, acquire their first users, or reach any other significant business developments in order to “unlock” the next round of capital.

In essence, with each growth benchmark a company is able to clear, they are able to raise more money to sustain their growth trajectory. In general, each funding round is bigger than the previous round to meet those goals.

When do companies stop raising money? When their revenue reaches a point where the company becomes profitable enough that they no longer need to raise capital to grow at the speed they want to.

What happens to my equity investment if a company raises more money later?

If you invest in an early funding round of a startup and a year or two later that same company is raising more money, what happens to your investment? If things are going well, you will experience what is known as “dilution.” This is a normal process as long as the company is growing.

The shares you own are still yours, but new shares are issued to new buyers in the next funding round. This means that the number of shares you own is now a smaller percentage of the whole, and this is true for everyone who already holds shares, including the company’s founders.

However, this isn’t a problem in itself. If the company is doing well, in the next funding round, the company will have a higher valuation and possibly a different price per share. This means that while you now own a smaller slice of the total pie, the pie is bigger than what it was before, so your shares are worth more than they were previously too. Everybody wins.

If the company isn’t growing though, it leads to what is known as a down round. A down round is when a company raises more capital but at a lower valuation, which can increase the rate of dilution as well as reduce the value of investors’ holdings

How can I make money off a startup investment?

Traditionally, there are two ways investors can “exit” their investment. The first is through a merger/acquisition. If another company acquires the one you invested in, they will often offer a premium to buy your shares and so secure a controlling ownership percentage in the company. Sometimes your shares will be exchanged at dollar value for shares in the acquiring company.

The other traditional form of an exit is if a company does an initial public offering and becomes one of the ~4,000 publicly trading companies in the US. Then an investor can sell their shares on a national exchange.

Those events can take anywhere from 5-10 years to occur. This creates an important difference between startup investing and investing in companies on the public market: the time horizon is different.

When investing in a public company, you can choose to sell that investment at any time. However, startup investments are illiquid, and you may not be able to exit that investment for years.

However, equity crowdfunding can provide an alternative to both of these options: the shares sold through equity crowdfunding are tradable immediately (for Regulation A+) and after one year (for Regulation Crowdfunding) on alternative trading systems (ATS), if the company chooses to quote its shares on an ATS. This theoretically reduces the risk of that investment as well because the longer an investment is locked up, the greater the chance something unpredictable can happen.

Conclusion

Investing in startups is risky, but it is an exciting way to diversify your portfolio and join an entrepreneur’s journey.

The Evolution of Reg A+

During the recent Dare to Dream KoreSummit, David Weild IV, the Father of the JOBS Act, spoke about companies going from public to private, access to capital Reg A+, the future of small businesses raising capital, and the future of the broker-dealer system. The following blog summarizes his keynote address and what Wield believes will be the future of raising capital for small businesses. 

 

Reg A+’s Creation

The JOBS Act, passed in 2012, helped address a significant decrease in America’s IPOs. “When I was vice-chairman of NASDAQ, I was very concerned with some of the market structure changes that went on with our public markets that dropped the bottom out of support for small-cap equities,” said Weild. “80% of all initial public offerings in the United States were sub $50 million in size. And in a very short period of time, we went from 80%, small IPOs to 20%, almost overnight.” The number of operating public companies decreased from about nine thousand to five thousand. The changes in the market significantly restricted smaller companies from growing, unable to go public because of prohibitive costs and other expenses. 

 

Effect on Small Business

After years of lobbying and the passage of the JOBS Act, only one of the seven titles went into effect instantaneously: RegA+. With this new option for raising capital, startups could raise $50 million in money without filing a public offering. The previous maximum was $5 million; this would eventually be increased to $75 million. It also expanded the number of shareholders a company can have before registering publicly, which is essential as companies can raise money from accredited and non-accredited investors through this regulation. RegA+ and the other rules have had a significant impact on the way startups do business. This has been a significant benefit for small businesses, as it has allowed them to raise more money without going through the hassle and expense of becoming a public company. 

 

Reg A+ into the Future

The capital raising process was digitized by taking the investment process and making it direct through crowdfunding, removing economic incentives for small broker-dealers who could not make their desired commission on transactions. This resulted in many of them consolidating out of business and leaving a gap in the private capital market ecosystem that supports corporate finance. Changes to the JOBS Act are beginning to reintroduce incentives for broker-dealers, which will continue to shape the future of private investments as it will continue to facilitate the growth of a secondary market. Wield’s thoughts on the future of capital raising marketing are that the market is not yet corrected, but it is on track. He said: “I would tell you that there’s a great appetite in Washington to do things that are going to improve capital formation.”

 

Getting more players like broker-dealers involved in the RegA+ ecosystem will do nothing but benefit the space. In his closing remarks, Wield said that this would provide for a “greater likelihood that we’re going to fund more earlier stage businesses, which in turn gives us the opportunity to create jobs and upward mobility. Hopefully, since much entrepreneurial activity is focused on social impact companies to solve great challenges of our time, whether it’s in life sciences, and medicine, or climate change, you know, I firmly believe that the solutions for climate change are apt to come from scientists and engineers who’ve cracked the code on cutting emissions or taking CO2 out of the atmosphere. And so from where I said, getting more entrepreneurs funded is going to be important to have a better chance of leaving a respectable environment for the next generation.”

Has RegA+ Killed the IPO?

Has RegA+ Killed the IPO?

 

Regulation A+ gives issuers the ability to raise $75 million in crowdfunding while remaining private. With RegA+ benefiting both companies and investors, does this mean the death of IPOs?

 

RegA+, part of the JOBS Act, allows companies to raise funds through the general public, not just accredited investors. With more and more IPOs delayed, unprecedented access to private capital is available to all organizations. With RegA+, anyone can invest in private companies, making it increasingly popular with companies seeking capital, primarily since they can raise a significant amount of funding.

 

The regulatory and monetary hurdles that come with entering an IPO in addition to RegA+ have led to delays in initial public offerings. Since the JOBS Act was passed in 2012, funding opportunities for private companies have improved, especially with the allowance of not-accredited investors opening up a previously untapped pool of prospective investors. Additionally, the secondary private investment market increases liquidity options, allowing investors to sell shares in private companies to others without waiting for the company to go public.

 

Pre-JOBS Act, many companies were forced to go public because they were limited to a certain number of shareholders. With RegA+, this limit is non-existent, allowing them to stay private longer. In 2011, companies stayed private for about five years on average; in 2020, companies were private for an average of 11 years. 

 

RegA+ brings renewed opportunities, especially to small-cap companies. Companies gain access to liquidity, investors, and significant capital growth that would not have otherwise occurred. RegA+ offers substantial advantages over the traditional IPO. As our KorePartners at Manhattan Street Capital have pointed out:

 

  • “Startups don’t need to spend as much time trying to win over large investors and can focus instead on getting the company ready for the next level. Since Regulation A+ options are still being realized by the people who are now able to tap this investment potential, there is enthusiasm and momentum that is certainly to the advantage of the startups and growth-stage companies.”
  • “Instead of large amounts of capital being raised from a few sources, Reg A+ funding collects smaller amounts from a bigger pool of investors. This means that no single investor will own enough shares to have a controlling stake in what the company does, meaning that the startup can continue to operate as it pleases.”
  • “Word-of-mouth marketing is still considered the most powerful of all promotions, whether it happens in-person or through online means like social media. Main street investors are committing hard-earned money and have more of an incentive to see a return on it. They are more likely to evangelize the brands they have invested in which means a much wider marketing reach than if the company was spreading the word on its own.”
  • “Just as the investors will want to tell other people about the brand, they will also likely want to test out the products or services themselves. This can lead to feedback that improves what the company offers to the public.”

 

These are significant advantages over an IPO that will allow an issuer to secure the capital they need to grow, create jobs, and provide investment opportunities. Especially with everyday investors able to participate, RegA+ does a great job of leveling the playing field and opening opportunities up to those who would have been traditionally excluded from private investment deals.

What is the Difference Between the Public and Private Capital Markets?

 

The public and private capital markets work differently, but both sectors play essential roles in supporting economic growth. Companies raise funds for long-term growth and acquisitions in the public capital market, usually through debt instruments like bonds or stock, while private companies raise capital through private investments.  This article provides an overview of the differences between the two types of capital markets, including how they function and their role in economic development. 

 

Public Capital Markets

Public capital markets consist of equity and debt markets where buyers and sellers trade with each other daily. Many companies use this type of market to raise new capital or sell their existing stocks. It is typically easier for publicly traded companies to use these markets than private ones because traditionally, a wider pool of investors is available, and shares provide a significant amount of liquidity. Most investors use public markets to invest in companies, which buys them a partial interest in a company. It is also where many companies go when they want to raise new capital to fund their business operations. 

 

Private Capital Markets

Private capital markets are where privately-held companies can sell equity to investors like private equity, venture capital firms, and even individuals. This sale of securities is typically exempt from registration with the SEC and may come in the form of a Reg A, Reg CF, or Reg D offering. Before the JOBS Act, these types of investments were limited to high net-worth individuals and institutional investors. Post JOBS Act, even everyday investors can get a piece of a private company, which may offer a significant return if that company ever goes public through an IPO. Additionally, offerings in the private sector typically cost less to the issuer than an IPO, which makes JOBS Acts exemptions a very attractive form of fundraising. 

 

Because of the history of the private capital markets, there are misconceptions that it is expensive to invest. However, Reg A and Reg CF offerings can be affordable for investors, with investments for hundreds of dollars or less. However, non-accredited investors are limited to the amount they can invest each year by their annual income or net worth. The same restrictions don’t apply to private companies. Additionally, investors in the private capital markets have the potential for liquidity through alternative trading systems. 

 

Publicly traded companies are listed on an exchange so that anyone can buy their stocks. This means they have to follow specific guidelines set by the SEC to maintain listing requirements. Private company stock is not publicly available for trading, but there are still ways you may be able to get your hands on some shares. It’s important to note that different securities trade differently depending on where they’re bought from, and choosing the public or private capital market is the first step in any investment.

 

 

 

Tokenization in RegA+

As the private capital market continues to undergo a digital transformation, ideas like blockchain, digital securities, and tokenization continue to be discussed by regulators, issuers, and investors. “Tokens” represent actual ownership in a security and is a registered investment vehicle. However, when the term was coined in the mid-2010s, tokens became thought of as unable to support the compliance, regulations, and legal requirements of a security. Instead, digital securities and digital assets became the preferred term to accurately convey the time, effort, and reliability in this form of investment.

 

Digital securities will have a transformative impact on the capital markets. For example, when the public market was built more than 100 years ago, the technological tools of today were unavailable. As the system has aged, it has become antiquated. These new forms of securities will result in a more efficient, equitable, and accessible capital market system for both issuers and investors. However, since the technology is so new, the educational component will be the next hurdle because many still are unaware of what digital securities are. 

 

It is important to consider that digital securities are not about disintermediation, but instead intermediation with the right efficiency and focus, bringing together the right parties like broker-dealers, lawyers, and transfer agents. Unlike other digital assets, digital securities are regulated by securities laws, and having the right processes in place ensures that raises are done compliantly. If a RegA+ raise is structured improperly, it could mean the company has to refund investors of their investment. 

 

Because many investors don’t want to hear the term tokenization or digital asset, the educational component will be essential for the widespread adoption of digital securities. However, as digital securities make investment processes frictionless, we will continue to see how digital securities for RegA+ continue to evolve.

KorePartner Spotlight: Bill Humphrey, CEO and Co-Founder of New Direction Trust Company

With the recent launch of the KoreConX all-in-one platform, KoreConX is happy to feature the partners contributing to its ecosystem. 

 

Bill Humphrey has over 20 years of experience as a CPA, focusing his career on income tax, auditing, tax-related real estate issues, and forensic accounting. In 2003, Bill and Catherine Wynne began New Direction IRA to offer a service-based solution for self-directed investors to diversify their retirement portfolios. Fifteen years later, New Direction IRA became New Direction Trust Company.

 

Under traditional securities firms, Bill noticed that investors could only make investments on Wall Street but didn’t agree with that idea. Instead, he believed that people should have the opportunity to invest in something they understand, they just needed a custodian. Bill has a passion for education and empowering his clients to invest in what they want. He is driven to make self-direction intuitive, modern, and digitally powered.

 

At New Direction Trust Company, the firm acts as a custodian for IRAs, HSAs, and 401K accounts. These types of plans are uniquely suited for investments; there is more money in an IRA than in the pockets of the account holders. Through Regulation A+, investors can use IRAs to make investments in private offerings, creating more opportunities for people to invest. Such opportunities allow investments in companies that may evolve into large companies. Traditionally, these opportunities were only available to accredited investors, leaving the retail investors out of the significant return of an IPO.

 

The firm places a large emphasis on automating the processes of making these investments. Historically, paperwork has been slow and unattractive to investors. Instead, the experience should be similar to investing on Wall Street. This is one of the reasons a partnership with KoreConX makes sense; both companies are aimed at many of the same things. KoreConX and New Direction Trust Company are committed to making private investment transact smoothly and through automated processes.

Join the new American Revolution – financial markets equality for all

This post originally appeared on the Rialto Markets blog and was written by Lee E. Saba, Head of Market Structure at Rialto Markets.

 

Very few people understand the revolution now taking place in financial markets.

It is to do with private markets and has been sparked by new regulations allowing investment and trading access to the masses.

For the first time, you and me, mom and pop, can invest in early-stage companies once exclusive to the elite investor. You know the investors I refer to: those with deep pockets that always seem to get in early, make a fortune when the company goes public, then exit the position as fast as possible to lock in significant gains.

Well, those days my friends are now a thing of the past.

Access to the best private company offerings

Retail investors now have access to some of the best private companies available at the early stage. Imagine investing in Tesla, Amazon or Coinbase before they listed on the “big” boards like the NYSE and Nasdaq, you know, during that high growth period where the real money can be made.

Accessing private markets is not in any way a guarantee for future gains however, because everyone who can pass anti-money-laundering (AML) and know your client (KYC) can get access to these companies now.

Hundreds of thousands private investors are joining the crowdfunding revolution

But how did we get this much wider access? It’s due to the JOBS Act of 2012 creating two new ways for private companies to raise money – Regulation A+ and Regulation CF (CF is short for crowd funding).

These two new rules (or exemptions as they are formally known) allow private companies to raise up to $75 million via Regulation A+ or up to $5 million via Regulation CF.

And anyone can invest in them. You no longer have to be a high-net-worth investor to get access – you can just be you. It’s a revolutionary development now gaining rapid adoption across the private markets’ landscape, allowing everyday citizens and traditional large financial institutions to invest side by side.

Gaining access to these previously inaccessible assets is a huge step in the right direction, but there is one more exciting angle to these assets. Drum roll, please….

Secondary Market for RegA+

Secondary markets mean if you bought a private placement security, say a Regulation A+, in the primary market (when the private company is open to outside investors) and want more of it or need the money you originally invested to pay off student loans or put a down payment on a home, you can now monetize that investment and get your money well before the company sells or goes public.

And there is an SEC regulated marketplace to buy and sell private placement securities. This means investors in private securities have a government regulator looking out for them, not some fly-by-night unregulated crypto operation run by novice entrepreneurs but a full-blown marketplace to match any buyers to the sellers and any sellers to the buyers.

This regulated matching facility is called an ATS (Alternative Trading System) and the professional investors on Wall Street have used these for years to get the best price and least amount of market impact as possible. But now anyone can access the world of private placements through a regulated ATS like ours at Rialto Markets.

Rialto’s team has built numerous Alternative Trading Systems in the traditional capital markets arena and has now leveraged that huge experience to launch its new ATS for private securities, enabling all investors – from retail to high end institutions – to participate in secondary markets for private securities.

Secondary trading for private securities? Yup. It’s a whole new and brave new world.

As a Canadian Company, can Canadians Invest in Your RegA+?

We have extensively discussed how Americans can invest in securities offered under Regulation A+. However, Canadian companies can also use the exemption to raise capital to fund their businesses. Despite the ability for Canadian companies to use Reg A+, this was a decision made by US regulators, as the JOBS Act is a US, not Canadian, law.

 

Because Reg A+ is a US regulation, it makes it incredibly simple for Canadian companies to raise money from investors based in the United States. They go through the standard procedures for Tier 1 or 2 offerings before making the offering available to investors. On the other hand, Canadians investing in Canadian companies through Reg A+ is a little more challenging to be done.

 

In theory, it is possible. The issuer would need to be qualified in each Canadian province they are conducting the offering in. They can seek a Canadian equivalent of a broker-dealer to structure the offering so that investors can invest. In practice, this is not done very often, as meeting compliance requirements for all Canadian provinces is challenging in addition to US compliance requirements. In addition, the cost would be far more than the potential upside. Interestingly enough, Canadian regulators have created rules for secondary trading that give Canadian investors more opportunities to invest. Canadian investors can “hop the border,” so to speak, and buy securities in a secondary market transaction. This allows Canadians to purchase securities in a Canadian company.

 

Even though Canadian companies could technically raise money from Canadians under Reg A+, it is often cost-prohibitive. That does not mean investors are out of luck. Through secondary market transactions, Canadian investors can purchase securities in Canadian companies, allowing them to become shareholders.

Why do I need Blue Sky registration for Secondary Trading?

Through the Regulation A+ exemption, securities issuers can raise up to $75 million as of March 2021. This creates a significant opportunity for the everyday investor to make investments in private companies and for the companies to benefit from the large number of investors that exist within this space. Unlike securities purchased on a national securities exchange, like the NASDAQ or New York Stock Exchange, investors in private companies have been somewhat limited in their options for liquidity.

 

This created the need for a secondary market on which investors could sell shares to other interested buyers, rather than waiting for the company to go public through an IPO to sell their shares. However, when it comes to enabling investors to be able to access secondary market platforms for their shares, there are a few things issuers need to consider.

 

First, just as the original offering has to comply with the Blue Sky laws in the states they choose to do business in, secondary market trading falls under the same requirements. For offerings that fall under the Tier 1 Reg A+, offerings are required to meet the blue sky requirements in each state and must be reviewed and registered by the state and the SEC. For Tier 2 offerings, the offering preempts Blue Sky laws and does not require review and registration. Some states also require issuers to work with a broker-dealer for the offering, so issuers should pay careful attention to that requirement when preparing their offering.

 

Similarly to complying with the laws governing raising capital, issuers must also comply with the laws that govern secondary trading markets in the states they are looking to make secondary trading available in. Since Blue Sky laws vary between jurisdictions, it can be difficult for issuers to maintain compliance with the laws in each state. In this case, issuers can file for “manual exemption” of the Blue Sky laws, accepted in numerous states. This means that issuers can qualify for secondary trading as long as they meet disclosure requirements, like meeting financial standards and ensuring that key company information is listed in a national securities manual.

 

While meeting compliance requirements to offer secondary trading to investors may seem like a challenging task, working with a broker-dealer can ensure you are meeting all requirements. As an issuer, once you can offer secondary trading, your investors will benefit from liquidity options for their shares.

Why do I need a FINRA Broker-Dealer?

Broker-dealers are an essential part of the fundraising process. These entities can be small, independent firms or part of a large investment bank. However, regardless of a broker-dealer’s size, they are in the business of buying or selling securities. In this sense, whenever a broker-dealer executes orders for clients, they act as a broker, while trading for its own account means they are acting as a dealer. 

 

In the United States, Congress has granted the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) authorization to protect American investors by ensuring that brokers operate fairly and honestly. The organization is non-governmental and non-profit, acting independently to ensure that the rules governing brokers are adhered to. The organization states: “Every investor in America relies on one thing: fair financial markets.” FINRA oversees over 624,000 brokers across the country, ensuring that their activities adhere to all necessary rules. 

 

As a company engaged in capital market activities, choosing a broker-dealer to work with is critical to your success. For example, under Regulation A+, some states require issuers to work with a broker-dealer to offer securities in that jurisdiction. This allows issuers to maintain compliance with the SEC and other regulatory entities. Additionally, working with a FINRA-registered broker-dealer will give potential investors more confidence in the compliance of your operations. FINRA registration ensures that your broker-dealer partner has:

 

  • Been tested, qualified, and licensed;
  • Every securities product is listed truthfully;
  • Securities are suitable for an investor;
  • And investors receive complete disclosure.

 

This information ensures that broker-dealers are operating in the best interests of the investors, ensuring that the issuer provides all necessary and required information to make good investment decisions. In addition, investors (and issuers) can verify a broker-dealer’s status through BrokerCheck, a service provided by FINRA. BrokerCheck gives information on a broker-dealer’s licensing status, whether they are registered to give investment advice or registered to sell securities. Additionally, the service allows people to see regulatory actions against brokers, complaints, and employment history. Through this information, investors can validate the status of a broker to ensure they are dealing with legitimate firms. 

 

As an issuer, a FINRA broker-dealer improves compliance measures. The broker-dealer will be required to perform regulatory checks on investors such as KYC, AML, and investor suitability to ensure investors are appropriate for the company. Additionally, they will perform due diligence on you so that they can be assured that your company is operating in a manner compliant with securities laws so that they do not present false information to investors. Failing to meet compliance standards can result in the issuer being left responsible for severe penalties, such as returning all money raised to investors. 

 

Working with a FINRA-registered broker-dealer ensures that, as a company, you are meeting all legal requirements when offering securities for sales. FINRA makes sure that broker-dealers, and the issuers they work with, act transparently and honestly to keep the private capital market fair for investors.

 

How Does RegA+ Impact the Life Sciences Industry?

Since dramatic improvements to Regulation A that went into effect in 2015, the exemption has become a tremendous tool allowing private companies to raise significant capital. Unlike other funding methods, RegA+ allows companies to raise capital more efficiently with less hassle at a lower cost. 

 

Companies in diverse industries can benefit from the power exemptions like RegA+ give them to raise unprecedented capital in the private market. Before the JOBS Act, private investments were limited to wealthy, accredited investors, private equity firms, venture capital, and other players. However, when the legislation opened up investment opportunities to retail investors, companies were suddenly able to tap into a new pool of potential investors. In addition to making investment opportunities more accessible, the JOBS Act was also created to create jobs and foster innovation in America. 

 

These factors make RegA+ particularly well-suited for the life sciences industry. Retail investors typically make investments in companies they support and believe in. Life science companies aim to develop innovative treatments for medical conditions, make life easier for those with chronic conditions, and discover new medicines that can dramatically improve a patient’s life. Through RegA+, the ability of the everyday individual to invest in these deals is powerful. People will want to invest in a company developing treatments for conditions that have personally affected their lives or a loved one. 

 

Recent research has found that, in the post-JOBS Act economy, there has been a 219% increase in biotech companies going public in an IPO. Many of these companies are focused on developing treatments for rare conditions and cancers. Funding received through JOBS Act exemptions has significantly reduced the time to IPO after benefiting from raising earlier capital at a lower cost. Not only does this have beneficial economic implications, the advancement and funding of life sciences companies will positively impact humanity itself. Being able to identify treatments to life-threatening conditions can extend lifespans and enhance the quality of life significantly. Instead of certain conditions having terminal diagnoses, patients would have options to recover and treat their illnesses. 

 

However, companies in the life sciences space typically require significant capital to fund research and development, clinical trials, and regulatory approval. Since the increase of RegA+ to a maximum of $75 million in March 2021, even more companies will likely begin to explore this capital raising route. If companies can raise needed capital sooner and easier, they can bring their innovative medical treatments, devices, and medications to market sooner as well. This means that patients would begin to benefit from new, lifesaving options even sooner. 

 

How the Unaccredited Investor Benefits from RegA+

The passage of the JOBS Act in 2012 set in motion a significant change for the private capital markets. For so long, investments in private companies could only be done by wealthy accredited investors who would benefit immensely if the company was ever to go public during an IPO. While the everyday person has long been able to buy stocks of a public company, the potential for such a significant return on their investment was low. It was thought that this was to protect investors from the risk of a private company. 

However, the JOBS Act has rewritten this narrative, allowing anyone to invest in private companies raising capital through exemptions like Regulation A+. When the act was first passed into law, companies could raise up to $5 million. However, it has since undergone a few notable changes that transformed it from an infrequently used exemption to one that allows companies to raise a significant amount of capital. The first came in 2015 when Title IV amended the JOBS act to allow companies to raise up to $20 million and $50 million from tier 1 and tier 2 offerings, respectively. Again in 2020, the SEC announced further amendments allowing companies to raise up to $75 million through tier 2 offerings, which went into effect March 15, 2021. 

The amendment increased the availability of capital for private companies and created incredible investment opportunities for non-accredited investors. For investments in tier 1 offerings, there are no limits placed on investors, while tier 2 offerings limit non-accredited investors to a maxim of 10% of the greater of their net worth or annual income.

Since the change in 2015, SEC data shows the impact it has had on the number of offerings under this exemption. In 2015, only 15 companies had qualified for either tier 1 or tier 2 offerings. In 2019, this number had increased to 487 companies. With so many companies conducting offerings under Regulation A, and the number increasing year over year, there are more opportunities than ever for the non-accredited investor. They are free to research investment opportunities, deciding if the investment fits with their investment goals and risk tolerance. They are free to identify companies that align with their philosophies, values, and causes that are important to them. For example, an investor may have a strong affinity for reducing their environmental impact. They can choose to invest in a company that also upholds this same value. 

In addition, the emergence of a secondary market for private company investments opens up a new possibility for liquidity. Previously, private company shares could only be sold or traded once a company had gone public. However, now investors have the opportunity to sell their shares to other interested investors.

The JOBS Act has allowed non-accredited investors to enter the playing field in the private capital market. Just as the companies who can now use RegA+ to raise capital, investors can use the offerings as an opportunity to make a profit and support companies they believe in. 

The Role of Investor Acquisition in Capital Raising Activities

The goal of any capital raising activity is to secure capital for the growth and development of the business. Without needed capital, it can often be challenging to expand; whether that means hiring more employees to keep up with demand, improving production facilities to manufacture a product, or funding research and development to bring more products or services to the market. However, in order to actually raise the capital required, potential investors need to be made aware of the offering and the opportunities becoming a shareholder entails. This requires marketing.

 

When it comes to RegA+ and RegCF offerings, the potential to sell securities to the everyday investor is powerful, opening up the market to a vast pool of potential investors not available to private companies before the 2012 JOBS Act. However, this also creates the need for companies to find the best way to reach their target audience and make them aware of the investment opportunity. Through marketing, you are able to inform prospective investors of the opportunity to invest in your company. 

 

More than ever before, social media has become an integral part of marketing activities across all business sectors. It allows you to reach your audience where they’re at, and as nearly seven in ten Americans are on social media, that place is online. Through social media, businesses can tell their story and use that to drive investors (and even new customers) to support their brand. Beyond social media, marketing becomes a key component of investor acquisition. Through investor acquisition, a company is able to target investors based on demographics; whether that is people who exhibit similar behaviors to shareholders, by age, by location, or by any other meaningful factor that allows you to identify the right investor for your company. The methods to target these prospects are just as diverse. While we’ve already mentioned social media, email marketing is still an effective media channel, along with online advertising, and many more channels of marketing. The importance is to use whichever channels allow you to best reach your target audience. 

 

The key to marketing is that it helps publicize your offering and find the best investors for your company. Successfully marketing an offering, as long as advertisements are truthful and not misleading, can make a significant difference in the raise’s success. Similarly, finding the right investor acquisition partner with experience in marketing capital raising activities can help ensure you meet compliance and use the most effective strategies for reaching the right audience. 

KorePartner Spotlight: Dean DeLisle, Founder and CEO of Forward Progress

With the recent launch of the KoreConX all-in-one platform, KoreConX is happy to feature the partners contributing to its ecosystem.

Dean DeLisle has been raising capital for the past 35 years both for himself and for other companies. He has made the transition from roadshows and bound pitch decks to sophisticated online marketing funnels. Dean’s experience has resulted in a unique approach to Investor Acquisition Marketing with his firm Forward Progress.

“People know they want to invest but need to understand more, so we place a high priority on education throughout our Investor Acquisition campaigns,” says Dean. Forward Progress helps clients build the necessary digital footprint to educate prospective investors in Regulation CF, Regulation A+, and Regulation D offerings. The building of the footprint requires many of the same strategic elements you would see in a revenue-focused campaign–content, thought leadership, advertising, and marketing automation.

The Forward Progress team stays at the forefront of digital marketing trends by participating as speakers on capital raising, marketing automation, and marketing strategy. The company boasts certifications with leading platforms like Hubspot CRM, Facebook Ads, Google Analytics, and more to make sure the issuers they support are at the bleeding edge.

The partnership with KoreConX makes sense for Dean, as both companies are dedicated to investor education and businesses alike. It fits with the DNA of both companies.

What is the Difference Between Fiduciary Responsibility and Regulatory Requirement?

By definition, a fiduciary is a person or an organization who holds a legal or ethical relationship of trust with another person or organization. Typically, this has to do with the responsibility or duty in a financial sense. As an adjective, it gets defined by the Oxford dictionary as “involving trust, especially with regard to the relationship between a trustee and a beneficiary.” The word gets most commonly used when stating that a company has a fiduciary duty to its shareholders. In practice, this means that the company has an ethical and legal responsibility to act in the best interest of its investors. For example, the company and its executives need to protect a shareholder’s financial investment in that company and is an example of a duty of loyalty. Included also is a duty of care, which indicates that a fiduciary will not back away from their responsibility.

 

Fiduciary duties do not just relate to the financial sector. For example, a lawyer has a fiduciary duty to their client to act in their best interest, but we will focus on the financial sector. Fiduciary responsibility in finance is a relationship between two non-governmental entities. In contrast, a regulatory requirement is a rule that a government or government-related organization imposes and enforces onto an organization.

 

Many governmental organizations impose regulations on the financial sector, like the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency or the Federal Reserve Board. The governmental-related organizations are the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). We have previously discussed the regulations passed by both FINRA and the SEC in preceding blogs, which detail those processes well.

 

Both fiduciary responsibility and regulatory requirements can result in legal action if there is a breach in conduct, but the actors and stage are different. With fiduciary responsibility, the beneficiary of the fiduciary duty would file suit against the trustee in civil court who knowingly or unknowingly failed in their duty. This is a relationship between non-governmental actors, so in this case, a person litigating against an organization or vice versa.

 

On the other side, regulatory requirement gets dictated by a government entity like the SEC or OCC suing a company or individual for failing to comply with the law. This suit would land in criminal court, with punitive fines, damage to their reputation, and sanctioning. For example, in California, you need to be a registered broker-dealer for a Regulation A+ offering. If you decide as a company to ignore this law, the state regulator can, and will, require you to return all money raised, and you can get barred from raising money in the state. You will get labeled as a bad actor, which will damage the reputation of your business.

 

While fiduciary duty and regulatory requirements are different in terms of the responsibilities, actors, and negative consequences involved when failing to comply, they are critical to follow and maintain.

What is KYC?

In 2007, the SEC approved the founding of the non-profit Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). FINRA was created in the wake of a failing economy to consolidate the regulation of securities firms operating in the United States. The authority’s responsibilities include “rule writing, firm examination, enforcement, arbitration, and mediation functions, plus all functions previously overseen solely by NASD, including market regulation under contract for NASDAQ, the American Stock Exchange, the International Securities Exchange, and the Chicago Climate Exchange.”

The mission is to safeguard the investing public against fraud and bad practices. To fulfill this mission, FINRA added two rules in 2012: Rule 2090 (KYC or Know Your Client) and Rule 2111 (Suitability). 

KYC works in conjunction with suitability to protect both the client and the broker-dealer and help maintain fair dealings between the parties. The Know Your Client rule is a regulatory requirement for those responsible for opening and maintaining new accounts. This rule requires broker-dealers to access the client’s finances, verify their identity, and use reasonable effort to understand the risk tolerance and facts about their financial position. 

KYC is an important rule as it governs the relationship between customer and broker-dealer and safeguards the proceedings. At the heart of this rule is the process that verifies the customer’s identity (or any other account owners) and assesses their risk level. Part of FINRA’s goal is to eliminate financial crime, which means that when a broker is accessing a potential customer, they are looking for evidence of money laundering or similar crimes. This process goes both ways as FINRA allows a customer to verify the identity of brokers in good standing with the organization.

KYC also goes hand-in-hand with the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) rule, which seeks to identify suspicious behavior, outlined under FINRA rule 3310. Crimes such as terrorist financing, market manipulation, and securities fraud are illegal acts that KYC, AML, and other rules aim to prevent.

Another part of the Know Your Client rule is the requirement of a broker-dealer to use reasonable effort to understand a client’s risk tolerance, investment knowledge, and financial position. For example, accredited investors can make Regulation CF and A+ investments without facing restrictions, while the everyday investor is limited based on their net worth and income. 

When making recommendations for a client, a broker-dealer must comply with Rule 2111, the suitability rule, which means that they must have reasonable grounds for this suggestion based on a review of the client’s financial situation.

Compliance with these rules is maintained by following policies and best practices that govern risk management, customer acceptance, and transaction monitoring. Due diligence is done to know a client needs to be recorded, retained, and maintained so that broker-dealers can continuously monitor for suspicious or illegal activity. In 2020, FINRA processed 79.7 billion market events every day and imposed $57 million in fines. 

Warrants for RegA+

For private companies looking to raise capital through exemptions such as Regulation A+, Regulation CF, or Regulation D, there are many forms of securities that they may be able to issue to investors. Lately, there has been much buzz around warrants for RegA+ offerings and we are seeing them issued to investors as an equivalent to a perk. With the growing interest in this type of security, let’s explore what a warrant for RegA+ is. 

 

When a shareholder purchases a warrant, they are entering into a contract with the issuer. They purchase securities at a set price but are given the right to buy more securities at a fixed price. For example, if an investor was to buy a security at $1 apiece, but their warrant allows the shareholder to buy securities at a future point for $2 instead. If the company was to significantly increase in value, and securities were valued at $5 instead of the initial $1 they were purchased at, the warrant could be exercised and new securities can be purchased for the price specified in the contract. Such securities are typically sought after by investors who think the company they’ve invested in will significantly increase in value, allowing them to increase their ownership in the company without having to buy securities at a new, higher price. Typically, warrants have an expiration date, but they can be exercised anytime on or before that date. 

 

Warrants for RegA+ work no differently. 

 

For companies offering warrants to shareholders, many will choose to enlist a warrant agent to oversee the management of warrants. Much like a transfer agent, warrant agents maintain a record of who owns warrants as well as the exercising of the warrants. When there is a significant number of warrant holders, warrant agents maintain the administrative duties of ensuring warrant holders can exercise their rights and are issued additional securities when they are looking to do so. Just as KoreConX is an SEC-registered transfer agent, KoreConX can serve as your warrant agent as well. This allows you and your shareholders to perform all transactions, from the initial purchase to the exercising of the warrant, through the RegA+ end-to-end platform. Fully compliant, KoreConX helps you to ensure that all your capital market activities meet the necessary regulatory requirements.

 

For warrant holders looking to exercise their warrants, they can contact the warrant agent (if they bought shares directly from the company) or their broker-dealer to inform them that they would like to purchase additional securities. At the time of the purchase, the warrant holder would pay to exchange their warrants and be issued the appropriate amount of new securities. 

 

Warrants are also able to be traded or transferred. For example, warrant holders could transfer their securities to a child or relative if they were looking to pass them down. Alternatively, warrant holders can sell them to an interested buyer. If the company’s value has yet to exceed the warrant price, they are typically less valuable because shares may still be able to be purchased at a lower price. 

KorePartner Spotlight: Douglas Ruark, Founder and President of Regulation D Resources

With the recent launch of the KoreConX all-in-one RegA+ platform, KoreConX is happy to feature the partners that contribute to its ecosystem.

 

Douglas Ruark, the Founder and President of Regulation D Resources, has always been fascinated by the mechanisms and document structure used to syndicate capital. Starting his career nearly 30 years ago in corporate finance when he co-founded Heritage Finance, Inc. in 1992. Seven years later, he served as a primary founder of Regulation D Resources. The firm works primarily within the real estate, energy, tech, and manufacturing industries.

 

With Regulation D Resources, Ruark uses his expertise to help raise money for those industries through the Reg D and Reg A+ exemptions. This experience makes a difference when crafting SEC-required disclosures, evaluating proper exposure on the market, and analyzing clients’ business positions.

 

The fun part for Ruark is the deals with entrepreneurs that have developed technology that can have a significant impact and be a game-changer. He said: “I love seeing what entrepreneurs have developed.” That is why his company focuses on Reg D and Reg A+, helping companies structure their securities offering, and drafting offering documents. The company is determined to help entrepreneurs cross the line into the market so they can grow and succeed.

 

What Ruark enjoys about his partnership with KoreConX is the responsiveness of the staff. He said: “Oscar immediately reached out and set up a call to introduce services.” KoreConX has the same drive and vision that Ruark sees in other entrepreneurs. Plus, KoreConX’s application of tech to streamline compliance aligns with the goal he set out when developing Regulation D Resources’ Investor Portal Compliance Management application.

Meet the KorePartners: Louis Bevilacqua of Bevilacqua PLLC

With the recent launch of the KoreConX all-in-one RegA+ platform, KoreConX is happy to feature the partners that contribute to the ecosystem. 

 

For the past 25 years, Louis Bevilacqua has served as a corporate and securities lawyer. After spending the majority of his time at large, international law firms, Louis discovered his passion for “representing entrepreneurs and helping them accomplish their goals.” Noticing that it was often more difficult to help small or microcap companies, Louis began his firm to eliminate the prohibitive costs typically associated with large law firms. 

 

Utilizing technology to allow lawyers to work virtually, Bevilacqua’s savings are passed onto its clients. Now, small companies can access the same top-tier resources that previously only large ones may have been able to afford. “Since most of our attorneys, like me, have decades of experience at big firms, we know how deals are supposed to be done and can provide excellent representation at lower price points,” Louis said. 

 

Not only is Bevilacqua’s team comprised of experienced lawyers, but many are also entrepreneurs. Understanding first-hand the challenges that small companies face, they are experienced problem solvers that are both flexible and proactive. Also, Louis says that “we also have a vast network of contacts with investors, broker-dealers, transfer agents, Edgar printers, audit firms and other service providers in the industry and can easily make the right referrals to anyone that the company needs.”

 

Through the JOBS Act and RegA+, investors have access to investments that they may not have had previously. Since the SEC requires substantial disclosure for RegA+ offerings, investors are provided more detailed disclosures than other private offerings. Companies also benefit from the lower costs associated with RegA+. Since it is more flexible and cheaper than a traditional IPO, the cost is not prohibitive. One of the primary reasons that Louis supports the regulations is that it “helps facilitate the raising of capital for smaller issuers, who always need capital and do not have as many avenues to obtain it.”

 

However, Louis also thinks that the resale market could be improved. Currently, companies looking to allow their shares to be traded “must identify a market maker willing to file a 211 application with FINRA”, which can be a difficult process. Making this process easier will allow more people to trade the shares purchased through a RegA+ offering. Additionally, for investors to deposit the shares they’ve purchased into a brokerage account, they typically must incur the fees associated, as the brokerage is generally required to perform their due diligence. 

 

For companies looking to raise money through RegA+, Bevilacqua provides clients with the legal services they need for a successful offering. Whether they need help “testing the waters,” filing the offering statement, drafting shareholder agreements, etc., Louis and his team provide expert guidance. Also, “ having a platform like KoreConX that brings all the components necessary to accomplish a Reg A offering in one easy to use platform is a fantastic tool to help us help entrepreneurs raise capital.”