The Need for Compliant and Safe Online Capital Formation

In the State of the Union address given by President Joe Biden on February 7th, 2023, he remarked: “Every time somebody starts a small business, it’s an act of hope.” This followed a statement citing the record 10 million Americans who applied to start a new business within the past two years. The President also remarked that Vice President Kamala Harris would continue her work to ensure that these businesses can access the capital they need to thrive. But what does this look like? 


As he shared in his speech, there are already major changes to the economy underway. From increasing taxes on capital gains to boosting infrastructure spending, many of Biden’s plans are focused on driving domestic growth. But one area that needs more attention is online capital formation – particularly how to do so in a compliant and safe way. The sheer number of Americans applying for small business startups sheds a light on an urgent need to provide access to capital for these entrepreneurs. 


The Benefits of Online Capital Formation


In 2012, President Obama signed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act into law. This legislation was designed to make it easier for small businesses to raise capital by loosening specific regulations. Most notably, it enhanced Reg A+ and created Reg CF which allows companies to receive investments from everyday people, sometimes referred to as retail investors. The exemptions from SEC registration have since expanded to increase the amount of capital that can be raised by private companies. As a result, more companies have begun to see Reg A+ and Reg CF as viable alternatives to traditional VC and private equity funding, like medtech, real estate, and cannabis companies.


The exemptions have also allowed for capital to be raised online, reducing barriers for entrepreneurs as well. Online capital formation has the potential to provide a great benefit to entrepreneurs by providing access to investment opportunities that they can use to scale their businesses faster and more efficiently. This expansion of capital availability can also help drive economic growth across industries, as well as help create jobs in tech and start-ups. Furthermore, it will allow investors to diversify their portfolios and access new markets.


Gary Gensler’s Remarks to the Small Business Capital Formation Advisory Committee


In a separate speech also delivered on February 7th, Gary Gensler of the SEC discussed the importance of private funds and their advisers. He noted, “the people whose assets are invested in private funds often are teachers, firefighters, municipal workers, students, and professors.” While addressing the Small Business Capital Formation Advisory Committee, Gensler stated that “there may be somewhere in the range of $250 billion in fees and expenses each year” for private funds. This is money that portfolio companies, like small businesses, do not get to use. He called for greater transparency, efficiency, and competition between intermediaries to help both investors and the companies who benefit from these funds.


The Need for Compliance and Safety


Although online capital formation can be beneficial for entrepreneurs, investors, and the economy at large, it is important that measures are taken to ensure compliance with laws and regulations. This is especially true for private funds and their advisers, as Gensler discussed. The SEC is focused on protecting not just the investor, but also the companies that are seeking capital.


To do this, there must be rigorous enforcement of laws and regulations that govern online capital formation. Companies need to ensure that they understand disclosure requirements so that investors can make informed decisions. Additionally, safeguards must be put in place to protect against data misuse and cyber-security risks that can occur when seeking capital online.


The Biden Administration’s Role


President Biden has expressed his commitment to creating an environment where entrepreneurs can access the capital they need to grow their businesses. He is in support of the JOBS Act and other key initiatives that have been put in place to help small businesses. Additionally, he has directed his Administration to focus on creating more jobs, including ones in tech and alternative energy sectors.


For entrepreneurs to access capital more efficiently and safely, online capital formation must be optimized with compliance in mind. This can be done through the implementation of strong regulations, while also encouraging innovation within the sector.


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