Opening Equity Crowdfunding to the Masses

Opening Equity Crowdfunding to the Masses

CEO Erin Glenn presented for Quire and talked up ways more people could benefit from investing in startups.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Using Hip Hop and Digital Media to Teach History

Using Hip Hop and Digital Media to Teach History

Multimedia artist Jamel Mims (l) shows a volunteer from the audience how software is being used to combine hip hop music with history lessons by the Urban Arts Partnership to improve understanding among students in underserved public schools.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Poetry in Text and Images

Poetry in Text and Images

Artist Seth Carnes demoed the Poetics app, which overlays moveable words on photographs.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Visual Poetry

Visual Poetry

The app lets users add and move text wherever they want on the image they chose.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

An App to Plan Finances

An App to Plan Finances

Eric Cantor, vice president of product development, demoed PayGoal, a financial management app developed by Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners that helps people track their income, pay off bills, and set personal financial goals.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Increasing Healthcare Access for Women

Increasing Healthcare Access for Women

Maven is a digital on-demand video service that connects women with healthcare professionals, said CEO Katherine Ryder.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Hack of the Month: OUTgoing

Hack of the Month: OUTgoing

Jeff Ferzoco presented his project, OUTgoing, which maps a geographic history of New York's LGBT nightlife back through the 19th century.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Making a Splash in Events

Making a Splash in Events

CEO Ben Hindman (l) and CTO Brett Boskoff (r) demoed Splash, a simple way for businesses and brands setup invites and market their events.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Digital Prescriptions for Vision

Digital Prescriptions for Vision

Smart Vision Labs is developing a fast, digital way to generate prescriptions for eyeglasses, said CEO Yaopeng Zhou. An audience member helps demonstrate in the background.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

For the folks who want to invest in startups, Quire wants to be the way they get a piece of the action.

Erin Glenn, CEO, demoed Quire at last night’s New York Tech Meetup (see slideshow), and also discussed how her startup’s plans relate to the continuing evolution of regulations on equity crowdfunding. “The mission we have is to democratize investing,” she said.

Previously known as Alphaworks, Quire is a platform that accredited investors can use to find startups to back that have already landed some funding from venture capitalists.

Quire, a Betaworks company, was founded in 2014 and is based in New York’s Meatpacking District. Glenn said her company rebranded in April, which included an emphasis on storytelling about the startups on the website to connect them with the investor community.

The site offers up video and other visual elements as ways to help potential backers, and others who are curious, learn more about such companies, Glenn said. “We want to make sure they understand who the founders are, who the sponsors are, and what the mission is of the business,” she said.

For example, Exposure, one of the startups listed on the site, has a video clip from backer Gary Vaynerchuk, an entrepreneur known for growing his family’s business Wine Library and an early investor in Uber, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Birchbox. Potential investors who visit Quire gain more than insight from venture capitalists such as Vaynerchuk on why they put money into the listed startups. “Anyone who’s investing in Exposure gets to invest on the exact same deal terms that Gary Vaynerchuk has negotiated for his fund,” Glenn said.

That includes the same dilution rights, investor protections, and pricing, she said.

There are strong hints that Quire wants to work with many more investors than currently allowed under federal regulations. “There are a lot of people who would love to invest in a company, but they don’t make $200,000 a year or have $1 million in net assets, which the U.S. government says is a barrier to being able to invest in private companies,” Glenn said.

The passing of the JOBS Act cleared the way for accredited investors, per rules set by the Securities and Exchange Commission, to back startups. People who do not meet those standards, Glenn said, can still follow the progress of the startups listed on Quire, and offer feedback to them—but she wants to see investing access increased further for the public.

The potential for more people to invest in startups is dangling in the air with Title III of the JOBS Act yet to be finalized by the SEC. That piece of regulation could let people who do not currently qualify as accredited investors (with a net worth of at least $1 million or $200,000 annual salary) back startups through equity crowdfunding—with certain guidelines.

The argument Glenn offered for change is that even with the existing JOBS Act regs, only a small percentage of the population is permitted to participate in this type of wealth creation. “Not helping people understand how to invest and take financial responsibility, I don’t think is good for the direction of this country,” she said.

The obvious counterpoint to this notion though is people who are not savvy to the risks of investing may not realize how fiscally treacherous the waters can be when backing startups.

Glenn said Quire supports the idea of setting appropriate rules to keep people from tossing away money they cannot afford to lose, but made it clear she wants to see more people participate in the investing scene. Naturally, that would mean more potential investors could find startups to back using her site. “Limitations around how much you can invest is a good guardrail,” she said. “But we think right now it’s important to let anyone invest.”