By Daniel Hunter
Crowdfunding is now hitting the global mainstream and the web is abuzz with the launch of the first Silicon Valley Crowdfunding conference.
According to independent observers Open Intelligence, who have been monitoring web traffic related to Crowdfunding and the upcoming conference, interest in Crowdfunding is exploding at a rate to rival anything that has gone before.
That's set to increase still further as Silicon Valley - the planet's biggest concentration of entrepreneurs and funders - get's in on the act. Until now New York, home to Kickstarter.com has arguably been at the epicentre of the fast growing industry and, perhaps unusually, Silicon Valley has been rather muted.
"The Crowdfunding phenomenon is global" commented conference organiser Sydney Armani CEO of Silicon Valley Crowdfund Ventures "and the conference is reflecting that. We have industry leaders coming in from around the world including the UK, Canada, Australia and across Europe."
This comes as the USA prepares to launch itself into Crowdinvesting for the first time as a result of the JOBS act. Until now Federal law has prevented this and only the pre-sales (sometimes called rewards-based) model, where contributors typically back the creation of new products and businesses by pre-purchasing, has been legal here.
Meanwhile in the UK Crowdinvesting has been growing increasingly popular with platforms such as Crowdcube and Seedrs accredited by the FSA, the UK's regulatory authority.
"There's been a lot of controversy, and there still is", commented Barry James, Director of The Social Foundation which ran the UK's first national Crowdfunding conference in February "but the industry has made a great start and established itself here. We are seeing a lot of activity with new platforms springing up like daisies. Best of all Crowdfunding is now being taken seriously by opinion formers and legislators, with a recognition that it has huge potential and a place in the mainstream".
Crowdlenders Zopa and FundingCircle have received strong support, including substantial financial backing direct from the UK government. Business Secretary Vince Cable also contributed to February's Deep Impact conference, making it clear that the government fully support the new sector and attach great importance to it*.
The controversy - and the need for regulation to adapt and change - has not gone away. If anything it has grown. However there is clear support within Westminster. Barry Sheerman, the member of Parliament who chairs the Westminster Crowdfunding forum commented on the conference, saying "I'm really excited about the potential that crowdfunding has, across this planet for not only starting new businesses, starting new enterprises, but also giving hope to communities that have lost their way that believe that modern international capitalism has left them behind. I believe that crowdfunding gives us the capacity to change peoples lives and worlds and reach to communities that have lost hope."
In a recorded message to the Silicon Valley conference this week he says "the real potential here is for a new kind of democratic participatory capitalism. I believe in that and want to work with you and other people throughout the world to do really good things in the communities that have been left behind. Whether they be in Yorkshire in England, in my constituency, or elsewhere in the world. Let's work together on that. I think we have a new high potential vehicle to change the world."
The conference sees the launch of the first Global Crowdfunding day (GlobalCrowdfundingDay.com) co-chaired by Barry James and Ruth Hedges, CEO of Crowdfunding Roadmap, who launched the initiative to coincide with the first anniversary of the successful signing of the JOBS act in the USA.
Ruth commented "Crowdfunding shows us how we are all connected by the power of our dreams and our ability to manifest and fund those dreams. I created Global Crowdfunding Day to unite us in a universal way so that we can act together for 24 hours around the world and support those who dare to innovate and take on the challenge to create the jobs every economy desperately needs."
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