What are the Risks of Crowdfunding?

what are the risks of crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a relatively new way to raise money for projects or business startups. It’s also an investment option for investors looking to diversify their portfolios. It has become very popular in recent years, but it’s not without its risks. In this article, we will look at the risks of crowdfunding and how to reduce them. Let’s get started!

What Is Crowdfunding, and What Is a Crowdfunding Platform?

Crowdfunding is a process in which individuals pool money to support startups and other projects. Crowdfunding platforms are websites that allow people to donate money to a campaign or project. Peer-to-peer lending is a form of crowdfunding in which people borrow and lend money to one another.

Key Risks of Crowdfunding

The risks associated with crowdfunding include greater risk of loss, liquidity risk, and the potential for non-accredited investors to lose money. Let’s take a look at 10 key risks to crowdfunding:

  • Liquidity risk
  • Risk of loss
  • Potential for fraud
  • The non-accredited investor may lose money
  • Minimum investment amounts
  • Fees and expenses
  • Limited information
  • No guarantee of success
  • Dividends are not guaranteed
  • You may not get your money back

What are the Risks of Crowdfunding

1. Liquidity risk

This is the risk that your investment will not be able to be sold quickly at a reasonable price. Crowdfunded investments are often illiquid and may not be able to be sold for years.

Liquidity risk in crowdfunding is particularly acute because investments in startups or projects are not as easily sold or exchanged as stocks in the public market. This lack of liquidity means that even if the venture you’ve invested in is performing well, accessing your capital quickly can be challenging.

Small Business Deals

Many crowdfunding platforms offer investments that are locked in for an extended period, often several years, without a straightforward exit strategy.

This can be problematic for investors who may need to access their funds due to unforeseen circumstances.

Understanding the exit terms and conditions is crucial before committing your money to any crowdfunding venture.

2. Risk of loss

All investments come with the risk of loss. However, crowdfunding investments may be riskier than traditional investments. This is because crowdfunding investments are often made in early-stage companies with little history or track record.

The lack of a track record makes it difficult to assess the viability and future success of these ventures. Unlike traditional investments in established companies, where past performance can guide decisions, crowdfunding investments are speculative and carry a higher risk of loss.

Investors should be prepared for the possibility that they may not recover their initial investment if the venture fails to materialize or achieve its goals.

3. Potential for fraud

Crowdfunding platforms are not regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This means that there is a greater potential for fraud.

While some platforms do implement their own vetting processes, the absence of stringent regulations like those imposed on traditional investment avenues leaves room for fraudulent activities.

Scammers can exploit the enthusiasm and optimism surrounding new projects to deceive investors. Conducting thorough due diligence, including researching the background of the project creators and seeking out independent reviews, is essential to mitigate the risk of falling victim to fraud.

4. The non-accredited investor may lose money

Only accredited investors are allowed to invest in certain types of crowdfunding campaigns. These campaigns are typically only available to wealthy individuals who can afford to lose money. Those not accredited may lose all of their investments if the company fails.

Crowdfunding opens up investment opportunities to a broader audience, including non-accredited investors who previously had limited access to venture investing. However, this democratization comes with risks.

Non-accredited investors, typically less experienced and with fewer financial resources, may not fully appreciate the risks involved or have the capacity to absorb potential losses.

While crowdfunding platforms offer an entry point, the stakes are high, and the potential for total loss of investment is real. Non-accredited investors must exercise caution and consider diversifying their investment portfolios to spread risk.

5. Minimum investment amounts

Many crowdfunding campaigns have minimum investment requirements. This means that you may need to invest more money than you are comfortable with.

These minimums can vary widely, potentially requiring investors to commit a substantial amount of money upfront. This requirement can pose a dilemma for individuals interested in crowdfunding as a way to diversify their investment portfolio without overcommitting to a single venture.

Evaluating your financial capacity and willingness to lock in funds for the long term is critical before making a crowdfunding investment.

6. Fees and expenses

Participating in crowdfunding involves various fees and expenses that can significantly impact the overall return on investment. Platforms may charge administrative fees, payment processing fees, and other costs associated with managing the investment.

These fees can reduce the net returns to investors, particularly if the crowdfunded venture generates only modest profits.

Investors should carefully review all associated fees and calculate their potential impact on investment returns.

7. Limited information

One of the inherent challenges of crowdfunding is the limited information available about the ventures seeking funding. While platforms typically require projects to provide a business plan and financial projections, the depth and accuracy of this information can vary.

The lack of comprehensive data makes it difficult for investors to conduct thorough analysis and assess the potential risks and rewards. Relying on incomplete or overly optimistic information can lead to misinformed investment decisions.

8. No guarantee of success

Just because a company is successful in raising money does not mean that it will be successful in the long run.

The excitement of investing in a new venture through crowdfunding must be tempered with the reality that many startups fail. Even projects that successfully meet their crowdfunding goals are not guaranteed to succeed in the long term.

Market dynamics, operational challenges, and competition can all impact a venture’s ability to sustain itself and grow. Investors should be prepared for the possibility that they may not see a return on their investment if the venture does not achieve its objectives.

9. Dividends are not guaranteed

Sometime crowdfunded companies do not pay their investors. This means that you may not receive any money back from your investment even if the company is successful.

Investing in crowdfunded ventures, especially equity crowdfunding, often comes with the expectation of receiving dividends as the company grows. However, dividend payments are not guaranteed, and the decision to distribute profits is typically at the discretion of the company’s management.

Some startups may choose to reinvest profits into the business rather than pay out dividends, leaving investors without the anticipated income.

Understanding the company’s dividend policy and long-term financial strategy is crucial before investing.

10. You may not get your money back

The most sobering risk associated with crowdfunding is the potential for total loss of the invested capital. If the venture fails, investors may have little to no recourse to recover their funds.

Unlike traditional investments, where some level of recovery might be possible through liquidation or other means, crowdfunded investments are often unsecured and rank lower in priority in the event of bankruptcy.

Accepting the possibility of losing the entire investment is a fundamental aspect of participating in crowdfunding.

What are the Risks of Crowdfunding

The 4 Types of Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding can be great for both investors and borrowers. Private equity crowdfunding is one type. Other forms of crowdfunding include rewards-based, donation-based, and debt-based. Let’s take a look at all four below.

Equity Crowdfunding

Equity crowdfunding is a type of crowdfunding in which people invest money in exchange for equity in the company. In other words, investors receive shares in the company in exchange for their investment. Equity crowdfunding is a great way to raise money for a startup or small business.

Equity crowdfunding is a high-risk investment. You could lose all of your money if the company goes bankrupt. Make sure you understand the risks of equity crowdfunding before you invest.

Rewards-based Crowdfunding

Rewards crowdfunding is a type of crowdfunding in which people donate money to a project in exchange for rewards. Rewards can be anything from a thank you note to a product or service. This type of crowdfunding is popular among artists and musicians.

Donation-based Crowdfunding

For this type of crowdfunding, people donate money to a cause or project with no expectation of receiving anything in return. Donation-based crowdfunding is popular among charities and non-profit organizations.

Debt Crowdfunding

Debt crowdfunding is a type of crowdfunding in which people lend money to a borrower in exchange for interest payments. Debt crowdfunding is a great way for borrowers to get financing without going through a bank.

What are the Risks of Crowdfunding

Navigating the Due Diligence Process in Crowdfunding

Thorough due diligence is paramount before participating in crowdfunding campaigns. Follow these steps to make informed investment decisions:

  • Assess Campaign Information: Scrutinize campaign details, including project goals, funding target, and timeline. Ensure the campaign presents a clear and realistic plan.
  • Creator Background Check: Research the campaign creator’s track record, experience, and previous projects. A credible creator enhances the campaign’s legitimacy.
  • Financial Viability Analysis: Review financial projections and business plans provided by the campaign. Evaluate their feasibility and alignment with market trends.
  • Market Research: Understand the market demand for the product or service being offered. A viable market opportunity increases the likelihood of campaign success.
  • Backer Engagement: Evaluate the level of engagement and communication between campaign creators and backers. Active involvement showcases commitment and transparency.
  • Terms and Conditions Scrutiny: Read and comprehend the terms and conditions of the crowdfunding platform and campaign. Be aware of any potential pitfalls or unfavorable clauses.
  • Risk and Reward Balance: Gauge the potential rewards against the associated risks. Ensure that potential returns align with your risk tolerance and investment objectives.
  • Legal and Regulatory Compliance: Verify that the campaign adheres to relevant legal and regulatory requirements, safeguarding both backers and creators from legal challenges.
  • Third-party Verification: Look for endorsements, partnerships, or industry recognition that lend credibility to the campaign’s claims and capabilities.
Key Steps in Due DiligenceDescription
Assess Campaign InformationScrutinize project details including goals, funding target, and timeline for a clear and feasible plan.
Creator Background CheckResearch creator's track record, experience, and past projects to enhance campaign legitimacy.
Financial Viability AnalysisReview financial projections and plans, assessing feasibility and alignment with market trends.
Market ResearchUnderstand product/service demand, increasing campaign success odds.
Backer EngagementEvaluate creator-backer communication, showcasing commitment and transparency.
Terms and Conditions ScrutinyComprehend platform and campaign terms, identifying potential pitfalls.
Risk and Reward BalanceAlign potential returns with risk tolerance and investment goals.
Legal and Regulatory ComplianceEnsure campaign adheres to relevant laws, safeguarding backers and creators.
Third-party VerificationSeek endorsements or recognition to validate campaign's claims.

Mitigating Crowdfunding Risks: Strategies for Success

While risks are inherent in any investment, adopting the following strategies can help mitigate potential pitfalls associated with crowdfunding:

  • Diversification Principle: Spread investments across multiple campaigns and categories to reduce the impact of losses from a single campaign’s failure.
  • Investment Research: Conduct in-depth research and gather insights on crowdfunding platforms, creator backgrounds, and campaign specifics.
  • Staggered Investments: Invest smaller amounts initially to gain familiarity with the crowdfunding process and assess the campaign’s performance.
  • Selective Participation: Choose campaigns aligned with your areas of interest, expertise, and familiarity. Your knowledge can aid in making informed decisions.
  • Engagement with Creators: Participate actively in campaign discussions, ask questions, and seek clarifications from creators. Engaged backers foster transparency and accountability.
  • Moderation of Investment Amounts: Avoid overcommitting to any single campaign. Allocate funds strategically to maintain financial stability and manage risk exposure.
  • Patience and Long-term OutlookEmbrace a patient investment approach, recognizing that crowdfunding returns may take time to materialize.

What Risks Are Associated with Equity Crowd Funding?

One of the biggest risks is that you may not receive any return on your investment. A public company is not required to disclose information to the public about its finances, so it can be difficult to assess the true value of a company before investing.

In addition, current shareholders may have insider information that gives them an advantage over other investors.

What Are the Risks of Debt Crowdfunding?

When you take out a loan from a traditional lender, you have a fixed interest rate and repayment term. However, when you take out a loan through debt crowdfunding, the terms of the loan are set by the marketplace.

Meaning if interest rates rise, your monthly payments could increase, and if you default on the loan, your creditors could sell the loan to a secondary market at a discount.

Another risk to be aware of is money laundering. When businesses borrow money through debt crowdfunding, they are typically required to provide some type of collateral. This collateral can often be in the form of assets such as property or equipment.

However, criminals could use these loans for money laundering by using these assets as collateral for loans that they never intend to repay.

How Do Crowdfunding Investors Get Paid?

In most cases, funding rounds are held periodically, and each investor is allowed to contribute a certain amount of money. In return, the investor receives a financial return if and when the business is successful. This return may come in the form of dividends, equity, or even just a fixed rate of interest.

Why Should Venture Capitalists Be Cautious About Crowdfunding?

VCs should be cautious about crowdfunding because it can be difficult to conduct due diligence on companies and individuals raising capital. Crowdfunding platforms typically do not have the resources to conduct an adequate analysis on all of the campaigns that are launched, so there’s a risk that some of the investments may not be sound.

Additionally, there is no guarantee that a campaign will be successful, so investors may not get their money back if the project fails.

Is Investing in Crowdfunding a Good Idea?

When considering any type of investment, it’s important to do your homework first. Concerning crowdfunding, it’s important to understand the business plan and the risks involved.

Such ventures can be a great way to get started with a new business, but it’s important to remember that not all businesses will be successful. An investor needs to have a realistic expectation of the potential return on these investments and be comfortable with the risks involved.

What are the Risks of Crowdfunding: Conclusion

Navigating the landscape of crowdfunding demands a cautious yet engaged approach. By conducting thorough due diligence, implementing risk-mitigating strategies, and adhering to prudent investment practices, individuals can harness the potential of crowdfunding while safeguarding their financial interests.

Remember that well-informed choices are essential to make the most of the opportunities that crowdfunding presents.


Image: Envato Elements

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Kevin Ocasio Kevin Ocasio is a staff writer for Small Business Trends, United States Marine Corps veteran, serial entrepreneur, and certified digital marketer, who writes for various online publications including his own Grind Boss blog.

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