“Crowd investing” is the idea that anyone should be able to invest easily in startup companies. That idea took a big step forward thanks to new federal regulations that allow startups, for the first time, to invite large swaths of the public to invest in them.
With crowd investing, however, people will actually be buying shares in new companies. For now, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which regulates financial markets, is limiting crowd investing to accredited investors, or people with $1 million in the bank or who earn more than $200,000 a year. However, the SEC is developing other regulations, due out next year, that would let any member of the public invest small sums in startups.
It’s still uncertain how big an impact crowd investing will have. The SEC is considering further rules, including requiring startups to track all their advertising, including every mention in the news media. That has some investors worried that crowd investing could flop. Investor Brad Feld, a partner at the Foundry Group, recently called the SEC’s additional rules “one scary mess that could undermine the whole thing.”