Geri Stengel

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Equity Crowdfunding on Its Second Birthday: A Look Back and Ahead

Title II of the JOBS Act recently passed its second birthday, which makes it an opportune time to take a look at the sector to date, as well as attempt to chart where it is going.

The Floodgates Didn’t Exactly Burst Open

Over the course of the past two years, nearly 5,600 companies have sought capital publicly, and nearly 1,400 succeeded in raising money, according to Crowdnetic, which aggregates data from 18 equity crowdfunding platforms.

This success rate of about one in four companies is similar to the success rate in the offline world. These companies raised more than $600 million combined, averaging about $447,000 per company. While these numbers sound impressive, only a tiny percentage—2%—of money raised from accredited investors has been raised via equity platforms using 506(c) in 2014.

What’s Holding Equity Crowdfunding Back?

Several reasons have contributed to equity crowdfunding’s slow start, but many are fading out of rear-view as the movement gains momentum.

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Women And Nature: A Powerful Combination For The Planet And Business Growth

Want to unlock innovation? Diversity is the critical factor in market growth, according to Diversity and Market Growth, research undertaken by The Center for Talent Innovation.

More women in any field will lead to more innovation and better products and services — and will get the economic engine steaming along.  “If we hope to accelerate growth in the global economy, we cannot afford to leave out half the population,” said Cindy Padnos, founder and managing partner of Illuminate Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm.

Padnos gave me the quote for my book Forget the Glass Ceiling: Build Your Business Without One, but it resonated loudly as I started to write an article about two women, Amelia Baxter of WholeTrees Architecture and Structures and Sarah Bellos of Stony Creek Colors. Both are shaking up the sleepy agriculture industry with products that use sustainably grown plants and trees to replace highly polluting materials.


Amelia Baxter and her cofounder, Roald Gundersen, developed a process for turning waste trees (small trees routinely discarded during forest thinnings) into a replacement for steel, concrete and milled lumber used for beams, columns and trusses in building construction. “Round timber that hasn’t been milled is as strong as steel,” said Baxter. “It also mitigates the huge amount of waste created in the manufacturing of steel and milled lumber.”  WholeTrees also developed a methodology for grading the round timber to classify its strength. Round timber is plentiful and a renewable resource.

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How An Army Veteran And Saffron Are Building Peace

When you think of Afghanistan, you probably think war torn and desolate. Not high quality produce.

When Kimberly Jung was stationed there as an Army captain, she tasted some of the best fruits, vegetables and spices she had ever eaten. Equally as impressive to her were the people whom she found to be optimistic despite their circumstances as well as loyal and hospitable.

When Jung came back to the U.S., she went to Harvard Business School expecting to be a management consultant At McKinsey in San Francisco. The job didn’t materialize. Instead, while on the phone with Keith Alaniz who was still deployed in Afghanistan, a spark for an entrepreneurial venture took shape. Alaniz told her about Haji Yosef, an industrious farmer who had plenty of saffron but no buyers.

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. It sells for six to seven times the amount of opium poppy. Both Jung and Alaniz knew that selling a high-value crop like saffron would undercut drug trade, which fuels the Taliban.

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The Essential Guide for Female Entrepreneurs Who Want to Go Big

Women are sidestepping the glass ceiling and no longer aiming for the corner office. Instead, they’re choosing to strike out on their own. While more women-owned businesses are surpassing the $1 million revenue mark, they are still much less likely to do so than those owned by men. In fact, women are one-third as likely as their male counterparts to grow their businesses past $1 million.

The reason? Women entrepreneurs raise only half as much capital as men do. Undercapitalized companies have lower sales and lower profits and generate fewer jobs.

Julia Pimsleur wants to change that. She wants to do more than simply inspire women to go for the brass ring. She wants to provide a roadmap. And she does so with her new book, Million Dollar Women: The Essential Guide for Female Entrepreneurs Who Want to Go Big. Pimsleur has the street cred to do this. Her company,Little Pim, introduces young children to foreign languages through multimedia programs.

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Entrepreneurs Disrupt Costly Legal Fees For Startups And Small Businesses

Startups and small businesses complain that lawyers are expensive and costs are unpredictable. Lawyers complain that finding clients and getting paid is difficult. Sounds like an industry begging for some entrepreneurial thinking.

A wave of companies are using technology to provide affordable fixed-priced legal services to startups and small businesses, and referrals and payment to lawyers. Some products provide diagnostic tools that identify gaps in legal coverage that open businesses to risk. In the same way that the healthcare industry tries to  provide lower-cost preventive services to reduce the cost of more expensive long-term care, tech-enabled legal companies provide startups and small businesses with precautionary legal agreements and contracts to reduce the possibility of much more expensive legal action down the road. These legal websites are based on the premise that by bringing down the costs of lawyers, more companies will use legal services.

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Photo credit: Sam Howzit, Giant Gavel via Flickr


5 Powerful Ways to Use Your Purse to Help Women and Girls

Women have a powerful tool for improving the lives of girls and women — money. Finance can be used to advance change around issues as diverse as women on corporate boards, sex trafficking, bias in the media, the wage gap, equitable health access and the gap in funding women-led companies, according to The State of the Field of Gender Lens Investing: A Road Map for the Field, a report by Criterion Institute. Criterion is a think tank focused on reinventing the economy.

“Gender is the most powerful determinant of how we see the world and everything in it,” writes fellow Forbes contributor Bridget Brennan, an expert on marketing to women. “It’s more significant than age, income, ethnicity, or geography.”  Here are five ways women can use their purses to not only bring women’s and girls’ issues front and center, but also change the way things are done.

As Banks Turn Away, Online Alternative Lenders Fill the Funding Gap

Small businesses’ cries for financing are being heard. Not by traditional banks, but instead by an array of online financing organizations that use technology and data to speed money to borrowers. While these new options can be more expensive due to the greater risk they undertake, these lenders ultimately make more money available to a greater number of businesses.

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Film Eliminates Gender Stereotypes From Entrepreneurship

Even with the dramatic rise in the number of women entrepreneurs, men still are more likely to start companies and more likely to grow them big.

“Being an entrepreneur is associated with being a man,” said Nora Poggi, director and producer of She Started It. One way to change this is by showing that women are taking the leap and succeeding.

Equity Crowdfunding: Lessons From the Field

Raising money is a time-intensive process. Marketing your securities offering online through equity crowdfunding can shorten the process. For those of you who feel trepidation about dipping a toe in the water, knowing why others have taken the plunge and learning from their experiences may encourage you to raise money publicly.

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7 Tips For Making Necessity The Mother Of Success

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the dramatic rise in women of color starting businesses. On the surface, that might sound like good news but only if these women are choosing to start a business as an opportunity. If starting the business was a necessity because they couldn’t find a job, the news is not so good. Necessity entrepreneurs are less likely than opportunity entrepreneurs to be successful.

As I read Whitney Johnson’s book, Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work, I realized how appropriate her advice is not just for women, but for any necessity entrepreneur. The book will be released on October 6, 2015.

One piece of advice not in the book may be the hardest to hear for someone trying to put food on the table but it is critical. Johnson mentioned it when I spoke with her. That is, the process takes time. It takes about six months to morph an idea for a business into a viable business.


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