Crowdfunding symposium to address innovation in social finance

A new symposium at the University of California, Berkeley, will explore the world of crowdfunding, an increasingly popular financing model that harnesses the power of social networks to raise money. Organizers say the event will be the first international academic symposium on the innovative funding technique that has allowed small businesses and start-up ventures to raise needed capital.


Crowdfunding: Setting the Research Agenda,” organized by the College of Engineering’s Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership, will be held from noon to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 17, and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 18, at Blum Hall. Topics will include gender dynamics in crowdfunding, disincentives in crowdfunding behavior, and lessons learned from Kickstarter, Indiegogo and similar online funding platforms.

Scheduled speakers include Jason Best and Sherwood Neiss, co-principals of Crowdfund Capital Advisors; Hal Varian, chief economist at Google Inc.; and Julia Groves, managing director of the UK Crowdfunding Association. A full list of participants is online here on the symposium website.

The symposium comes less than a month after a provision of the federal Jumpstart Our Business Start-ups (JOBS) Act went into effect, allowing companies to ask for equity investments publicly – such as through social media sites or elsewhere on the Internet – without having to register the shares for public trading.

“This growing viability of crowdfunding is opening up access to capital among non-traditional entrepreneurs,” said Richard Swart, head of the Fung Institute’s Crowdfunding Research Program. “The symposium will examine this exciting new landscape in business financing while also addressing the need for mechanisms to protect new investors.”

The World Bank is also expected to release a new report, “Scaling Innovation: Crowdfunding’s Game-Changing Potential for the Developing World,” at the symposium.

“This paper is the first comprehensive study of the potential impact of crowdfunding globally,” said Swart, a co-author of the report.

At the conference, researchers, policy experts and government officials will discuss the complex issues that are driving the evolution of crowdfunding. Leaders from crowdfunding associations from North and South America, Europe, the United Kingdom, the Middle East, Africa and Asia will also be participating to frame an international accord for data sharing to facilitate research.

The symposium is supported in part by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.