Crowdfunding at Internet Week

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—Thinking back to the '90s frenzy around Napster, it seemed like, with the resources, people would always choose to share information and resources for free, and that denizens of the web didn't want to pay for anything they didn't have to.

A lot has changed since then, as we've seen people voluntarily donate to their favorite bands and causes, and as we've watched the web become ever more local. One of the ways that people put their money behind ideas and connect with their community is through crowdfunding.

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Websites like Kickstarter have grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. The basic concept is that regular folks can raise money for nearly anything—an art project, a charity, a startup—and other regular folks provide that money in exchange for being part of something. Also, they usually receive some sort of swag or recognition in exchange for their contribution.

The landscape of crowdfunding is changing, and the next frontier is equity- or debt-based crowdfunding, in which contributors don't just get a little swag, but actually invest in a startup company. This allows regular people to act like investors without starting venture capital firms, and it allows companies access to funding when traditional avenues aren't an option.

A panel at Internet Week New York explored this in depth this week. Panelists included Candace Klein, the CEO of Bad Girl Ventures and SoMoLend; Jon Ostrow, Campaigns Director of Cyber PR, and an entrepreneur who has successfully funded his business endeavors through crowdfunding; Stacy Robin, the Director of Marketing at EisnerAmper; Matthew Savare, Partner at Lowenstein Sandler; and Vladimir Vukicevic, the Founder and CTO at RocketHub, one of the biggest crowdfunding platforms.

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