Houston fundraising platform launches for the next generation of investors
Millennials are expected to exceed the Baby Boomer generation for the United States' largest living adult generation this year, and this massive population of people have a completely different approach to investing.
Nick Carnrite saw that Millennials were to a point where they had extra income, but when he looked at the statistics, he noticed they aren't buying houses for the most part and were turned off of the stock market. There was a huge amount of stranded capital, and he wanted to figure out how to get that invested into businesses.
"The younger generation isn't interested in typical investing, but they are absolutely interested in supporting their community and the businesses in it, especially if the investment lets them experience the business and come along for the ride if it works," Carnrite, who is the co-founder and CEO of LetsLaunch, says.
Houston-based LetsLaunch is a new investment platform that launched December 28, though has been in the works since January 2018. The site works, in many ways, like a crowdfunding site, only investors receive equity. Due to regulations, investment campaigns max out at around a million dollars.
In the past, entrepreneurs have had to seek out major investors through venture capitalists or large funds, since taking smaller investments is tedious and almost more trouble than its worth. However, LetsLaunch provides a platform where smaller investments are streamlined and encouraged.
"Our goal in all of this is just to take a complicated process and make it simple, the same way Turbotax takes something awful like taxes and makes it simple, we are trying to do that with investing," Carnrite says.
Investors don't have to be accredited or invest a certain amount of money — something that for so long has hindered startups' ability to raise money.
"For whatever reason, we've decided to alienate about 95 percent of Americans as far as being able to invest in private businesses," Carnrite says. "Finally, we're at the point where all of that capital that was stranded and not allowed in private companies is being funneled into that cause."
According to Carnrite and his associate, Rhian Davies, who is the company's director of business operations, the mission is to educate and simplify the investing process.
"For us, one of the things we're working on with other organizations is putting together a next-gen investor series, where we are teaching the next generation of investors how to invest and give them a platform to do it," Davies says.
Much like in a normal investment process, the companies provide a pitch deck for potential investors that outlines the business plan and scope of the company. The company simply creates an account and uses the website to develop those materials.
"We standardize that process, so from a user standpoint, everything looks fairly similar on our site and it's a pretty tried and true template," Carnrite says.
While LetsLaunch does its due diligence making sure the business is legitimate and makes sure the pitch deck is sufficient, the investors take it from there.
Since ease of access to funds is the top priority for LetsLaunch, the investment platform has a much lower fee for companies. While some crowdfunding platforms take 10 to 12 percent, LetsLaunch's fee is around 3 percent.
"We really want it to be simple and affordable to businesses and for investors as well," Davies says. "We maintain a much lower fee than other crowdfunding sites."
LetsLaunch will continue to fine tune its existing features on the site, while also adding more tools for businesses, including an iOS mobile app, which Carnirite says will be ready this year. In addition to fundraising tools, Carnrite wants to help their businesses after the campaigns with software that streamlines investor relations and reminds business owners of important deadlines.
"We want to evolve into a website that not only helps you raise capital for a company, but that also helps you run that company after your raise, Carnrite says."
While Houston is home base for the company, the team expects to expand to other markets where fundraising is hard, like Denver, Atlanta, Dallas, and more. Strategic partnerships are another opportunity for LetsLaunch, and the company expects to finalize some of those moving forward.