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How Equity Crowdfunding Can Swell to a $300 Billion Industry

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Equity crowdfunding may eventually grow to be a $300 billion industry, as a well-known venture capitalist predicted last year, but there are high hurdles to jump, experts say.

Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures suggested last May that crowdfunding eventually would take massive market share from bank lending, giving a boost to the alternative lending industry.

Angel investor Chris Camillo, speaking at last week's inaugural Crowdfund Texas conference in Austin, cautioned that there are legal and cultural barriers that are impeding the popularity of crowdfunding.

"I think it's realistic, but you really have to look out not months, but years, many, many years," Camillo said during the " Crowdfund Investing: Funding 3.0" panel, in answer to an attendee's question regarding Wilson's outlook.

About 400 participants attended the conference, including leaders in the venture capital and crowdfunding industries. The conference was hosted by Crowdfunding Professional Association, Startup Texas, a branch of Startup America, and Camillo, who also is the co-chair of the investment subcommittee for the Crowdfund Intermediary Regulatory Advocates.

>>>Businesses, Brushed Off by Banks, Look to Customers for Funding

Even as the spigot for capital access opens, more small businesses are turning to alternative funding strategies, such as crowdfunding, to find financing.

So far, U.S. businesses have been able to use only donation or perks-based crowdfunding. But there is hope that by the end of this year -- as a result of The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act) signed by President Barack Obama in April 2012 -- equity-based crowdfunding will make the leap to allow individuals the ability to make small investments in promising entrepreneurial ventures as well as small businesses looking for expansion funding. SEC rules to allow accredited investors to invest via crowdfunding portals should be in place by the end of this quarter, according to experts.

Frustrated by the lack of capital in 2010, Jason Best, principal of Crowdfund Capital Advisors and two partners sat down at his dining table to ultimately create the Startup Exemption, the regulatory framework that became the crowdfunding language of the 2012 JOBS Act.

"It felt crazy to us that the laws regulating how people raise money in 2012 were regulated based on rules written before the telephone was widely available in most people's homes. We created this opportunity and took it to Washington," Best said during the panel. He is also the co-chair to the Crowdfunding Professional Association.
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