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At Jacksonville's One Spark Investor Fest, if You Fund It, They Will Crowd

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Investors with a gap in the calendar after the South by Southwest Festival in March and before the Money Show in Las Vegas in May should slot in the One Spark crowdfunding event in Jacksonville in April. Over 600 "creators," entrepreneurs seeking capital, have descended upon the port city in northern Florida from April 9 to 13 to attract funding.

For those wondering if crowdfunding really has potential: Facebook (FB - Get Report) just paid $2 billion for Oculus, a virtual reality firm. Oculus was crowd funded by Kickstarter for $2.4 million in September 2012, with nearly 10,000 backers.

Crowd funding was authorized by Congress with the JOBS Act two years ago this month. And the One Spark Festival began last year in Jacksonville. An estimated 130,000 people came to check out the "creators" at the festival. The festival now has booths spread out over a 20-square block area in Jacksonville, with attendees pitching for funding.

This must have been what it was like in the early days of Sundance or South by Southwest, with all the excitement but without the super-commercialization or massive scale. There were plenty of dogs walking around with bandanas around their necks, for example. 

The three founders of One Spark are all in the thirties: Varick Rosete is 39, Dennis Eusebio is 32 and Elton Rivas is 33. The festival is in their home town instead of a hipper locale. Their dedication shows.

The festival booths and opening-day pitches suggest that there are worthy investments to be made in social media, medicine, philanthropy and other sectors. One group even wants funding to convert a church into a concert hall and community space.

Parked along the street by the stage where the "creators" make their pitches to those in attendance, there is a long line of television trucks, a sure sign of the growth of One Spark and crowdfunding overall as an investment tool.

The field could become even more successful very soon. The Securities and Exchange Commission is currently considering rules that allow crowdfunders to receive equity in a company. So the next time an Oculus is bought out, the crowd funders will profit, too. That will obviously make crowd funding more attractive.

Chair Mary Jo White of the Securities and Exchange Commission has called crowd funding "an important priority in 2014." One Spark is way ahead of White -- the festival is expanding to Berlin in the fall.

If the Securities and Exchange commission gets with the program, which seems to be in the works, One Spark will soon be a must-stop for investors looking to be one step ahead of Facebook and the others.

At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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