"I am not sure if that correlates to thousands of specific portals or a small handful of mega-portals . . . that have successfully found a way to create micro-communities within their portal where they can group like-minded investors and connect them with crowdfunding startups that kind of match their specialization or their background," he cautions.

Still he relates the idea to specialized accelerator programs and uses the example of an educational software accelerator program in Dallas.

"They have a lot to offer startups -- dozens of mentors that started in the education space or professionals that are currently running in the education software space," Camillo says. "As a result they have the ability to provide a tremendous amount of value in the education software space. I really see crowdfunding moving in that same direction."

So does CircleUp.

CircleUp is partnering with big name consumer corporations like General Mills ( GIS) and Procter & Gamble ( PG). Through the partnerships, General Mills and P&G will offer mentoring to the companies on things like growing brands, licensing deals, etc.

The partnerships then give the corporations a view of the early-stage consumer products market and the ability to screen potential investments or eventual acquisitions.

One criticism against CircleUp is the amount of data and financials a company has to provide in order to be listed on the site. Startups worry that it will lessen their competitive advantage if they essentially give away all their secrets, but others say it's the price you pay if you want funding.

"It's one way that were trying to add value not only to the companies, but the ecosystem overall," Eakin says.

The company also dismisses criticism of whether it should be called a crowdfunding or private placement site, with Eakin saying: "we are a crowdfunding site that provides investment opportunities for accredited investors. We enable individual investors to come together to invest in a private business. Current regulations limit this model to accredited investors only, and we follow those regulations."

The main challenge for the company right now is keeping up with demand both from companies seeking funding as well as investors hungry for investment opportunities, he says.

"We believe the models like CircleUp -- and there are others -- have demonstrated the Internet can be an efficient tool to start investors' due diligence processes," Eakin says. "It's a way of connecting potential investors to high-growth small businesses in a way that wasn't possible so far."

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com.

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