“Startup Weekend provided the ultimate customer validation. Not only does their model stress the importance of customer validation but the other entrepreneurs in the room were the very people we were hoping to serve.”
The journey from Miami to Washington DC has been a long one for the Legalize Crowdfunding team. Back in November 2010 Sherwood (Woodie) Neiss attended and won Startup Weekend Miami with an idea to use smart phones for instant polling. Unfortunately, capital to fund the idea was scarce. So Woodie returned to Startup Weekend in May 2011 with an ambitious goal: update the antiquated laws that make crowdfunding illegal so that he could fund his first idea.
It was a challenge he knew his fellow attendees, many of whom wanted to capitalize on the momentum of the weekend, faced. Where did they go and what channels of funding were open to them right away? Woodie says, “I saw that there was a missing piece [to Startup Weekend] and that was access to capital.” Armed with these pain points, Woodie’s team built a proof-of-concept for an equity-based crowdfunding platform.
Woodie and his team won the May Startup Weekend Miami event. However, winning was just the beginning. Woody says, “As a serial entrepreneur I understand the challenges of taking an idea and turning it into reality. Startup Weekend provided the first step, an excellent framework to match the people with ideas to the people with the skills to turn those ideas into companies.”
Fresh off his win at Miami, Woodie was now armed with the idea, team, experience, and customer validation to tackle the challenge. Over the last eighteen months the Legalize Crowdfunding team has been tirelessly lobbying on Capitol Hill to “democratize the access to capital so that the average Joe can make choices about the hottest startup ideas out there.”
The hard work has paid off, too. In the last few months, Woodie and his team have testified in front of 2 congressional panels, introduced the crowdfunding framework that became the basis for the legislation that passed both Houses of Congress on March 27th and attended the bill signing ceremony on April 5th as President Obama signed the JOBS Act into law. “To be there as the President of the United States signs your work into law is unreal,” says Woodie. “It is hard to believe that so much progress has been made in just 15 months. As the President said, this is game changing. We are going to see a resurgence of Main Street entrepreneurs all over the USA.”
From a crowded room in Miami to the floor of the Senate and finally the Rose Garden, the Legalize Crowdfunding team has come a long way. As Woody says, “Startup Weekend is a hotbed of ideas and quality people. We pitched with 79 other ideas that were all good. Our win solidified our certainty that the community of our peers needed this and that’s been fueling our drive ever since. We knew there was a need and we were going to answer it.”
With the passage of the JOBS Act and CrowdFund Investing, the SEC now begins its 270-day rule-making process. The Legalize Crowdfunding team will continue to play a leadership role in this process. Beginning in 2013, CrowdFund Investing platforms will be live and entrepreneurs will be able to crowdfund money from their social networks. Stay informed and updated by visiting LegalizeCrowdfunding.org.