What it is: Crowdfunding is about persuading individuals to each give you a small donation -- $10, $50, $100, maybe more. Once you get thousands of donors, you have some serious cash on hand.
This has all become possible in recent years thanks to a proliferation of websites that allow nonprofits, artists, musicians -- and yes, businesses -- to raise money. This is the social media version of fundraising.
There are more than 600 crowdfundingplatforms around the world, with fundraising reaching billions of dollars annually, according to the research firm Massolution.
How it works: The most common type of crowdfunding fundraising is using sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo variety, where donations are sought in return for special rewards. That could mean free product or even a chance to be involved in designing the product or service.
It is also possible to use crowdfunding to assemble loans and royalty financing. The site LendingClub, for example, allows members to directly invest in and borrow from each other, with the claim that eliminating the banking middleman means "both sides can win" in the transactions. Royalty financing sites appear to be more rare, but the idea is to link business owners with investors who lend money for a guaranteed percentage of revenues for whatever the business is selling.
The holy grail is to sell company shares or ownership stakes in the company on crowdfunding sites, because it could be like a mini-IPO without the traditional hurdles. In the past, this has only been legal with accredited investors, people who each have more than $1 million in net worth or more than $200,000 in annual income.
The good news is that the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012 allows stock to be sold to the general public over crowdfunding sites, but as of mid-2013, the SEC was still hammering out the rules.
Read more: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/228125