San Francisco-based crowdfunding company Wefunder recently opened a Northwest Arkansas location as it seeks to build a presence in underserved markets across the central United States.
Kate Lynn, NWA/Tulsa lead for Wefunder, is the sole area employee for the online platform that allows people to invest in startups and small businesses. Its employees are largely based on the East and West coasts.
Asked why the company opened a Northwest Arkansas location, Lynn said “they’ve recognized that the heartland has been overlooked, and access to capital is an issue here.”
She said her role here will be to serve as a resource and connector and lead crowdfunding campaigns for small business owners and founders. In 2022, she hopes to have the first area business to receive funding through Wefunder.
Lynn said before starting the company, CEO Nick Tommarello wanted to invest in startups, but doing so would’ve been illegal at the time. As a result, he lobbied for change in Washington, D.C., and Congress approved a new law in 2012. The law took about four years to go into effect and was revised earlier this year to not only increase the amount of money a founder can raise but also to make it easier to do so, said Lynn, noting that about 1,700 founders have raised nearly $400 million on Wefunder.
“Investment crowdfunding is a very new industry,” she said. “We are actually the largest investment crowdfunding platform. You can raise anywhere between $50,000 (and) $5 million on our platform. We have … roughly between 35%-40% of the market share among crowdfunding platforms.”
Lynn also noted the company is a public benefit corporation, pursuing profit and purpose.
She said its “sweet spot” recipients include companies focused on business-to-consumer sales, from a coffee shop or brewery wanting to open a second location to a biotech startup. She added that the company looks to invest in founders of diverse backgrounds.
Regionally, Wefunder also has a Nashville, Tenn., office and looks to grow and add staff throughout the central United States.