Democratizing the Investment Space with Cheryl Campos

Cheryl Campos, director of growth and partnerships at Republic, explains how equity crowdfunding can create opportunities for both founders and new investors.

Investing in startups has traditionally been an option for only the wealthiest Americans, but Cheryl Campos is excited about new opportunities that are expanding the pool of investors. As director of growth and partnerships at Republic, Campos helps to curate great investment opportunities through equity crowdfunding, an alternative funding method that allows non-accredited investors to get involved.

“If you have maybe 5,000 investors in your campaign, they all roll up into one line item. They have no voting or information rights, and the investors get a return when the company either IPOs, gets acquired, or there’s a change in control,” Campos explained. “It’s really founder friendly, very VC friendly, while at the same time giving investors the opportunity to invest in these startups.”

In this episode of Disrupt the Continuum, recorded at 3686 Festival, Campos describes some of the changes that will shape the future of venture capital, and she explains why equity crowdfunding creates a win-win situation for founders and investors.

If you’d like to hear more conversations like these, join us for the next 3686 Festival, set to return this summer! More information will be coming soon, including official dates, registration details, speakers and networking opportunities you won’t want to miss.

Expanding Opportunities for Investors

Before 2016, individuals couldn’t invest in a startup unless they were an “accredited investor.” Accredited investors had to have $1 million in net worth or an annual income of $200,000 for the past two years, so 97% of Americans were excluded from the space entirely.

When a new law passed in 2016 allowing non-accredited investors to start contributing, Republic was one of the first companies created to take advantage of the opportunity through equity crowdfunding (also known as crowd investing). Additionally, the limitations on who qualifies as an accredited investor also decreased at the end of 2020.

“The accredited investor definition is changing to allow more folks to become angel and accredited investors. So that will allow more folks to use their discretionary income to actually invest directly into startups, instead of just through our platform, but that will also allow us to bring in more folks with more discretionary income into our fold,” Campos shared.

Through working at Republic, Campos loves that she gets to combine her finance background with the innovative environment of a tech company, allowing her to start helping people rather than just making money for large corporations.

“Traditional finance is all about preserving the status quo, whereas tech is molding the future, so I wanted to be a part of that movement,” she explained.

Why Crowd Investing Matters

Campos is passionate about crowd investing because it presents a great opportunity for individuals to build generational wealth. The process functions similarly to crowdfunding, except investors receive actual equity in the company.

Campos pointed to the example of Oculus, the virtual reality company that raised money via Kickstarter and eventually sold to Facebook. If the people who donated to the campaign had gotten to invest instead, they could have received massive returns.

“You are not only allowing folks to become lifelong brand ambassadors and tell everyone, but they also expect a return, and that could really help them change their lives,” she explained.

On the other side of the transaction, Campos believes that crowd investing provides a great opportunity for traditionally underfunded founders to raise capital without facing the same barriers they may encounter when pitching to venture funds.

40 percent of the companies backed on Republic are women-led, and 20 percent are Black and Latinx-led.

“We’ve helped over 150 companies raise over $50 million, and we have 700,000 users on the platform,” Campos shared. “It has social impact. We have all these amazing, diverse entrepreneurs in our portfolio.”

Please subscribe, rate, and review Disrupt the Continuum wherever you listen to podcasts. This season of Disrupt the Continuum is powered by Pinnacle Financial Partners. We’d love for you to join us next year at Launch Tennessee’s 3686 Festival to hear more stories about innovation and entrepreneurship. Watch this space for more information about 2021’s Festival, returning this summer.

Empowering Tennessee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and working to make TN the most startup-friendly state in the nation. Host of 36|86 Festival | launchtn.org

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