Fundraising has proved difficult for many entrepreneurs and ventures in the early stages of their businesses because of significant information asymmetries with investors and a lack of collateral. In an attempt to overcome such difficulties, since the early 2010s, some entrepreneurs have come to rely on the Internet in order to directly seek funding from the general public, or the “crowd.” The practice of collecting small amounts of capital from the “crowd” of Internet users is called crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding research is a relative newcomer to the discipline of entrepreneurial finance. However, the availability of easy-to-access data, the diffusion of this funding channel among entrepreneurs, and increasing policy attention have made crowdfunding one of the most investigated areas of research in entrepreneurial finance. The literature has discussed crowdfunding as more than a simple mean of financing. Crowdfunding also allows entrepreneurs to develop a virtual community of followers, which provides a valuable source of information with which to test and improve early versions of innovative products. Moreover, crowdfunding represents a method of gaining information about market response to a given product and the size of demand for that product, and is a powerful marketing instrument that can be used to increase brand awareness and to promote the arts, social initiatives, and financial inclusion.
However, crowdfunding also entails a number of pitfalls for entrepreneurs. In order to collect financial resources from the crowd, entrepreneurs are required to share sensitive information online. This includes information about the entrepreneurial initiative, the team, and the business model they are using. The provision of this information may facilitate product counterfeiting, or the appropriation of the value of the idea by other firms or entrepreneurs. Moreover, crowdfunding entails the risk of social stigma if the funding campaign results in a failure, because information about the performance of the crowdfunding campaign usually remains accessible online. Finally, crowdfunding entails additional challenges related to the management of the crowd of backers after the campaign, since several backers will be active providers of feedback and will interact with the entrepreneurs through direct communication. Despite these disadvantages crowdfunding has become a widely used funding source for entrepreneurs looking for financing for sustainable projects, creative initiatives, and innovative ideas.