SEC ruling gives boost to online funding tool for startups

The prospects of a new era of crowd-funded startups took another jump forward today as the Securities and Exchange Commission told FundersClub, a website that lists new companies seeking funding, that its business model doesn’t violate federal securities rules.
FundersClub, which promises “insider access to pre-vetted startups,” faced legal uncertainty because it lets investors make investments as low as $1,000 in exchange for equity, even though it’s not a registered broker. Instead, the company, which is itself a start-up that grew out of the Y-Combinator incubator, holds itself out as a venture-capital adviser that does not take transaction-based commissions but instead takes management fees from accredited investors.
To verify its legal status, FundersClub wrote the SEC to request formal validation of its business model. In a letter, reported by TechCrunch, the SEC stated that it would not pursue enforcement action against the company.
In a significant footnote in the SEC letter, the Commission notes that FundersClub’s model is consistent with the Jobs Act, a recent law intended to make it easier for start-ups to raise money without regulatory headaches:

The Staff notes that FundersClub’s and FC Management’s current activities appear to comply with Section 201 of the Jumpstart Our Businesses Act of2012 (“JOBS Act”) in part because they and each person associated with them receive no compensation (or the promise of future compensation) in connection with the purchase or sale of securities.

The Jobs Act, passed a year ago, is only partially in effect as the SEC is still devising rules to facilite “crowd funding” from hundreds of small investors. FundersClub participants must still meet the definition of an “accredited investor,” which means they have an annual income of over $200,000 or a net worth of $1 million.
Clarification: the last paragraph of this story was changed on Friday to say “accredited investor” instead of “institutional investor.”