Some Americans may envy Canada’s charming president and progressive politics, but when it comes to investment crowdfunding, the two countries are in the same boat.
In an appeal to government regulators this week, Canadian crowdfunding and financial tech advocates called out an “urgent need for regulatory changes and government support” for Canada’s entrepreneurial and capital raising ecosystem. That includes streamlining the country’s crowdfunding regulations and educating the public about the laws.
“Entrepreneurs are reluctant to start up in Canada due to the high costs (relative to a small financing), and significant ongoing regulatory burdens. Investors are inhibited by caps on investment and limited education about the benefits and downside risks of crowdfunding and other exempt financings. This pushes many talented entrepreneurs and investors to overseas jurisdictions that better understand (and support) innovation and the economic potential of start-ups and small businesses,” writes the National Crowdfunding & FinTech Association (NCFA), a nonprofit Canadian trade group.
In Canada, online capital-raising rules vary by province, and efforts to “harmonize” the laws have fallen short.
The U.S. is in a slightly better position. The U.S. crowdfunding industry falls under a single federal framework, the 2012 JOBS Act. However, 34 states have passed intrastate laws that can vary greatly.
But U.S. complaints are similar in other regards, including the need to improve burdensome regulations and educate the public about the new laws.
Of particular note, the NCFA decried the lack of support and incentives for education.
“Introducing new requirements/exemptions without a robust ongoing educational program is like asking new drivers to follow a road that contains no ‘signs’, without maps,” writes the NCFA.
In a 2017 survey by the NCFA, over 70% of respondents said more education was required to attract more investors to crowdfunding. A lack of awareness and education around crowdfunding laws is frequently cited as the number one challenge in the U.S. as well.
Data collection and analysis is also lacking, according to the NCFA.
One area where Canada stands out may be in offering tax incentives for investors, although not specifically in conjunction with crowdfunding. The report doesn’t mention it, but some Canadian provinces, such as New Brunswick, have long offered tax incentives for local investors that have been held up as a model for the U.S.
Still, those efforts pale compared to the UK, where investment crowdfunding is more mature and investors may easily invest in local companies and startups via tax-advantaged retirement accounts. In the U.S., that requires setting up a separate (and cumbersome) self-directed IRA.
The NCFA warns that, without action, Canada risks falling further behind in global competitiveness and financial innovation. They cite an Ernst & Young “Fintech Adoption Index” that put Canada near the bottom of global fintech adoption rates, at just 18 percent. The U.S. clocked in at 33%, the average adoption rate, trailing countries such as Australia (37%), the UK (42%), India (52%) and China (69%).
The NCFA concludes with recommendations, including streamlining the regulations and potentially adopting British Columbia’s more preferable framework. It also advocated for regulatory “sandboxes” that allow for controlled financial experimentation—an idea that has been implemented in the U.K. and proposed in the U.S.
The NCFA also called for more government support to help the industry scale. “Education is an investment by governments, working with the private sector, that will generate more capital investment and jobs, as well as making potential investors more risk aware.”
Photo at top: Daniel Joseph Petty, Creative Commons