Is this the #crowdfunding scandal I predicted?
This blog was re-posted with permission from Philanthropy 2173.
Oculus VR for $2 billion. This is a big payout for a company (Oculus) that got its product launched with Kickstarter support. And now those Kickstarter supporters are wondering why they're not getting any return on their "investment." Because most Kickstarter support is not an investment. Indiegogo support may or may not be a charitable gift. Crowdfunding on most platforms is a pre-purchase of a product - if you want it to be something else you have to choose carefully. Most crowdfunding support is not even a pre-purchase of the actual product, it's a purchase of a sticker or t-shirt that says "Hey, I thought this thing was cool and so I gave it $10." In the 2014 Blueprint I predicted:
"We will experience a major scandal in the crowdfunding marketplace?"
This shouldn't be the scandal I predicted. If you paid money through Kickstarter to Oculus and thought you were investing in the product or the company you weren't paying much attention to what you were doing. Now, just because it shouldn't be the scandal, doesn't mean it won't be one. It certainly seems like it might be a wake-up call to a lot of folks who suddenly ask - "Just what is this expenditure I'm making? A gift? A purchase? An investment?" (Since they've already asked, "Wait, where's my piece of the $2B pie?") And given the very conditions that made it so easy to call for a crowdfunding scandal - lots of money in play, confusing rules, opaque disclosure, multiple venues and players, emerging regulations - make it possible that this will be turned into a "scandal story."
In other Blueprint 2014-related news, the IRS yesterday ruled that Bitcoins are to be treated as assets. (Not as currencies or commodities, the other two choices for tax purposes). In other words, you can't pay your taxes with bitcoins but you can be taxed on them (if they appreciate in value). Will continue to see how they play out in the charitable world - perhaps as endowment holdings (....and now to rewrite the rules on fiduciary responsibility.)