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Oculus并购启示: 股权众筹,还等什么

编者按:本文是由EarlyShares首席运营官Salomon Wancier所发表的访客博文。Wancier在文中驳斥了Oculus与Facebook之间的交易不能带动股权众筹迅速发展的观点。

如果您还未听说这条新闻,我就在这里再重复一次:Facebook再次斥资数十亿元兼并一项高调科技创业项目,而这次的目标是虚拟实境体验机以相关技术制造商Oculus VR。

Facebook最新收购的新闻引人注目的原因颇多。其一是Facebook计划使用此次获得的技术将社交网络转化为3D体验。其二是Oculus的主打产品裂谷体验机虽然获得诸多媒体的积极关注和游戏社区的赞扬,但是依旧并未公开销售。

以上两点证明Facebook在Oculus VR上下足了赌注——金额高达20亿美元。但是你知道还有谁也对此下注了吗?是Kickstarter上的9522名赞助人,然而他们却并不会得到任何投资回报。

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Oculus通过众筹实现资本化

Oculus在2012年8月发起了有史以来最为成功、高调的众筹竞选,筹集资金用于创造Rift“开发工具”和加快Oculus的发展势头。Kickstarter项目迅速扩散,30天内募集资金超过240万美元,远远超过其25万美元的集资目标。

240万美元可不是个小数目——等同于许多年轻的创业者从天使投资人、风投公司或是银行贷款等传统筹资渠道所能募集到的资金,甚至更多。多亏有产品周边的对外宣传,Oculus通过来自Kickstarter的捐赠募集到了全部资金,而这些赞助人们并不奢求它未来的商业表现。

在大多数回报型众筹竞选中,出资金额常为60到80 美元。而大多数Oculus的支持者们不同于此,他们在Kickstarter上支付了巨额资金。它的奖励包结构(凭借提供300美金级别的Rift开发工具)使Oculus 72%的赞助人出资300美元或者更多。

Kickstarter集资结束之后,Oculus又从机构投资人处继续进行了两轮筹资:第一轮筹得1600万美元,第二轮风险投资筹得7500万美元。公司将承诺的回报递交给它的众筹者——虽然相比预定日程晚了几个月——随后便进入了与Facebook的商谈。

目前Facebook已经宣布了20亿美元的收购协议,风投以及在Kickstarter之后获得Oculus股权的其他投资者们将会从中获益颇丰。Kickstarter的赞助人们曾给他们所信任的项目投入成百(甚至上千)美元的血汗钱,然而现在却毫无回报可言。

集资的未来,投资者将获得股权

Oculus的赞助者们并没有保持沉默,而是表达出了他们对于Facebook交易一事的感受。Kickstarter的页面上布满了负面评论,其中有些人对于Oculus决定对其用于购买的产品“甚至在完成第一个消费者版本前就开始现金支出”感到极为恼火,还有一些人因为“这些慷慨解囊的人们”本质上“资助了Facebook”而感到十分不悦。

事实很清楚,那就是为了回报而赞助Oculus的人们知道他们不会成为公司的所有者,他们同样感到失望的还有另外一件事:许多个人也同样得益于Facebook和Oculus之间的交易,但是其中并没有来自Kickstarter的赞助者。

“我觉得我更愿意买点Oculus股份而不是要现在手头上这个价值300美元的过时VR体验机,”一个评论者写到。

考虑到这件事情的结果,是不是几乎所有Oculus的赞助者们都会想这样做?

但愿不久之后他们真的能够这么做。“股权众筹”的规则正在通过SEC的审查。创建于2012年就业法案第三章的股权众筹将会使社会大众能够通过规定的众筹流程为了股权而投资创业项目和其他早期商业活动。

不过股权众筹并没有获得所有人的称赞,有些批评者(正确的)指出许多创业都以失败而告终。对于并不富有也未获公认的投资者来说,开放式投资机遇在商业初期将会使大家的投资风险增高。

的确如此。但是高风险投资在投资证券组合之中同样占有一席之地,而且并非所有股权众筹机遇都和其他的一样冒险。刚刚启动的创业项目和处于萌芽或者成长阶段而且已经能够盈利的公司之间还是大有区别的。所有这些生意将来都能够通过股权众筹来筹集资金。

如果“众”投资者为他们所支持的(他们可以的话)公司投入一小笔资金,并且通过支持形式各样、发展阶段不同(他们可以的话)的公司来使他们的投资多样化,那么他们就可以使用新的规则并可能从像是Oculus一样的情况中获益。

想想看——在第三章所提到的世界里,这些来自6800多人每笔超过300美元的贡献可以当作是300多美元的投资。几千人在起床后听到Facebook最新收购的消息会感到高兴,因为他们知道自己不仅支持开发了一项激动人心的产品,而且他们的投资将会获得财富收益。

另外,像是Oculus这样运气够好能够获得“许多慷慨解囊的人”所支持的生意应该有能力去用所有权来回报这些人,而不只是一个预购产品或者礼物而已。股权众筹将会使这一切成为现实。

是时候让普通的众筹参与者获得与高净值投资者以及风投公司一样的特权了。股权众筹能够让你成为主人——而不仅是个赞助者——在商业运营的早期……而且可能在运行中有所收益。

Editor's Note: The following is a guest post from Salomon Wancier, CMO at EarlyShares. Wancier argues that the controversy over the Oculus-Facebook deal is a signal that equity crowdfunding can't come soon enough.

In case you hadn’t heard yet, Facebook is again shelling out billions to acquire a high-profile tech startup. The new acquisition is Oculus VR, a maker of virtual reality headsets and other technology.

The news of Facebook’s latest buy is notable for a lot of reasons. One is the fact that Facebook plans to use the acquisition to turn social networking into a 3D experience. Another is that while Oculus’ key product, the Rift headset, has earned a ton of positive media attention and major praise from the gaming community, it’s still a prototype that’s not publicly available for purchase.

All of which proves that Facebook is making a big, bold bet on Oculus VR — to the tune of $2 billion. But you know who also bet big on Oculus? Its 9,522 backers on Kickstarter, who will get nothing in return for their support.

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OCULUS CAPITALIZES ON CROWDFUNDING

Oculus conducted one of the most successful, highest-profile crowdfunding campaigns of all time in August 2012, raising money to create Rift “developer kits” and accelerate Oculus’ momentum. The Kickstarter project went viral, far exceeding its $250,000 funding goal to raise a total of more than $2.4 million in 30 days.

$2.4 million is a healthy sum — as much or more than many young startups can raise from traditional funding sources like angel investors, VC firms, or bank loans. Thanks to the publicity surrounding its product, Oculus raised it entirely through donations from Kickstarter backers who got no stake in its future business performance.

Unlike most rewards crowdfunding campaigns, in which contributions of $60-$80 are most popular, the majority of Oculus’ supporters ponied up fairly large sums on Kickstarter. The structure of its rewards packages (whereby the Rift developer kit was offered at the $300 level) enabled Oculus to raise $300 or more from 72 percent of its backers.

After closing on Kickstarter, Oculus went on to raise two rounds of funding from institutional investors: $16 million in Series A and $75 million in Series B venture capital. The company delivered the rewards it had promised to its crowdfunders — albeit months behind schedule — and entered negotiations with Facebook.

Now that Facebook has announced the $2 billion purchase agreement, the VCs and other investors who earned equity in Oculus post-Kickstarter will reap massive returns from the acquisition. The Kickstarter backers, who gave hundreds (or thousands) of their hard-earned dollars to support a project they believed in, will see no returns.

A FUTURE OF FUNDING, WHERE THE CROWD GETS ITS SHARE

Oculus’ backers aren’t staying quiet about their feelings on the Facebook deal. They’ve been flooding the Kickstarter page with negative comments, some of them angered at Oculus’ decision to “cash out even before getting the first consumer version” of its product out for purchase, some upset that “this great community of generous people” essentially “kickstarted Facebook.”

And while it’s an indisputable fact that backers who supported Oculus in exchange for rewards knew that they weren’t becoming owners in the company, some of them are expressing disappointment at another indisputable fact: that many individuals are profiting from the deal between Facebook and Oculus, and none of them are its Kickstarter backers.

“I think I would have rather bought a few shares of Oculus rather than my now worthless $300 obsolete VR headset,” wrote one commenter.

Considering how things panned out, isn’t it likely that almost all of Oculus’ backers would have rather done the same?

Soon, hopefully, they’ll be able to. The rules for “equity crowdfunding” are making their way through the SEC’s pipeline. Created under Title III of the 2012 JOBS Act, equity crowdfunding will enable the general public to invest for equity in startups and other early-stage businesses through a regulated crowdfunding process.

Equity crowdfunding has its detractors, who point out (rightly) that many startups fail. Opening up investment opportunities in early-stage businesses to non-wealthy “non-accredited” investors will expose the general public to high-risk investments.

That’s true. But high-risk investments have a place in an investment portfolio, and not all equity crowdfunding opportunities will be as risky as others. There’s a difference between a just-launched startup and a seed- or growth-stage company that’s already earning revenue. All of those businesses will be able to use equity crowdfunding to raise money.

If “crowd” investors make small dollar-amount investments in the companies they support (which they’ll be able to) and diversify their investments by supporting a variety of companies at various growth stages (which they’ll be able to), then they’ll be able to use new regulations to potentially profit from situations like that of Oculus.

Think about it — in a Title III world, those $300+ contributions from 6,800+ individuals could have been $300+ investments. Thousands of people would be waking up happy to the news of Facebook’s latest acquisition, knowing that not only had they supported development of an exciting product, they’d be earning a financial return on their investments.

Plus, a business like Oculus that’s fortunate enough to have a “great community of generous people” behind it should have the ability to reward those people with ownership, not just a pre-ordered product or gift. Equity crowdfunding will allow them to.

It’s time for the everyday “crowdfunder” to gain the same privileges that high net-worth investors and VC firms have always had. Equity crowdfunding will enable you to become an owner — not just a backer — in the early-stage businesses you believe in… and to possibly earn profits in the process.


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