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。
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.
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.