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iFunding危机将如何影响房地产众筹行业?

房地产众筹(RECF)虽说是众筹领域的后起之秀,但在过去的几年里却发展迅速。行业规模在2016年达到惊人的35亿美元,而到2025年则有望达到3000亿美元。网上房地产平台最适合利用这一爆炸式增长带来的机遇。

《JOBS法案》( Title III条例)允许众筹企业接受非授信投资者投资,但100万美元的限额降低了其有效性。在新出台的Title IV条例中,该限额被提高至5000万美元,这不仅会扭转房地产众筹市场的局势,同时也解放了万亿美元市场的机构资本束缚。但即使行业发展迅速,先前成立的行业参与者依旧感受到了竞争的压力。房地产市场有自己的传统、规则和流程,对于以“技术”至上的新手机构并不看好。比如,这次房地产众筹平台iFunding就因此受到了冲击。

iFunding:问题频发,危机重重

iFunding是房地产众筹早期的先驱之一,自2012年以来一直在商业和住宅房地产投资开展经营,创始人William Skelley拥有近十年的咨询与投资经验。由于"丰富的尽职调查和承销程序",iFunding已经设法筹集了近600万美元的风险投资,被认为是房地产业众筹资产业的基准。

然而,最近iFunding却遭遇了一系列棘手的麻烦事儿。首先,由于iFunding无法解释房地产社交网络BiggerPockets投资出现的相关问题,引发众多投资者不满。随后,密尔沃基项目交易失败,涉及Orange集团的五个翻修业务。与此同时,多项目开始出现延期还款。

除此此外,iFunding的管理团队无法对投诉给予满意答复,因此在社交媒体中口碑越来越差。因此,自2016年以来,该平台一笔交易都没有完成。

该公司还遭到了CapStack的控诉,因为iFunding"未能通过其平台筹得约定的金额,并对运营状况造假,以及一系列故意的延误,导致CapStack遭受损失。"正在寻求的赔偿额超过58.5万美元。

传票:压垮骆驼的最后一根稻草?

SEC发布了一份传讯,要求澄清有关iFunding的一些操作疑问,因为SEC在进行经纪执业过程中并未获得相应许可牌照。2016年初,一家律师事务所试图重组iFunding,但这并没有挽救公司面临重重困境的局面。此后,公司创始人兼首席执行官William Skelley决定离职。Skelly离职后,一位顾问和一些投资者尝试运营这一平台,但他们也遇到了类似的命运,可见该平台上漏洞有多大。

多个在线报告显示,iFunding目前已经接近无力偿债的边缘状态。目前,仍有近2000万美元的投资和400名投资者被套牢在这个平台上。为了挽救投资,Jazco Property Management LLC平台中最大的投资者之一决定加入管理公司投资组合的剩余资产。Jazco表示,缺乏适当的管理,财务控制糟糕和有意拖延付款是造成这种财政困难的主要原因。

影响:现在与未来

iFunding的破产将大大影响投资者对房地产众筹行业的信心。无论是机构还是非认证机构投资者,面对房地产众筹平台投资都会更加谨慎。投资者谨慎的做法可能会放缓房地产业繁荣行业的增长前景。

这一事件也将影响风险投资行业对众筹门户,尤其是房地产众筹平台的信心。这可能会影响风险投资交易和资金流动的速度。更重要的是,整个行业的估值可能会受到打击。良好的企业管理和充分的尽职调查或许能够拯救这一颓势。

但是,iFunding倒闭也许也能成为其他玩家的机会。如今,市场正在逐渐变得饱和,每周都会出现新的网络众筹平台。投资者现在只会专注于最大和最好的平台,从而限制了新手在市场中站稳脚的能力。专家认为,来年将有四五个众筹平台成为这一领域的领导者。 房地产众筹行业需要逐渐成熟起来,并开始关注性能,而不仅仅是处理流程。

Real estate crowdfunding (RECF) was a late entrant in the crowdfunding universe but has grown aggressively in the last few years. The industry size stood at a staggering $3.5 billion in 2016 and should cross $300 billion by 2025. Online real estate platforms are best suited to take advantage of this explosive growth.

JOBS Act Title III allowed crowdfunding companies to onboard non-accredited investors, but the 1 million dollar limit diminished its effectiveness. It was Title IV with a $50 million limit which turned the tide in favor of real estate crowdfunding companies, and it was an important piece of legislation to remove the stranglehold of institutional capital in this trillion dollar market. But even though the industry has been on a growth spree, previously established players have struggled to compete effectively. The real estate market has its own traditions, rules, and processes and has been unforgiving to technocrats who believe that putting everything online is the solution to all problems. iFunding is the latest casualty of this flux in the industry.

iFunding: Downward Spiral

iFunding, one of the early pioneers of real estate crowdfunding, has been dealing in commercial and residential real estate investments since 2012. It had managed to raise almost $6 million of VC and crowdfunding capital on the back of its "superior due diligence and underwriting procedures," which were supposedly considered a benchmark in the real estate crowdfunding industry. The company was founded by William Skelley, an executive with almost a decade of experience in consulting and investing.

First signs of trouble started showing when investors irritated with the deal performance and inability to solve the underlying issues started venting out on BiggerPockets, a leading real estate social network. The first deal to come undone was a Milwaukee project involving five fix-and-flip properties with an Orange Group. Multiple projects started seeing a delay in even principal repayments. Moreover, iFunding's management team could not address the complaints of the aggrieved parties, which led to further badmouthing over social media. As a result, the platform was not able to materialize even a single deal since late 2016.

The company was also slapped with a lawsuit by sponsor-partner CapStack as iFunding "failed to raise the agreed-upon sum through its platform, and then repeatedly lied about its performance in a series of intentional delays and brinkmanship, causing CapStack injury and detriment." The compensation being sought is over $585,000.

Subpoena: the final nail in the coffin?

The SEC issued a subpoena seeking clarification with respect to some operational doubts about iFunding, as it discovered that the startup was operating as a broker-dealer without having an appropriate license. In early 2016, a law firm made an attempt to restructure iFunding, but the company continued to face major headwinds and Founder-CEO William Skelley decided to leave the company. Following his departure, attempts were made by a consultant as well as some investors to operate the platform, but they were also met with a similar fate highlighting the gaping holes in the platform.

Multiple online reports have declared iFunding to be insolvent or on its brink. There are almost $20 million of investments and 400 investors still stuck on the platform. To salvage the investments, one of the largest investors in the platform-Jazco Property Management LLC-has decided to step in to manage the remaining assets of the company?s portfolio. According to Jazco, lack of proper management, financial control, and intentional delays in payments were the major reasons for this financial misery.

The Impact: Present and Future

Insolvency of iFunding will drastically impact investors' confidence in the RECF industry. Investors, both institutional and non-accredited, will be more circumspect and cautious while deciding whether or not to invest in a RECF platform. This cautious approach by investors might slow down the growth prospects of the real estate crowdfunding industry, and can even be a death knell if few more cases like iFunding crop up in the future.

This incident will also sour the venture capital industry's infatuation with crowdfunding portals in general and real estate crowdfunding platforms in particular. The space should see a reduced velocity in terms of deals and money flowing from VCs. More importantly, the valuations of the entire industry might take a hit. Corporate governance and due diligence will be the "disruption" and differentiating factors in this nascent space. Players who can showcase compliance and regulatory acumen of the highest order will survive.

But the iFunding insolvency is also an opportunity for bigger players; they can now lead the much-needed consolidation in the industry. The market was becoming oversaturated with online players popping up every week. Investors will now focus on only the biggest and the best, thus restricting any newcomer's ability to dictate the market. Experts believe that the coming year will see four-five players emerge as leaders in this sector. The RECF industry needs to mature and start focusing on performance rather than just deal flow.


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