Opstart has launched Crowdarena, the first ad portal in Europe to trade shares of startups and SMEs, responding to the liquidity needs of investments with equity crowdfunding. General Manager Giovanpaolo Arioldi illustrates what this is about and also comments on the current situation and what could happen in the fintech sector.
What’s Crowdarena? Why is it a turning point in the Italian crowdfunding equity landscape?
Crowdarena is an ad portal dedicated to crowd investors, a virtual place where we facilitate matching between those who want to sell and those who want to buy shares of startups and SMEs that have successfully completed an equity crowdfunding campaign on Opstart.
The project was born from an idea of ours, presented at Consob in 2018 with the Beta version of the portal. It was called Crowdtrading and provided a much more extensive functionality. On the basis of our initial proposal, a compromise was reached with the authorities that led to the amendment of the European and Italian regulation on Crowdfunding Equity, through the introduction of the concept of “bulletin board”, i.e. the possibility for managers of portals like Opstart to create a bulletin board for crowd investors. This is a first, but important step,towards a secondary market.
How does it work and who can get in?
Anyone can access and view the advertisements published. To publish an ad, however, the user must register and fill out a form with information about the shares he wants to sell or buy. The ad is first checked by our team and then made public. Once the ad is online, other users will be able to contact the investor directly and trading will take place privately, as required by Consob regulations.
What exclusive advantages does it provide, compared to the Italian scenario?
Crowdarena is at the moment the only authorised ad board at a European level and this gives our investors a huge advantage and one more tool to find buyers of their shares. Companies, on the other hand, have a showcase on a portal frequented mainly by investors interested in the world of innovation.
Equity Crowdfunding in Italy from a regulatory point of view. Is the current CONSOB regulation in your opinion adequate or would it need further changes? If so, which and why?
We are satisfied with some changes introduced by the new Consob regulation that came in force at the end of October 2019.In particular, the fact the legislator has given the possibility to equity crowdfunding portals to open up to debt instruments – minibonds and private debt. This step represents a great opportunity and we decided to seize it immediately. We are the second portal to get authorisation and soon our division, Crowdbond, will be active. On the other hand, Consob has been more restrictive on the rules for the announcement board. Initially, we had requested permission to publish ads of all the startups that had carried out crowdfunding equity campaigns on all Italian portals, but the rules limited the option for only those campaigns that had carried out a collection on Opstart. We are waiting for an opening to the European market and the extension of our authorization to the lending crowdfunding and crypto asset or STO (security token offering) market.
Equity crowdfunding in Italy from a cultural point of view. How has the sector grown in the last few months in the country from your point of view and in which population groups?
The sector is growing at a fast pace and the data confirms this: of the over 143 million collected to date, more than 60% has been collected between 2019 and 2020. These numbers are still small but encouraging and show that more and more companies and investors are relying on this tool.
As far as we are concerned, we have noticed that it is no longer only startups that are looking with interest at equity crowdfunding, but also many SMEs with more traditional business models and the desire to grow and innovate.
Data from the crowdinvesting observatory at the Milan Polytechnic show that Opstart has the highest percentage of female investors in the market. We reach 16%, with a market average of about 10/11%. It is still a very small number, but one of which we are proud, and it gives us hope that crowdfunding equity can bring us closer to a female audience extremely undervalued by the financial world.
How do you think The Coronavirus and its impact on the economy and our habits, can impact the financial habits of Italian citizens?
From a financial point of view, citizens are frightened by the current situation, they fear that they will lose their savings and that economy will not recover quickly. It is obvious that most companies will find it very difficult to resume business once the health emergency has returned. On the other hand, there will be specific sectors that will benefit from this: some of our startups have had a peak in turnover, I am thinking of e-learning or delivery services, for example. This crisis will lead to a lower propensity to risk on the part of investors, at least for some time, as often happens after a “black swan”. Then things will return to normal and in the long term investors who have diversified their portfolios into different sectors and financial instruments will be rewarded. At the moment we are trying to propose safer investments, such as those in the renewable energy sector which can enjoy a revenue guarantee according to the laws in force.
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