53 Degrees North was interviewing Robbin Hoogstraten, Funding Specialist from Symbid, in their office in Rotterdam.
The Symbid story told from the perspective of a founder…
After the financial crisis in 2008, 3 students of Entrepreneurship at Rotterdam University discovered the up rise of alternative funding sources and social media for funding purposes in an economic situation in which it was very difficult to get funding and capital markets were at its rock-bottom. These students thought “why not come up with a platform that will help their fellow entrepreneurs to start up their business?”, “Why not build up a platform that helps entrepreneurs to sell parts of your business to a really large crowd and get more than just funding”. That is how Symbid was born – as the first equity crowdfunding platform worldwide and the first crowdfunding platform in the Netherlands. Since then, they have raised 26 million of funding for over 200 companies, both B2C and B2B. Today the company has broadened its scope a bit away from crowdfunding, including venture capital, business angels, strategic investors and further equity capital. “Today, crowd-funding is just one option to fund your business and our challenge is to convince the investors that we are not only a crowd-funding platform”.
Small lecture: the 3 types of crowdfunding
Robbin is differentiating between 3 different ways of crowd-funding. At first, the reward-based funding: you fund the first pieces and later raise series money. At second, and the most common one, loan crowdfunding, which is not much different from bank financing and is generating the largest volume of crowdfunding. The last form is equity crowd-funding, which is what Symbid does. “Through equity crowd-funding we are selling the message of the big dream of becoming the next Facebook. It is more of a long-term commitment, with a strategic view,” Robbin says. Within equity crowdfunding, Symbid built an SPV in which all shareholders are certificate holder of < corporative. “Shareholders get profit rights and the option for voting rights, starting with a ticket size of 2.000 € up to 100.000 €”.
“Worst case we can work for Deloitte or McKinsey”
“…this was the founder’s mentality…”, according to Robbin, who started with an internship at Symbid and is now also a shareholder in the company. Operationally, he is focusing on commercial activities in the company. When the 3 founders were studying, almost one third of the class wanted to become an Entrepreneur at the beginning of the program. At the end, 6 students actually pursued the path of becoming an entrepreneur, with a ‘what-do-we-have-to-loose-mentality’. And as Robbin tells us, “working in this environment is so much more rewarding. We get to help entrepreneurs, we build communities, we are connecting people. But regulation is always challenging.”
And finally, our two wacky questions…
…If Symbid was an animal, what would it be? “a Wolf, since everything comes in a pack at Symbid…”
…And if you can hire anyone in the world for Symbid who would it be? “The person who started the first stock exchange in Amsterdam…” (This was the Dutch East India Company – unfortunately, we could not find one single name).