The Digital Shareholder

78 Pages Posted: 24 Dec 2015

Date Written: December 22, 2015


Crowdfunding, a new Internet-based securities market, was recently authorized by federal and state law in order to create a vibrant, diverse, and inclusive system of entrepreneurial finance. But will people really send their money to strangers on the Internet in exchange for unregistered securities in speculative startups? Many are doubtful, but this Article looks to first principles and finds reason for optimism.

Well-established theory teaches that all forms of startup finance must confront and overcome three fundamental challenges: uncertainty, information asymmetry, and agency costs. This Article systematically examines this “trio of problems” and potential solutions in the context of crowdfunding. It begins by considering whether known solutions used in traditional forms of entrepreneurial finance — venture capital, angel investing, and public companies — can be borrowed by crowdfunding. Unfortunately, these methods, especially the most powerful among them, will not translate well to crowdfunding.

Finding traditional solutions inert, this Article presents five novel solutions that respond directly to crowdfunding’s distinctive digital context: (1) wisdom of the crowd; (2) crowdsourced investment analysis; (3) online reputation; (4) securities-based compensation; and (5) digital monitoring. Collectively, these solutions provide a sound basis for crowdfunding to overcome the three fundamental challenges and fulfill its compelling vision.

Keywords: Crowdfunding, Securities, JOBS Act, CROWDFUND Act, Uncertainty, Information Asymmetry, Agency Costs, Startup, Entrepreneur, Wisdom of the Crowd, Reputation, Monitoring, Crowdsourcing

JEL Classification: K00, K12, K2, K20, K22, K23, O1, O16, O3, O38, O40, E5, E51, G3, G32, D64, M13

Suggested Citation

Schwartz, Andrew A., The Digital Shareholder (December 22, 2015). Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 100, No. 2, pp. 609-85, 2015, U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 15-17, Available at SSRN:

Andrew A. Schwartz (Contact Author)

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

401 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

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