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CrowdFundingLive carves niche for itself

John Seelmeyer

Debe Fennell expects that crowdfunding will be the next gold rush.

And like the tailor on Virginia Street who started selling riveted jeans to miners headed to the Comstock 143 years ago, Fennell and her partners in Reno-based CrowdFundingLive LLC are positioning themselves to build a profitable business selling to the folks who are rushing by.

Interest in crowdfunding, in which entrepreneurs reach to the widest possible audience for funding of startups and individual projects, is likely to grow rapidly, Fennell says, with last spring’s passage of the federal JOBS (short for “Jumpstart Our Business Startups”) Act.

That measure reduces the limits on equity funding of startups, which previously was the mostly the turf of small groups of well-heeled investors, and opens the door to Web-based crowdfunding.

The Securities and Exchange Commission currently is enmeshed in writing the complex regulations that will surround crowdfunding.

In the meantime, while entrepreneurs can’t yet raise equity capital through crowdfunding, they can use the Web’s reach to seek gifts from members of the public who want to help launch businesses or products.

CrowdFundingLive hosts a Web platform on which entrepreneurs, predominately women entrepreneurs, showcase their projects and request funds in exchange for rewards that range from public thanks to copies of the finished products.

Among products seeking support on CrowdFundingLive last week were a book on fitness for people over 60, an inspirational movie titled “Heroes for Humanity,” and a five-episode Web series about the meaning of dreams.

CrowdFundingLive takes a cut of 5 percent on projects that reach their funding goal.

“This is the way that business is going to go in the future,” Fennell said last week.

Along with the fees it collects for its platform services, CrowdFundingLive LLC provides counsel to entrepreneurs who want to tap the crowdfunding, it’s selling a how-to book, and Fennell is blogging like crazy on CrowdFundingLive.com to build interest and keep the site close to the top of Google searches.

“The reason that we have become well known is that we talk a lot,” said Fennell, noting that CrowdFundingLive battles for position among more than 400 Web sites competing to carve out niches for themselves in the crowdfunding space.

The company’s latest focus is selling tickets at $75 for an all-day seminar at the Atlantis in Reno on Oct. 20 that will show entrepreneurs how to tap crowdfunding, detail some of the changes that are possible as regulators build the infrastructure around the new federal law and spotlight several success stories.

A similar event in June in Los Angeles drew about 150.

Among the Reno-area experts who will speak at the seminar are sales consultant Alice Heiman, PR expert Alison Gaulden, and Aaron Young, chief executive officer of Laughlin Associates, which helps form business entities.

David Marlett, executive director of the National Crowdfunding Association, will keynote.

The seminar and the blogging fit well with skills Fennell developed during her earlier careers in event planning, public relations and marketing.

Other founders of the company include Abbi Kobrin, an event planner and media distribution expert from North Hollywood, Calif., and Deb Augur, a Web developer and social media strategist in Castle Rock, Wash.