Decrypt’s Art, Fashion, and Entertainment Hub.
Republic is blowing up the crowdfunding model. Again.
The New York-based equity crowdfunding platform was one of the first to offer an all-in-one fundraising solution for crypto startups—and now, it’s attempting something completely different: a blockchain-based token that, in the future, will enable anyone and everyone to share in the success of the companies that it helps raise money. And it’s giving it away for free.
Republic is a FINRA-licensed, fundraising portal that enables early-stage companies to raise startup capital from both experienced venture capitalists and ordinary mom and pop investors.
Launched in 2016, the firm now has more than 80 companies in its portfolio—and Republic owns a small equity stake in each of them as part of the terms of their successful raises.
Now, Republic is offering anyone an opportunity—at no monetary cost—to own a piece of them, too. Here’s how:
The company, which is part of a larger network of startup platforms that includes AngelList, Product Hunt, and CoinList, is launching its very own blockchain-based token called the Note. Starting Monday, Republic will begin distributing Notes for free to anyone who signs up on its website.
“Notes are earned through specific actions and provide users with a bunch of perks, such as early access to investment opportunities, events, and stuff like that,” says Bryan Myint, managing director of Republic Crypto—the company’s token-fundraising division.
Registering an account on Republic earns you your first 10 Notes, for example, while referring a startup to the crowdfunding platform would earn 1,500 Notes.
“But the cool part here is,” says Myint, “Republic aims to eventually link the Note to Republic’s equity interest in every company that raises on Republic, which allows Note holders to have a stake in the potential upside on Republic’s entire portfolio.”
Myint says Republic plans to flip the switch on the revenue-sharing capabilities of its token by the end of the year—and perhaps as soon as September. At that point, Note holders will essentially be part of a “mutual fund of everything on Republic,” he says—an “evergreen ETF.”
“It’s a basket of goods on Republic, but the thing is that basket always keeps getting bigger, because we’re always adding new projects,” Myint says. After every successful raise, or every time a Republic-funded company is acquired, revenue will be distributed to those who hold Note tokens.
A simple promise of future security tokens?
And if that sounds exactly like a security token to you, then you can understand why Myint and Republic can’t say much more than that at this time. Myint insists, however, that everything is being done on the up and up with respect to federal securities laws and regulations.
Compliance is, after all, what Republic has built its brand on. The company staffs four in-house lawyers and is headed up by Kendrick Nguyen—AngelList’s former general counsel and a securities litigator himself. In fact, Republic Crypto, the fundraising portal designed for crypto startups to make use of the Regulation CF securities registration exemption, is one of the very few ways that blockchain companies can sell tokens to non-accredited U.S. investors in an SEC-compliant way.
In this vein, a disclaimer at the bottom of the page devoted to the Note on Republic’s website offers some insight for those curious about the legalese:
“Although the Note may not at this time constitute a ‘security’ under our view of applicable laws and regulations, Republic is conforming to the standards of testing the waters under Regulation A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended ("the Act”). This process allows companies to determine whether there may be interest in an eventual offering of its securities.”
That appears to be precisely what Republic is currently doing with its Note: testing the waters to gauge demand for a security token by giving it away and, at the moment, assigning it no value—other than a kind of digital coupon that unlocks “investment perks.”
The company is careful to note that there is no guarantee of future results, and though Republic plans to unlock the security-like features of its token in a matter of months, that likely all depends on how this trial run goes.
It’s an experiment. But if works, it’ll become one of the more interesting ways to hold an investment stake in a wide variety of up-and-coming ventures.