Equitise co-founder, Chris Gilbert

Equitise: changing the game for start-up investment

Margaret Paton

In just over a year, Trans-Tasman Equitise has raised $7.5M through sixteen projects on its equity crowdfunding platform, but not from an Australian base … not yet anyway.

Managing Director Chris Gilbert set up the business in New Zealand in early 2015 where he has been allowed to (legally) test his innovative, social platform. In Australia, this means of funding is currently only available to ‘sophisticated’ investors with net assets of $2.5 million.  

Equitise allows investors to join a venture capitalist or angel group’s syndicate to co-invest and access share deal flow. Financial investors in Equitise include Investec, AWI Ventures, H2 Ventures, Tank Stream Ventures, Bridgelane Capital and the New Zealand based Flying Kiwi Angels.

“What we do is put the whole model online so it’s accessible to a wider range of investors in a scalable manner,”

“We saw a lot of huge, clunky inefficiencies in how bigger corporates, the big four accounting firms and the bigger investment banks were approaching the job of raising capital.

“Our approach saves start-ups time and money while giving them access to a wide range of investments through one simple, transparent channel.”

Traditionally cash-hungry startups and companies turn to their personal network, venture capitalists or debt financing.

“What we do is put the whole model online it so it’s accessible to a wider range of investors in a scalable manner.”

But in mid 2014, Equitise co-founders and friends Gilbert and Jonny Wilkinson – then financial gurus with Deloitte and Citi respectively - had a light bulb moment. Within five weeks, they’d quit their day jobs and raised their first round of funding from the listed financial services business AWI Limited.

Over the next six months, with co-founder and tech developer Panche Gjorgjevski, the team built the technology platform to facilitate the online business model and secured a retail crowdfunding license in New Zealand. Equitise now operate a Trans-Tasman transactional private company investment platform.

Equitise completes a detailed ‘vetting’ process before allowing entrepreneurs to profile their plans, set a funding target and promote it on the crowdfunding platform for twenty-five to thirty days. Offers are marketed to the central database of investors, who can opt into a transaction by signing the standardised platform Investment Agreements, taking five minutes to complete the process online.

If funding targets are reached, Equitise passes the capital to the business raising the funds from its secure trust account. If minimum targets are not hit, the money is returned to the investors.

Successfully opening up investment opportunities to a broader market – to the benefit of our growing start-up sector –  investors are typically in their early thirties, professional career people, love technology and invest an average of $15,000.

Just listed on Equitise is fledgling start up, Bountye, an online mobile market place for people who "want a better way to buy and sell their pre-loved items" with proceeds going to a charity or cause. As well it offers members scope to join and create special interest groups.

Managing director and founder Asim Brown said since listing Bountye has had quite a few investors come on board.

"Equitise solves a massive problem for start-ups that want access to pre-series A capital. Raising capital after a seed round and before series A is common among startups, but it's also one of the most difficult raises to do in Australia.

"Most venture capitalists here are growth-equity companies masquerading as VCs - they're only set up for late-stage investments. Equitise provides access to high net worth individuals and angels who can take your business to the next stage."

An Australian base for the platform isn’t expected to be far off with Gilbert saying he expects the Federal Government to legalise equity crowdfunding after the July election.

Margaret Paton

Former Sunday Age staff journalist, Margaret Paton (formerly Jakovac) has written widely for corporations/government departments and more than 100 online/hard copy mastheads in regional NSW, Sydney, Melbourne and Europe.