2014 CircleUp25: The 25 Most Innovative Consumer and Retail Brands

2014 CircleUp25: The 25 Most Innovative Consumer and Retail Brands

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur

While we often hear about innovations in technology, we hear less about innovations in the consumer industry. Why? It comprises more than 20 percent of the U.S. economy, and touches nearly every aspect of our lives, influencing what we eat, wear, and increasingly, reflecting what we believe. (I believe in sustainability, therefore I buy from sustainable brands.)

Good companies create products. Great companies create identities. We work with consumer companies day in and day out at CircleUp -- we've reviewed more than 4,500 in the past two years alone -- and we're excited ...


CircleUp25: A Look At Where The 2013 Winners Are Now

CircleUp25: A Look At Where The 2013 Winners Are Now

With the 2014 CircleUp25 now live, we want to look back at the winners from 2013 and share where they are now. As great consumer brands, the 2013 winners are affecting how we live our lives—influencing what we eat, what we wear, and what products we use. In some cases, they are also receiving large investments and showing strong growth. Listed below are some highlights that demonstrate the caliber of the 2013 class of winners:

Chobani, maker of Greek yogurt, received a $750 million investment from private-equity firm TPG.  Chobani is the leader in the $2 billion U ...


The Importance Of Secondaries In Angel Investing

Ryan Caldbeck, CircleUp CEO

This article originally appeared in Ryan's Forbes Blog

When you invest in a private equity fund or make an angel investment, you are told in big bold letters that this is an illiquid investment and you should not expect to touch that money again for at least 5 to 10 years.

Now that may be changing. A number of factors in the private equity world — including a hot IPO market and investors’ growing appetite for private equity — have converged to create early exit opportunities for private equity investors.

Recently there has been a rise ...


I Don't Crowdfund, I Invest

Ryan Caldbeck, CircleUp CEO

This article originally appeared in Ryan's Forbes Blog

I don’t crowdfund. I invest in consumer products companies. For true investors and those who focus on maximizing returns and managing risk — this is an important distinction that I think many people overlook in enthusiasm for crowdfunding. Not all platforms are created equal. From my years as a private equity investor and as the founder and CEO of an accredited investor crowdfunding platform, I think recognizing the difference between investing and crowdfunding is crucial.

At last count, according to crowdsourcing.org, there were around 400 ...


Why You Should Consider Circles

Why You Should Consider Circles

At CircleUp, we’re constantly striving to find innovative ways to help our investors access investment opportunities in innovative private companies. Last week we announced the launch of Circles, our latest product designed to help our investors access deal flow they otherwise would have difficulty finding. Circles are diversified funds that provide investors access to a set of companies with no fees and come in two flavors – investor led and thematic. Investor led funds allow individual members of our community with deep industry expertise to manage sector-focused Circles. These funds operate with no fees for investors. The Lead Investor earns ...


Investing in Natural & Organic Sector Companies

Many of the accredited investors that we work with at CircleUp express interest in investing in businesses in the natural & organic category.  These businesses focus on creating or selling an Organic Certified product, or a product made with natural ingredients.

Increased consumer awareness of the risks associated with products containing GMO’s, high levels of pesticides, preservatives, and other additives have helped to drive the growth of the natural & organic product sector.  Organic food sales more than doubled between 2004-2011 from $11 billion to $25 billion accounting for over 3.5% of food sales in 2008. Organic ...


Investing in B Corporations

At CircleUp, we often hear from investors that they are interested in investing in companies with a mission to make the world a better place.  We listened to our community and created the first ever investment vehicle focused exclusively on investing in B Corporations. B Corporations are certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. 

The B Corp Declaration states that it strives to harness the power of private enterprise to create public benefit through the creation of B Corporations, which are purpose-driven, and aspire to benefit all. The B in B Corp stands for Benefit, and ...


Investing Tips from Brad Feld

This post is by Katie Fitzgerald, Business Development Manager at CircleUp. 

I had the pleasure of interviewing Brad Feld, Co-Founder of Foundry Group and Techstars, recently.  Brad is an experienced investor and incredibly interesting person and I felt the insights shared with our CircleUp community during this call were worth sharing more broadly.

While Brad’s professional ventures focus on technology investments, personally, Brad is an active angel investor in the consumer products sector.  He also recently launched the Brad Feld Consumer Circle with us that will primarily invest in food and beverage companies. Brad’s delve into ...


CircleUp Company Quality

At CircleUp, we believe it’s important to present you with quality opportunities.  We measure companies internally through a variety of metrics including revenue, growth rate, team strength, and valuation.  We’re happy to say that based on our statistics, our quality is going up—by almost every measurable dimension.  With our two-year anniversary upon us, we wanted to share this data with you, our community. 

In the first quarter of 2014, Reviewed companies were approximately 20% larger and growing significantly faster than the same period last year.  Last year, they were growing at 50% and now they are growing ...


CircleUp Closes $14M Series B Funding

This piece was published in Women's Wear Daily by Vicki M. Young.

Equity-based crowdfunding platform CircleUp has closed a $14 million Series B round of funding.

The latest round was led by Canaan Partners. The last round of funding, $7.5 million in Series A led by Union Square Ventures, was in April 2013. Existing investors in Series A, including Google Ventures, Rose Park Advisors and Maveron — which was also an early investor in the $1.5 million seed round — were also investors in Series B. With the latest round, CircleUp has raised an aggregate of $23 million in less ...


Why An Equity Crowdfunding Site Could Become The Largest Marketplace In The World

Ryan Caldbeck, CircleUp CEO

This article originally appeared in Ryan's Forbes Blog and has been edited to bring it up to date

What do Airbnb, Etsy, OpenTable, Uber, and Kickstarter have in common? Well, to begin with, each of them are relatively young. Each of them also followed  the heavyweights Amazon and Ebay, and each of them share something else in common:

Their success stems from the simple fact that each one removed friction in a market by aggregating supply and demand in a user-friendly way. And there is something else: Each of these platforms have reaped ...


The Question Investors Must Ask Before Crowdfunding

Ryan Caldbeck, CircleUp CEO

This article originally appeared in Ryan's Forbes Blog

Equity crowdfunding has experienced dramatic growth in the past year, with platforms giving accredited investors the ability to explore potential investments online more quickly and easily than ever before. But all equity crowdfunding platforms aren’t built the same, and it’s important to assess a few factors before determining which platform you wish to use.

The number one question to ask is this: How are companies performing since they raised money on equity platform that you are considering using?

I would love to be able ...


The Six Keys To Consumer Investing

Ryan Caldbeck, CircleUp CEO

This article originally appeared in Ryan's Forbes Blog

Every industry has its critical value drivers. These drivers are instrumental when attempting to assess whether or not a business is poised to be a roaring success or a colossal failure. The consumer products industry is no different. In the course of my current role as CEO of CircleUp, where we have evaluated thousands of early-stage consumer companies, and my experience as a consumer private equity investor, I have seen countless consumer successes and failures. Below are the six critical areas every investor needs to diligence ...


The Best Business Model

Ryan Caldbeck, CircleUp CEO

This article originally appeared in Ryan's Forbes Blog

When I heard in November that Toms co-founder Blake Mycoskie had launched The Marketplace, where consumers can buy from social entrepreneurs, I was reminded, once again, why I love marketplaces.

Mycoskie’s expansion of Toms’ One for One™ philosophy to create a larger socially-infused marketplace illustrates many of the compelling attributes of marketplaces that I love: their power to disrupt inefficient and fragmented markets; an ability to add potential value for both buyers and sellers; and their capacity to actually expand a market.  As Greylock ...


Why You Should Think About Investing in Beauty Instead of Bitcoin

Ryan Caldbeck, CircleUp CEO

This article originally appeared in Ryan's Forbes Blog.

Bitcoin is all the rage right now and is the latest tech trend to follow social-mobile-local.  There are reasons to be excited about bitcoin, to be sure, just as there were reasons to love all other tech trends of the past decade.  But bitcoin, and tech trends like bitcoin, tend to suck a disproportionate amount of oxygen out of the room when talking about investing.  An industry that gets a lot less attention, relative to its attractiveness, is consumer.  Investors, particularly those focused on tech, tend to have a ...


10 Things An Investor Must Do Before Investing

Ryan Caldbeck, CircleUp CEO

This article originally appeared in Ryan's Forbes Blog

Investing in private companies is not easy. These are risky, illiquid, long-term investments, so you need to do a lot of work upfront to increase your odds of success. I’ve spent my entire career either investing into private companies or helping investors and companies connect through an online investing platform. In my experience, here are 10 things investors must to before investing:

1) Talk with the CEO.  When we first launched our equity crowdfunding platform, I was amazed that some online platforms were selling large ...


5 Attributes to Look for in High-Performing Employees

Ryan Caldbeck, CircleUp CEO

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.

With so much attention paid to innovations and disruptive business models in the venture capital and startup world, it can be easy to overlook the vital importance of great people.

I keep a quote from legendary venture capitalist Arthur Rock in mind when hiring: “What I’m interested in is investing in people.”

Of course, every company wants stellar employees who are impactful, high performers. Identifying those high performers, however, takes hard work in recruiting, screening resumes and interviewing.  

Here are five key attributes that CircleUp looks for in ...


CircleUp Company Metrics

CircleUp Company Metrics

The team at CircleUp knows that raising money for a consumer or retail company is extraordinarily hard, and it’s not made any easier when you don’t know how you stack up to the rest of your industry or to investor expectations. It’s doubly hard when the investors themselves often don’t know what to expect.

Because we’ve had over a thousand companies apply to CircleUp, we’re in a unique place to help provide the data that entrepreneurs need to benchmark against their peers, raise money efficiently, and achieve their goals. Above we’ve provided median ...


Rick's Picks Artisan Pickles--Raising Funds on CircleUp

Rick's Picks Artisan Pickles--Raising Funds on CircleUp

Rick Field was recently featured as one of ten members of the 3000-member Specialty Food Association’s rebranding campaign launched at the 2013 Fancy Food Show at the Javits Center in New York. The record-breaking crowd was greeted with a 30-foot poster of Rick right when they walked in.  We recently sat down with Rick Field of Rick's Picks. Below, Rick answers frequently asked investor questions.

CircleUp: What differentiates Rick’s Picks from the average jar of pickles?

Rick: Rick’s Picks has three attributes which make us unique: our distinctive product, our wide distribution, and our experience ...


When Convertible Notes Make Sense for Consumer Companies

Ryan Caldbeck, CircleUp CEO

This article originally appeared in Ryan’s Forbes Blog and has been edited to bring it up to date. http://www.forbes.com/sites/ryancaldbeck/

                Convertible notes seem to be all the rage for pre-revenue tech startups these days. Convertible notes (aka convertible debt or convertible loans) are a financing mechanism whereby a company raises debt capital from investors at time zero, with the ability for the investor to convert this debt into equity at a later date at a fixed conversion ratio. This funding tool is probably most prominent for early-stage (i.e. pre-revenue ...


Why Some Tech Veterans are Wrong on Consumer Investing

Ryan Caldbeck, CircleUp CEO

This article originally appeared in Ryan’s Forbes Blog and has been edited to bring it up to date. http://www.forbes.com/sites/ryancaldbeck/

                On April 28th, Jenna Wortham and Claire Cain Miller wrote an interesting piece in the New York Times that discussed venture capitalists’ growing interest in food start-ups. According to research firm CB Insights, VCs invested $350 million into food startups in the last year, up 37% vs. the prior year, though still less than 1% of total VC investment. I have quoted other figures in Disrupting Finance (4% of ...


Exit Markets for Consumer & Retail Are on Fire

This article originally appeared in Ryan’s Forbes Blog (http://www.forbes.com/sites/ryancaldbeck/).

At CircleUp, an equity crowdfunding site, we help investors invest in high-growth consumer and retail companies.  One common question we get from people here in Silicon Valley relates to the lifecycle of consumer brands:  what happens to consumer and retail companies after an investors puts in money?  Not everyone realizes that the performance of public consumer companies has been strong, even through the recession, while the M&A market is incredibly robust.   

While tech company exits seem to get a disproportionate share ...


Why We are Picky: The Importance of Curation in Crowdfunding

Ryan Caldbeck, CircleUp CEO

This article originally appeared in Ryan’s Forbes Blog and has been edited to bring it up to date. http://www.forbes.com/sites/ryancaldbeck/

One of the questions I am asked most frequently is: How do you choose the companies featured on CircleUp, our equity-based crowdfunding platform? For donation based crowdfunding sites like IndieGoGo, any person, company or project can raise money, with the prominence of the project dictated by its ensuing popularity. When people are giving $50 to support a cause or because they want to pre-buy some product, that works well.  However ...


Small Business Loans: A great option…unless you actually need money

Small Business Loans: A great option…unless you actually need money

Ryan Caldbeck, CircleUp CEO

This article originally appeared in Ryan’s Forbes Blog and has been edited to bring it up to date. http://www.forbes.com/sites/ryancaldbeck/

When my co-founder and I launched CircleUp, an equity-based crowdfunding site, last year, we knew we needed to accomplish two critical tasks (well, a lot more than two, but these two stood out): 1) nail our business model and 2) raise capital., The best way to ensure a good business fails is to undercapitalize it. While we had the option to try to raise debt or equity capital, we knew debt ...


5 Reasons to Invest in Consumer and Retail Businesses

5 Reasons to Invest in Consumer and Retail Businesses

Ryan Caldbeck, CircleUp CEO

This article originally appeared in Ryan’s Forbes Blog (http://www.forbes.com/sites/ryancaldbeck/).

I often get asked “so why are you focusing only on consumer products and retail companies at CircleUp? Won’t your investors miss out on the next Twitter or LinkedIn?” Living in Silicon Valley, tech investing is not a sub-category of early-stage investing, it is early stage investing, and the numbers prove it. According to Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ and the National Venture Capital Association’s MoneyTree Report, almost 60% of the $28 billion of venture financing in 2011 went to the tech ...


Why I Left Private Equity…And Started A Crowdfunding Site

Why I Left Private Equity…And Started A Crowdfunding Site

Ryan Caldbeck, CircleUp CEO

This article originally appeared in Ryan’s Forbes Blog (http://www.forbes.com/sites/ryancaldbeck/) and has been edited slightly to bring it up to date.

                If you had told me in June, 2011 that I would leave private equity to start an equity-based crowdfunding site, I would have laughed.  At that time, I had just been promoted to Director at Encore Consumer Capital, a leading consumer-focused private equity firm, and, most importantly, I had never heard of equity-based crowdfunding. 

                After spending close to seven years at Encore and TSG Consumer Partners ...


Pivoting, Consumer Products Style

Pivoting, Consumer Products Style

The following blog post is by Dan Gross, Vice President at Encore Consumer Capital, a consumer products private equity firm. This post originally appeared on Forbes.com on 6/25/2013

Ever since The Lean Startup author Eric Ries coined the term “the pivot”, it has become an integral part of Silicon Valley’s lexicon. Ries describes the pivot as, “the idea that successful startups change directions but stay grounded in what they’ve learned. They keep one foot in the past and place one foot in a new possible future.” A classic example of the pivot is Tote. If ...


Consumer Trends that Matter: Personalization

Consumer Trends that Matter: Personalization

By Marc Brush, Editor in Chief, Nutrition Business Journal

I’m an editor at New Hope, home to the largest trade shows in natural products, a portfolio of leading industry publications, and some of the smartest market research happening around the broad push among consumers toward cleaner, healthier, simpler products. I spend most of my time in the thick of the fray tracking industry sales and product trends, but the real fun comes in rising above that fray to better frame the systems of logic that first set it in motion. Some trends are just bigger than others. Some trends ...


WWD: Silicon Valley Sets Sights on Beauty: Meet the Silicon Valley and San Francisco power brokers from the worlds of tech and finance.

WWD: Silicon Valley Sets Sights on Beauty: Meet the Silicon Valley and San Francisco power brokers from the worlds of tech and finance.

Ryan Caldbeck, CircleUp, Founder and Chief Executive Officer

by Rachel Brown

After working for years in private equity at TSG Consumer Partners and Encore Consumer Capital,Ryan Caldbeck detected a hole in the financing ecosystem supporting upstart brands. He thought crowdfunding could be the solution. “Each week, we were seeing terrific small consumer brands that were doing incredibly well, but they were too small for private equity firms. These were under $10 million in revenue,” he recalls. “I wanted to start something to help these high-growth, smaller brands.” Enter CircleUp. Launched in April 2012, the crowdfunding platform connects brands looking for ...


Webinar: Legal Considerations for Consumer Investments

In the first of a series of webinars co-hosted by CircleUp, Brad Bugdanowitz and Larry Chu discuss some key deal terms and other related issues to consider when reviewing an investment opportunity in a consumer company. Brad and Larry are corporate partners with the national law firm Goodwin Procter.


3 Steps to Build your Distribution the Right Way

The below blog post was originally published in NewHope360.

When I talk to young CPG companies and ask how their retail distribution developed, most entrepreneurs tell me it has been fairly reactive: a random call from Whole Foods; the Safeway buyer saw us at a trade show, etc. Distribution is the lifeblood of any CPG company—you need to get products in front of the consumer to build a brand. Yet distribution can be incredibly tricky and expensive to build. So how should you go about building retail distribution? Here are three suggestions:

1. Just say no…to slotting.

I ...


Coca-Cola’s Focus On Innovation: How The Coca-Cola Company’s VEB Group Is Fueling Disruption in Consumer Products

 This week’s post is a Q&A with Coca-Cola’s internal venture group, VEB (Venturing & Emerging Brands).  As we continue to explore issues of crowdfunding, entrepreneurship, and disruptive forms of finance, I thought hearing from the venture group of a world class consumer brand would be interesting. As an investor and entrepreneur, I think hearing what a strategic thinks is helpful.

One of the many reasons The Coca-Cola Company has been well respected for so long is that they are always looking for innovation, inside and outside the company. While crowdfunding is one form of disruptive innovation for ...


Congress Extends 100% Exclusion For Gains From Sales Of Qualified Small Business Stock

Congress Extends 100% Exclusion For Gains From Sales Of Qualified Small Business Stock

We are honored today to have a guest post on our blog, Eric Wall. Eric is a Partner in the San Francisco office of Orrick, a leading national law firm.  We asked Eric to provide a perspective on a little noticed, but potentially significant, aspect of the recent tax law passed by Congress at the end of the ‘fiscal cliff’ debate.

CircleUp investors should be aware that investments on the platform may qualify for 100% exclusion from capital gains tax.  A number of caveats apply, and Eric discusses the details below, but we felt like this was a ...


Deloitte Predicts Crowdfunding Portals Will Have Increasing Impact On Venture Capital and Other Traditional Funding Sources in 2013

Deloitte Predicts Crowdfunding Portals Will Have Increasing Impact On Venture Capital and Other Traditional Funding Sources in 2013

Deloitte released the company's Technology, Media and Telecommunication predications for 2013 and one particular section on crowdfunding caught our attention. Among Deloitte's predictions:

  •  Between 2008 and 2012, crowdfunding portals likely lent more than $1.5 billion. In 2013 these loans could exceed $1.4 billion, up more than 50 percent from 201261.
  • In aggregate, crowdfunding portals are already a multi-billion dollar industry, growing at more than 50 percent a year.
  • Traditional venture capital raises about $40 billion annually67; charitable giving was almost $300 billion in the United States alone in 201168, and the pay day ...

The Most Common Mistake Entrepreneurs Make When Raising Money

The following article originally appeared on the website, NewHope360.com. Ryan Caldbeck, founder and CEO of CircleUp.com was recently added as a guest contributor for New Hope. 

During my career in consumer private equity (TSG Consumer Partners and Encore Consumer Capital) and my time as the CEO of CircleUp, I've met with thousands of companies looking to raise capital. Most of the entrepreneurs whom I've had the privilege of meeting have been fantastic—passionate about their business and ready to do whatever it takes to be successful.

However, even the most successful entrepreneurs make mistakes when ...


5 Brand Considerations Before Investing in a Private Company Online

This post is from Mike Kelly of Brand Value Advisors (“BVA”), BVA is a brand advisory firm that provides a broad array of brand due diligence and strategic marketing services to financial sponsors who invest in consumer brands, as well as the management of their respective portfolio companies.

As our name implies, we believe that a brand can represent unlimited upside potential to enterprise value. Companies achieve long-term success when they respect the power of their brand from day one and continue to meticulously build their brand every day. These companies gain many financial rewards: pricing protection, better leverage in ...


The Top Five Financial Technology Companies of 2012

The Top Five Financial Technology Companies of 2012

2012 has been a great year for financial technology product consumers. Whether you want to earn investment returns through peer-to-peer lending or equity-based crowdfunding, connect with great startups, or manage your wealth more effectively, companies in the FinTech space made leaps and bounds of progress toward these goals in 2012. While there are many great companies in FinTech that I have had the pleasure of observing and interacting with as the CEO of equity-based crowdfunding platform CircleUp, below (in no particular order) is a list of those that I find most impressive. Some impress me because of their product, others ...


Crowdfunding Predictions for 2013

2012 was quite a year for the crowdfunding industry. In April, President Obama signed the JOBS Act into law, which will open up equity-based crowdfunding for unaccredited investors. In May, the Pebble E-Paper Watch set a crowdfunding record and gained national media headlines, raising over $10 million on donation-based crowdfunding site Kickstarter. Research firm Massolution estimates the crowdfunding industry (equity + donation + lending +reward crowdfunding) will grow from $1.5 billion in 2011 to $2.8 billion in 2012.

So if 2012 was the year that put “crowdfunding” into America’s collective lexicon, what will 2013 hold for the nascent industry ...


Expo East 2012 – An Intersection of Trends

Expo East 2012 – An Intersection of Trends

Coconut was all the rage at Expo West a couple years back. Before that, Gluten-Free stole the show.  When attending one of the food industry trade shows (Expo East/West, Fancy Food), the natural tendency (yes, pun intended) is to look for the theme or themes that define the show.  At this year’s Expo East, however, there was no single ingredient, attribute, benefit, or category that jumped out as the next big thing.  Instead, the theme that stood out was brands attempting to differentiate themselves by combining existing trends.  Here are two examples of brands ...


CircleUp Continues to Grow

We are hiring!

The last few months have been phenomenal for us: the deals closed, the activity on the site, and the ever growing CircleUp community of leading consumer brands, investors and partners.   

We are continuing to build our team to improve our ability to serve our customers.  There are a number of positions open right now – starting with engineer #3.  

If you are looking to get in on the ground floor in the most exciting space in FinTech right now, we would love to hear from you.  Details here.


Food Manufacturers Seeking the Next Great Brand

Today, we are featuring a guest blog by Amol Dixit Amol has spent 15 years in the food industry. Most recently, he was responsible for identifying and working with emerging food brands for General Mills Ventures, the company's corporate venture capital arm.  He brings an expert perspective to CircleUp on the way large companies look at emerging food brands, and we are glad to share some of those insights with our community:

Large, successful food manufacturer seeks attractive startup to help shape its portfolio.  Ideal candidate is looking for a long-term relationship and has a brand that ...


Why the change in general solicitation will matter…but not how you think

Tomorrow, the SEC is expected to announce new rules for General Solicitation, the way private companies and others can advertise offerings. This change was a key component of the JOBS Act passed by Congress in April, and much has been written about the benefits for technology start-ups and others since then.  Today, we are featuring a post from Ryan that debuted in Forbes today.  

In April, President Obama signed into law the JOBS Act, which was designed to make it easier for small businesses to access capital and create new jobs in the process. On Wednesday, rules for ...


Interest in Health & Wellness CPG companies expands beyond usual (strategic) suspects

By Mike Dovbish, Executive Director of Nutrition Capital Network

For the past several years, I have been tracking financing and M&A activity within the health, wellness and nutrition sectors.  Recently I have noticed an interesting trend in the acquirers in this sector: some of the key, recent acquisitions have been made by non-traditional strategics (large, traditionally public, companies).  While these companies’ specific interests in their respective targets differ, the underlying trend is clear: health and wellness has been identified as a long term trend and an ever expanding group of strategics wants to get involved in this space ...


What's Next?

By Dan Gross 

Last week, Nutrition Business Journal and the Sterling-Rice Group released The Natural Products Industry Forecast 2013 (“NEXT”). NEXT examines the macro trends and forces that are having the greatest impact on the natural, organic and functional food and beverage space today and will have the greatest impact in the future. The report details seven macro trends shaping the natural food and beverage category and we will take a closer look at three that are particularly salient for investors in early-stage food and beverage companies:

  • Food Villains: Consumers are increasingly viewing food not as a way to be ...

Returns in Angel Investing and What it Means for Crowdfunding

By Rob Wiltbank, Willamette University 

Today, we pleased to feature a guest post from Rob Wiltbank.  Rob is an Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at Willamette University, and the co-author of the most comprehensive research study on Angel Investing in the US.  Given the active discussion about Angel Investing and crowdfunding, we asked him to share his research, and his thoughts on what the findings mean for crowdfunding platforms like CircleUp. 

With the growing prominence of Angel groups, and the introduction of crowdfunding as a new model for Angel investing, there has been much debate ...


Stacy’s Pita Chips: A case study on spotting success in early-stage CPG companies

Today, Stacy’s Pita Chips are ubiquitous in food retailers across America. However, when a husband and wife team abandoned their lunchtime food cart business to start selling pita chips in 1997, few would have predicted that just eight years later, the business would have $60 million in revenue and be sold to Frito-Lay (PepsiCo) for a price rumored to be in the nine figures. So how did Stacy’s grow from just $1.3 million of revenue in 2000 to $60 million five years later, with less than $1 million of outside capital to ramp-up sales with? Below are ...

How the Jobs Act will Disrupt Funding for Small Businesses

Today, we are reprinting a piece from CircleUp Founder Ryan Caldbeck on Huffington Post.  There has been of attention recently for crowdfunding as a result of the Jobs Act.  We think much of commentary is misplaced.  The real impact of the bill will not be in technology, but in other areas of the economy that currently get a lot less attention:   Early this month, President Obama signed the JOBS Act into law, marking a new era for securities regulations.  The law eases restrictions for small businesses to raise capital, most notably through the introduction of equity based crowdfunding, the ...

The Promise of Crowdfunding for Consumer Companies

Reprinting a post from earlier today from Ryan in VentureBeat: President Obama is expected to sign the JOBS Act into law tomorrow — a piece of legislation that allows small businesses to receive investments via crowdfunding. This Act will benefit investors by providing a new source of portfolio diversification and potentially strong returns. It will also benefit startups and small businesses by opening up a much needed source of financing. While crowdfunding holds promise for many different industries, there are three reasons why investors should look closely at consumer-related companies in particular: 1. An Unsaturated Market. Few capital sources exist for ...

Update from CircleUp

Hello Blogosphere!  Sorry for the long absence.  It has been a very busy time (but exciting) around the CircleUp offices, with new additions, new office space and preparations for our upcoming launch. We recently moved into office space in lovely Pier 1 in downtown San Francisco.  In addition to letting us take advantage of the Thursday food stalls outside of the Ferry Building, the office is a great space for our growing team to work together.  A tremendous thank you to our broker/dealer partner, WR Hambrecht + Co, who has been wonderfully welcoming to us. The space is needed because ...

How The JOBS Act Could Change Startup Investing Forever

We are reposting here a blog entry from Ryan that was featured today on Techcrunch... Ryan Caldbeck, Founder of CircleUp Last week, the US House of Representatives passed the JOBS Act, a bipartisan bill aimed at supporting small businesses by making it easier for them to access capital.  A key feature of the bill enables crowdfunding, the process by which small companies raise growth capital from a large number of individual investors.  While many people are debating the impact of the bill on investors, what seems lost in the debate is what types of businesses are likely to benefit, and ...

Time for a snack?

From time to time, we will be featuring guest bloggers in this space.  Our first entry comes from a man who never pays slotting, consumer products investor extraordinaire, Dan Gross By Dan Gross The snack market is alive and kicking. Last week, General Mills announced it was acquiring Food Should Taste Good, a natural tortilla chip company with unique flavors like olive, jalapeno and chocolate, that was founded only six years ago (Food Should Taste Good acquisition announcement).  This week, emerging natural foods company, Mrs. May’s, was picked up by Dole at a very early stage, (Mrs. May’s ...

Crowdfunding Among Angels

By Rory Eakin, Founder of CircleUp Crowdfunding was a hot topic during Angel Capital Association 2012 Summit in Austin this week.   It featured prominently in the formal agenda, and was a frequent buzzword running through the hallways during the breaks.  Strong voices spoke out on both sides, but two clear themes seemed to emerge: 1) crowdfunding is coming, and it has the potential to change the Angel landscape significantly, and 2) a lot of uncertainties remain about how established Angel groups will engage with crowdfunding platforms, and whether this will help or hurt the early stage funding ecosystem. The most ...

Barking up the right tree: investing in the pet industry

By Ryan Caldbeck, Founder of CircleUp This week I  was at the Global Pet Expoin Orlando, FL, the pet industry’s largest trade show each year with seven thousand attendees.   The buzz at the show, and the performance of the companies he talked with, continued to reflect the strong growth of the industry.  In particular, alternative format dog food companies  are seeing incredible growth.   As consumers focus on natural materials and innovative ways to keep pets entertained, many dog toy companies are also seeing increased attention- just like the premium pet market. For those that haven’t ...

Goodbye Gluten?

By Ryan Caldbeck, Founder of CircleUp Lately, it seems impossible to go to the grocery store without seeing the words “gluten free” plastered across packages of breads, pasta, chips, cookies, seafood, and even pet products, and this trend shows few signs of abating. Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye that makes dough stretchy and enables ingredients to stick together. According to Mintel’s January 2012 “Gluten-free Foods” report, 3.1 million Americans suffer from Celiac disease (condition where intake of gluten causes abdominal pain) but another 30 million are sensitive or intolerant to ...

Why We Love Consumer and Retail Private Company Investments

By Ryan Caldbeck, Founder of CircleUp With over 15% of U.S. GDP driven by spending on fast-moving, consumable products, it’s no secret that the consumer and retail industries are critical to the overall economy. Institutional investors and strategic acquirers have taken notice too, with the average consumer transaction multiple growing from 8.9x EBITDA in 2009 to 10.7x in 2011 (Consumer and Retail Industry Update - Harris Williams & Co.). But why are we so excited about consumer and retail and why should you be too? Here are a few reasons:

  • Growth in All Economic Cycles: Consumer products ...

Private Market Diversification

By Rory Eakin, Founder of CircleUp Investors have long known diversification is key to managing risk and protecting returns in the individual portfolio.  Many investors rightly maintain significant portions of their portfolios in mutual funds or ETFs to gain exposure to a larger number of companies and asset classes.  Fixed income, emerging markets, commodities  – with a common brokerage account individual investors can gain access to most investment asset classes.   However, one area that has traditionally been out of reach for the typical independent investor is smaller private companies, both with larger firms (private equity) and early stage companies (venture capital ...

The Rise of Private Markets

By Rory Eakin, Founder of CircleUp Facebook is filing for a public offering this week, valuing the company somewhere in the neighborhood of $70-$100B.  This is an astonishing market capitalization, putting the social networking company on par with other entertainment companies like Disney ($70B) and Comcast ($71B).  Time will tell whether buying public shares is a good investment or not, but one thing seems certain: private investors are now capturing a much larger portion of the long term value of companies going public. Consider the Facebook IPO in contrast to the market capitalization of previous high-profile IPOs.  Microsoft debuted ...

The Growing Angel Investor Network

By Rory Eakin, Founder of CircleUp This week, The Wall Street Journal picked up on an overlooked report from the OECD released just at the end of last year about the growth and importance of Angel investing.  The report highlights interesting research on the Angel market, with a fresh perspective on both the global growth and the policy implications for governments interested in spurring job creation.   In addition to some helpful definitions on the market, the report shares data on the market, including:
  • The market is rapidly growing, and formalizing – the number of Angel groups in the US ...

Private Company Investments Provides Alternative Investments for Accredited Investors

By Rory Eakin, Founder of CircleUp 2011 was an agonizing year to be a public market investor.    Wild swings in the market on a daily basis – 40% of trading days included a hundred point movement on the Dow Jones Industrial Average – and from week to week left many investors exhausted by the time 2012 arrived.  And, with all the fluctuations, the market ended up right where it started at the beginning of the year. Perhaps more frustrating to professional and individual investors, the market movements appeared unhinged from underlying company fundamentals.  Macro events and global headlines from ...

What's next for Crowdfunding

Major news day for the crowdfunding world with the President signing the JOBS Act at the White House this afternoon.  We are proud to be a part of this movement. What comes next?  Here is our take, published today on Forbes:

Today, President Obama will sign the JOBS Act, which, among other things, will permit crowdfunding, the process by which small businesses raise equity capital in small chunks from individual investors.  However, crowdfunding advocates need to remain patient.  There will be no crowdfunding for unaccredited investors in 2012.  In fact, the future of crowdfunding is ...


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