NEW YORK (FOX 5 NY) - With the stock market so uncertain these days, could investing in startups be a smart strategy for 2019? New York-based Republic is giving investors that option for as little as $10 to $20.
Republic is a platform for investors of any net worth or income. CEO Ken Nguyen says Republic launched in July 2016 after the law changed, allowing anyone to back startups.
He has since received more than 3,000 applications from companies who want to fundraise with Republic. Ken says they accepted less than 60. They joke at Republic that they're more selective than Harvard.
95 percent of the companies on Republic have been fully funded. Many of them have minority or female founders, or both, like VisuWall by Kobi Wu, which puts smart advertising in vacant store windows.
Kobi says VisuWall's computer vision technology counts the number of people walking by, if they're looking, their gender, approximate age, and sentiment, thanks to a sensor in the windows.
So far, VisuWall is off to a good start. Their first client, ever, was Apple Music. Kobi says 2 million people walked by the Apple campaign over the course of two weeks, giving really great impressions. People stopped and stared, making for a great case study.
Since then, VisuWall has worked with Celine, Burberry, and Google. But it's not just about the advertisers. Kobi says VisuWall can really start to make a block look better, increase curb appeal and make a neighborhood look vibrant, when otherwise it's just vacant.
VisuWall's campaign on Republic launched in fall 2018 and has already raised more than $18,000. It needs $25,000 by April 1 to be fully funded. Investors can get in for $250. Kobi's pitch? The visual model is smart. People really like it. The business is able to grow. The company had a great first quarter and she thinks this is a good time to get in.
Investing in startups involves a lot of risks but has the potential for massive reward. Ken says early-stage investing is often an all-or-nothing value proposition. But that's why he says a $100 investment in Uber when it raised its first round would be worth something like $1.5 million to $2 million today.
While investing is risky, Republic also has safeguards. The platform is regulated by the SEC and supervised by FINRA. Ken is one of about half a dozen securities lawyers on the Republic platform.
His investing advice: For starters, pick a project you're passionate about and ask if the founders have enough capital to fund at least the next six months to a year and the expertise in the area where they're looking to build.