Tommaso D’Onofrio, CEO of Assiteca Crowd & President of European Equity Crowdfunding Association Incites Change in Alternative Finance in Italy and Abroad

University of Cambridge and EY

European Alternative Finance Benchmarking Survey UPDATE

Since late November, the University of Cambridge teamed up with EY, the global professional services organization, and launched the European Alternative Finance Benchmarking Survey with the support of major European industry associations. As readers may know, this is the largest study to date on crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending and other forms of alternative finance in Europe. This benchmarking survey, which closed on 6 January 2015,  seeks to capture the size, transactional volume and growth of the alternative finance markets across Europe. To date, according to Bryan Zhang, PhD Researcher in Crowdfunding & Alternative Finance at The University of Cambridge,

“The benchmarking survey has been a huge success with 205 survey entries received from 28 European countries. Combined with 50 previous survey responses from the UK, we now have the most complete and comprehensive dataset of the European alternative finance industry at the aggregate level (based on 255 survey responses in total).”

Crowdfund Insiders around the world eagerly await the survey’s findings.  In the mean time, readers may continue to enjoy this enlightening series of interviews with influential European thought leaders and their incisive insight regarding alternative finance.

tommaso d'onofrioTo recap, just in case readers are new to the series, major national and regional crowdfunding associations in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, the Nordic countries and the UK are participating in this groundbreaking research. This benchmarking survey is supported by FPF, ANACOFI and AFIP (France), the German Crowdfunding Network, the Spanish Crowdfunding Association, Crowdfunding Hub (Dutch), AISCRIS (Italy), the Nordic Crowdfunding Alliance, the UK Crowdfunding Association, the P2P Finance Association, the European Crowdfunding Network, the European Equity Crowdfunding Association as well as the P2P Banking.com. Crowdfund Insider initiated the exclusive interviews with University of Cambridge’s Dr. Mia Gray.

The formidable cadre of European crowdfunding trailblazers interviewed thus far includes CrowfundingHub Founder and Executive Board Member of the European Crowdfunding Network, Ronald KleverlaanPresident of the Board of Asociación Española de Crowdfunding Daniel OliverLe Crowdfunding author,  AFIP and ANACOFI crowdfunding expert Marianne IIZUKA;  Coordinator of the German Crowdfunding Network and member of the European Crowdfunding Stakeholder Forum, Karsten Wenzlaff;  Executive Director of Peer-to-Peer Finance AssociationSam RidlerHead of the Nordic Crowdfunding Association, Dr. Rotem ShnoerAbundance Co-Founder and UKCFA Director Bruce Davis;  President of Financement Participatif France and Founder/ CEO of Unilend Nicolas Lesur and most recently, P2P-Banking.com and P2P-Kredite.com Publisher Claus Lehmann.

assitecaMy next interviewee is Tommaso D’Onofrio, President of European Equity Crowdfunding Association, member of European Crowdfunding Stakeholder Forum (ECSF), former President of AISCRIS and CEO of Assiteca Crowd.  In the following engaging interview,  D’Onofrio candidly shares his insight on disruption and exciting innovations in alternative finance and its corresponding regulations in Italy and Europe:

Erin: Why has AISCRIS decided to participate in the Cambridge-EY European Alternative Finance Benchmarking Research?

aiscrisTommaso: AISCRIS is the Italian Association of Innovation, Research and Development, Consulting Companies.  It belongs to CONFINDUSTRIA, Servizi Innovativi e Tecnologici (Federation of Innovative and Technological Services), representing about 17,000 businesses, €117 billion turnover and 600.000 employees.  Crowdfunding has been included in the annual program of the Association with specific actions, in particular, in the field of Equity Crowdfunding which is, in our opinion, the most important way to help the innovative companies. After this decision AISCRIS has been included in the European Crowdfunding Stakeholder Forum (ECSF).

Erin: The rapid growth of the various sectors indicate that peer to peer lending is clearly leading the charge – yet equity crowdfunding is rather small but growing rapidly.  How do you explain this phenomenon?  What about peer to peer lending?

P2P Word CloudTommaso: Equity crowdfunding is an innovative option for raising funds and for supporting ideas or projects, but this kind of investment is strictly related to some risks for investors. For this reason the possibility of providing money (lending model) outside the traditional banking sector, understandably is, at the moment, growing faster than equity crowdfunding. In the future, the improvements of national regulations and the growth of a new culture will lead equity model toward unexpected results.

Erin:  Following “Restart Italia” at the end of 2012 by a task force of experts for the Minister of Economic Development, the Italian Parliament issued a law on startups including equity crowdfunding that was finally made possible by CONSOB (the Italian Authority on Financial Markets) with the regulation n° 18592 of June 26th, 2013 for raising risk capital by “innovative start-ups” through on-line portals.  Has Italy “restarted” during its first year of equity crowdfunding?

Restart Italia ItalyTommaso: The Italian market is based on small enterprises that are facing huge problems in obtaining funds from the banks. The situation of newly incorporated companies (start-ups) is not so different. “Restart Italia” is offering a new vision to lead Italian entrepreneurs toward new possibilities of funding and networking. It’s just a matter of time and market, through a slow process, will explode.  Italy is on the right track.

Erin: What are your thoughts on Crowdfund Insider contributor and board member of Italia Startup and the Italian Startup Association Marco Bicocchi Pichi’s  comment,  “2015 is the year of the Global Entrepreneurship Congress and EXPO in Milan, and it will be an important year in the history of Equity Crowdfunding in Italy?”

milano expoTommaso: I totally agree. Italy was the first country that completed the regulations on equity Crowdfunding and our next challenge is the creation of a reliable environment for innovative entrepreneurs. In this direction next Expo represents undoubtedly a great opportunity.

Erin: What can the United States learn from Italy and Europe?

Tommaso: American law (JOBS Act) has been issued before the Italian law and even before every other European law, but Italian CONSOB acted faster than America’s SEC, issuing the final regulations. So, probably, Italy copied US law, but, in my opinion, made improvements. Italian law is better for its limit of investment ($6,7K vs $1K) and the possibilities for individuals to invest in innovative companies. In comparison with the US, in Italy, any foreign company, with a permanent establishment in Italy, can equity crowdfund regardless of the nationality of its shareholders. In general, the US market is more involved than the European market in actions of financial education, but Europe has a great opportunity to change.

italy-flagErin: How has the Italian government’s approach, both elected and regulatory, acted as a catalyst to propel crowdfunding and P2P?  How are regulations evolving?

Tommaso: In the near future, the Italian regulation will probably extend equity Crowdfunding to all the SMEs. To increase the number of innovative start-ups it is already possible for foreign companies to ask for a special startup visa in order to have a permanent residence in Italy and to launch an equity crowdfunding campaign. The Italian government is also working for a new vision aiming at a faster investment process.

Erin: In its findings regarding the role of women in alternative finance, the recent Nesta-Cambridge report states that women make up the majority of fundraisers in both donations based and rewards based crowdfunding.  How will women move to match the predominantly male P2P and equity crowdfunding sector?  What about other under-served segments of the population?

Crowd Fans Audience TrafficTommaso: Many women are positively approaching this new sector. In Italy some platforms are managed by women and it is an important achievement. It is also important to point out that many universities are promoting actions to disseminate the culture of crowdfunding. Within the academic team are involved many women and students.

Erin: In order for alternative finance to grow, the Nesta-Cambridge report explicitly notes “the industry needs to continue innovating, educating users and addressing the various concerns consumers and SMEs have about alternative finance.”  What will be done in Italy and in Europe to engender such growth further?

Tommaso D’OnofrioTommaso: Every European country is working for the improvements of its national regulations. At the European level, in ECSF (European Crowdfunding Stakeholder Forum) we are working to assist the UE Commission for a new communication (a non legislative paper) useful to face the main issue: the possibility of doing cross-border operations. Platforms operate on the web, necessitating an European and even a global vision in approaching this market.

Erin: Who do you identify as the trailblazing this path?

consobTommaso: In addition to the transnational view, the main issue is education. In Italy, CONSOB (the Italian Securities and Exchange Commission) recently issued an investor education document explaining the most important things to know before investing in innovative startups through portal. It is a best practice to disseminate all over the Europe.

Erin: How do you see crowdfunding evolving in Italy and across Europe?

Euros Money 500 Cash CurrencyTommaso: Crowdfunding is a new financial frontier. According to the forecast of the World Bank, by 2025, the global crowdfunding market could be almost two times the size of the global venture capital industry today. This is a great opportunity to create an important breakthrough for global entrepreneurs.

 

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Cambridge University Crowdfund InsiderCrowdfund Insider has joined with The University of Cambridge to be the exclusive media partner on this benchmarking research. This interview is one of a series that includes multiple, in-depth interviews with international thought leaders and crowdfunding industry pioneers from the collaborating associations.

 

For benchmarking research enquiries please contact Bryan Zhang, PhD Researcher in Crowdfunding & Alternative Finance at The University of Cambridge via email zz251@cam.ac.uk or twitter @BryanZhangZ or Robert Wardrop, Research Fellow at the Judge Business School, at The University of Cambridge at rhw40@cam.ac.uk

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