Entrepreneur Profile: Will Tindall, Co-Founder of Emerging Crowd
Will Tindall is the Co-Founder of Emerging Crowd, a crowdfunding and investment platform that supports startups and early stage companies. Having worked in wealth management at the Arbuthnot Banking Group in London, Will relocated to Asia to explore his passion for strategic business development across emerging and frontier markets.
With his considerable experience in wealth management, private equity and financial communications, Will knows better than anyone how a business can grow in a developing market given the right injection of capital. Here, he offers his unique insight into cross-border crowdfunding, investment fundraising and the future hotspots for global growth.
Can you tell us a little about your background?
Initially I worked in the City of London in wealth and fund management. I had always been fascinated with Asia and the emerging, frontier markets. Then, after a couple of drinks one evening, I announced I was moving to Mongolia. I had previously seen a job in Ulaanbaatar for an investment operating group, and so I took the position of Director of Business Development. At the time, Mongolia was the fastest growing economy in the world and was an extremely fun and exciting place to live. After Mongolia I moved to Hong Kong, then Singapore, and led the fundraising efforts for various emerging and frontier market companies.
What motivated you to create Emerging Crowd, and why is this the right time to introduce the platform?
For small and medium-sized companies in developing markets, the traditional fundraising models are often woefully inadequate. I found that even the best companies were not adequately served by conventional banking and brokerage models. When I attended investment roadshows, I recognised that the institutions being pitched to would be unable to participate because the deal size was either too small or didn't fit the pre-determined investment parameters. I worked with Lucien, my Co-Founder, on one such deal and we started discussing whether this process could be made more efficient. At the time, we recognised that crowd investment had begun to revolutionise the marketplace for startups and early-stage companies in developed markets; and we felt this technology could bring much needed agility and transparency to later-stage investments in emerging and frontier markets.
What's behind your focus on Sub-Saharan Africa and other frontier markets?
Frontier markets and certain emerging markets are characterised by higher rates of growth, consumer-driven businesses, young populations as well as rapid urbanisation and industrialisation. Forward-thinking investors and economists agree that these markets offer outstanding investment opportunities. In fact, significant research has recently been published to demonstrate that these markets are often characterised by lower volatility than developed markets. At Emerging Crowd we are particularly excited about the emergence of the new consumer classes; we believe this will be one of the primary driving forces for global growth over the next decade.
What are the difficulties of cross-border crowdfunding and what impact do different regulations have?
Of course, there are added complexities with cross-border trading. We will only admit issuers from selected emerging and frontier markets that have demonstrated economic and political stability. We also want to see a reliable investor protection framework, legal and regulatory certainty, transparency and market integrity. We work with one of the world's largest and most reputable legal firms and they support us on all transactions. We also work with local law firms in the individual jurisdictions and have a team of highly experienced in-house investment analysts.
Is crowdfunding symptomatic of changes in investor behaviour?
At the moment there are reportedly three million 'DIY investors' in the UK, and this is forecast to increase to 5.5 million by 2017. The Holy Grail for investors has always been to identify a long-term investment trend before anyone else. Previously, these markets – at the early stage – have almost always been the preserve of high networth investors and industry insiders. Now for the first time, ordinary investors can sign up to Emerging Crowd and connect directly with a carefully screened selection of growth companies that are raising money online.
How important is the technology behind your platform?
We took the decision to build a highly bespoke platform that is simple to use and offers a streamlined investor relations service. This means investors can engage directly with companies through forums, webinars and the integration of social media. There are a very large number of crowdfunding platforms appearing and various companies offering white label solutions. We considered these initially, but found that none suited what we wanted to offer our investors. Also, as an authorised entity we are obliged to operate within the FCA's requirements.
How do you see the platform developing in the next five years?
There is little doubt that new technologies are greatly enhancing private market efficiencies. Emerging Crowd offers the potential for a major overhaul of a largely institutional framework for allocating capital to companies in emerging and frontier markets. We hope that in the next five years we will be able to evidence this.
What impact do you hope Emerging Crowd will have on your target markets?
We hope that the platform will allow companies in emerging and frontier markets to leapfrog the inefficient legacy systems prevalent in the developed world; and in doing so, gain access to additional sources of funding. This should unlock the huge growth potential of these well managed companies and drive the economic ecosystems within these markets.