Crowdfunding Platform StartEngine Targets $46 Million Raise To Grow Its Collectibles Exchange

Pat Maio
Pat Maio has held various reporting and editorial management positions over the past 25 years, having specialized in business and government reporting. He has held reporting jobs with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Orange County Register, Dow Jones News and other newspapers in Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
Crowdfunding Platform StartEngine Targets $46 Million Raise To Grow Its Collectibles Exchange

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Crowdfunding platform StartEngine is aiming to raise $46 million to fund the growth of its collectibles trading exchange and help private startups find fresh fundraising.

Since launching in 2014, Burbank-based StartEngine has helped startups raise over $500 million from roughly 760,000 investors across more than 500 offerings, according to the company. As well as enabling investors to buy stakes in businesses, it also operates a collectibles platform allowing them to invest in everything from artwork to vintage comic books.

StartEngine was founded by Howard Marks, who in 1991 helped resuscitate a struggling video game developer called Activision alongside his college roommate Bobby Kotick. Marks left Activision in 1997, around the time that the Santa Monica-based company went on an acquisition spree that rapidly grew its business and eventually resulted in its becoming Activision Blizzard in 2008. The controversial Kotick continues to run Activision Blizzard as CEO to this day and set up its pending $69 billion acquisition by Microsoft.

\u200bHoward Marks, StartEngine Founder and CEO

Howard Marks, StartEngine Founder and CEO

Courtesy of StartEngine

“I have one big hit under my belt,” the 59-year-old Marks quipped about Activision. He believes he’s got a second home run on deck with StartEngine.

StartEngine is currently crowdfunding for the likes of Legion M, a Century City-based production company backed by “Star Trek” actor William Shatner that’s looking to raise $3.85 million in financing, and Sugarfina, an El Segundo-based candy boutique seeking to raise $25 million.

In addition to purchasing shares in private companies, investors on the platform also can buy and sell fractional shares in collectible items like fine art, vintage wines and sports trading cards. In one ongoing offering, the unidentified owner of one of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe lithographs has raised $302,000 from nearly 300 investors, who each pitched in with a minimum investment of $500.

While still a small fraction of the overall private capital market, the equity crowdfunding market has grown considerably in recent years. According to crowdfunding consulting firm Crowdfund Capital Advisors, capital commitments to crowdfunded issuers climbed 110% last year to $502 million—up from $239 million in 2020 and $135 million in 2019. StartEngine’s competitors in the space include WeFunder, SeedInvest, Republic and MicroVentures.

StartEngine collectibles such as art, wine and trading cards.StartEngine collectibles such as art, wine and trading cards.Courtesy of StartEngine

The trend has its roots in the federal Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, or JOBS Act, of 2012. The law opened the door for ordinary people without broker credentials to buy equity stakes in startups—making it easier for businesses to use crowdfunding to get off the ground, instead of having to lure larger checks out of venture capitalists or borrow money from lenders.

Marks said that the crowdfunding rules implemented through the JOBS Act were the catalyst behind the formation of his company.

“I decided that this is the right framework,” he told dot.LA. “When I started Activision, everybody said video games are dead—Atari went out of business, right? I didn’t believe what people told me.”

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.