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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David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.

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