The Current State of Crowdfunding in Czech Republic
Currently the most common form is reward-based crowdfunding, which exists in the Czech Republic for four years now and is growing every year. For example the Hithit platform raised 80% more money in 2015 than in 2014. The second most used form of crowdfunding in the Czech Republic (that is actually not publically perceived as a form of crowdfunding), is P2P consumer lending. It started to accelerate during 2015 when Zonky.cz was launched. This platform has built its public recognition on the emphasis that people who do not match the criteria of banks should nevertheless have a chance to get a loan. SymCredit and Pujcmefirme represent Czech P2P business lending. These platforms are slowly gaining the trust of the public Equity crowdfunding has not been an active form of financing in the Czech Republic so far. Just one campaign has been successfully funded.
Inhabitants: 10,55 million, GDP (ppp) per capita: $18,020 (Source: Wikipedia; Image Credit: NuclearVacuum)
Despite a growing number of platforms and volumes generated, there has been nNo research in the Czech Republic to date. Consequently, the total numbers below serve only as an illustration of the overall traffic and popularity of crowdfunding.
In 2015 reward based crowdfunding has raised aproximately €1,7 million.
Equity based crowdfunding has only seen a €28.000 transaction, when Panezdroj platform sold its own equity. With the launch of Fundlift in 2016, the market is expected to grow.
Zonky.cz is P2P consumer lending platform launched in 2015
Hithit.com is a reward based crowdfunding that launched its operations in 2013
Startovac.cz is the second biggest reward based crowdfunding platform. It was launched in 2013.
SymCredit.com.is a P2P business lending platform that was launched in 2014
Benefi, a P2P consumer lending platform, that launched its operation in 2014
Bondora, the Estonian P2P lending platform.
Mintos, a P2P lending platform with headquarters in Latvia has presence in the Czech Republic as well.
Kickstarter is not officially operating in the Czech Republic, but is very popular among Czech entrepreneurs.
Regulations in Czech Republic
Crowdfunding in the Czech Republic is not covered by any specific legal act. While the market is growing, it still seems unlikely that specific crowdfunding regulations will soon be adapted. As no specific legal act governs crowdfunding in the country, the regulation remains quite vague. Each aspect of crowdfunding is covered by applicable Act, such as Acts on Data Protection, Income Tax etc.
Significant regulatory burden arises, however, in case of equity-based crowdfunding as it remains rather problematic to offer investment stakes in limited liability companies to a crowd of investors in the online environment of crowdfunding marketplaces. In case of equity-crowdfunding models, the current environment may require compliance with the provisions of the Act on Banks, the Act on Undertaking Business on the Capital Market, the Act on Bonds or the Act on Investment Companies and Investment Funds.
In order to operate an equity-crowdfunding platform, the firm providing the platform may need to be an investment firm (in Czech: “obchodník s cennými papíry”) licensed pursuant to the Act No. 256/2004 Coll., the Capital Markets Act, as amended and meet all the requirements for duly licensed investment firm (the “Investment Firm”), and satisfy further conditions, such as hold a licence for execution of orders concerning investment instruments (e.g. investment securities) on the customer’s account and others.
The total consideration for the investment instruments offered by the platform with respect to each individual project company has to be lower than €1,000,000, otherwise a prospectus must be produced and approved by the respective regulator.
Banks & Investors
Banks have not made any significant steps yet towards becoming an active part in the crowdfunding industry, as they might not consider it as a real opportunity or threat. One of the Czech branch of Raiffeissen bank tried unsuccessfully to run its own reward-based crowdfunding platform called “Odstartováno”.
The successful exception is the direct investment from credit company Home Credit to Zonky P2P consumer lending platform. Home Credit wanted to diversify its credit activities into trendy P2P loan financing.
Investors have been mostly investing to Czech P2P consumer loans on Bankerat, Benefi or Zonky. Zonky has gained the biggest attention from the investors, as they have several thousands people queuing for investing into the loans on the platform. Investing in loans on the Zonky platform is significantly different from the other platforms because investors have to manually pick each of the projects they want to invest in.
Czech investors are currently also investing on several international P2P platforms as Bondora, Mintos or Twino.
What is the potential of crowdfunding in your country?
Czech crowdfunding is still gaining momentum, as more and more people get familiar with this method of financing. We are seeing now that reward-based crowdfunding is growing its total number of supporters year by year. A majority of crowdfunded projects are from the creative or art scene, but there is a growing number of business projects using crowdfunding as means of getting customer feedback. However, traditional means of financing projects still prevail.
The expansion of equity crowdfunding is expected to come after Fundlift has launched, a pure equity crowdfunding platform that will soon enter the market. This is expected to happen around June 2016. However, the launch has already been delayed a few times.
What are the biggest challenges?
Legal optimization and payment processing are the biggest challenges. When reward-based crowdfunding platform wants to hold backers money (as Kickstarter does), it has to have a banking licence. Thus platforms are using a mediator – payment gate, which is not fully filling their needs, because they have exceptional needs in comparison with regular e-shops. For reward-based platforms it is hard to find a perfect partner who is eager to function in same setting.
What is the future holding for the Czech Republik?
P2P consumer lending and reward-based crowdfunding has been showing an increase in attention from the public. I expect that those two forms will be the fastest growing in the future. The growth will become more significant if Kickstarter will add the Czech Republic to the list of eligible countries. The growth for other forms of crowdfunding is unpredictable as some of them have not been on the market for quite some time and the market in this sense is developing.