This Black-Owned Startup, and Others, are Raising Capital Via Equity Crowdfunding

WhoseYourLandlord CEO Ofo Ezeugwu

A startup with a platform targeted to millennial apartment renters, WhoseYourLandlord, recently launched an equity crowdfunding campaign on SeedInvest.

WhoseYourLandlord is one of several black-owned companies currently running equity crowdfunding campaigns on platforms like SeedInvest and Republic. Equity crowdfunding allows anyone to invest as little as $50 in early-stage companies; a privilege previously reserved for wealthy “accredited investors.” This presents an opportunity for black, brown, and female founders to activate their networks to not only buy their products but also invest in their companies.

In 2012, President Obama signed the JOBS Act into law. This legislation allows companies to be funded through online platforms by non-accredited investors.

Black Enterprise interviewed WhoseYourLandlord CEO Ofo Ezeugwu about his startup’s crowdfunding campaign.

Brandon Andrews: WhoseYourLandlord empowers renters. Tell us about the business.

Ofo Ezeugwu: WhoseYourLandlord (WYL) is a platform built to empower and inform millennial renters through neighborhood insights, landlord reviews, community-driven content, and access to quality listings. We have over a quarter million users and 10,000 landlord reviews, mostly in the Northeast.


(Image: Ofo Ezeugwu, CEO, WhoseYourLandlord)


Why is equity crowdfunding the right funding opportunity for your business?

It’s a way to connect with the people. We’re a platform predicated on neighborhood and community among renters and, more specifically, millennial renters. By allowing them to invest in a company focused on bettering their lived experiences, they are literally taking ownership of their futures. This is a win-win for us. Raise capital and raise the brand’s profile.

What should entrepreneurs consider before raising money through equity crowdfunding?

The lead up takes a while. All the financial vetting with the SEC regulations in mind, coupled with the due diligence process, takes about six full weeks—if you work really, really fast. Additionally, if you don’t come into this situation with press contacts, you’re going to spend a lot of time reaching out in attempts to align things with your launch. You don’t want to be cold-emailing a bunch of journalists weeks out from your launch. The response rate is naturally low.

You are currently running an equity crowdfunding campaign on SeedInvest. How did you prepare your business for the campaign?

I told my team the next two months are going to be head-down focusing. As CEO, I took on the brunt of the work because I didn’t want the team to be too distracted by it all. There are still day-to-day things that must be accomplished and other strategic moves we already had planned with the product and operations. On my end, I posted the calendar and SeedInvest schedule on our office’s walls and used that as the North Star as we prepped for it.

How do you plan to maintain momentum during the campaign?

Content is everything. We’ll be posting early and often. We’ll be boosting our posts on Facebook. And, I’ll be speaking at every event I can—imploring people to hop online and invest. We also have some due diligence meetings set up with larger investors who can hopefully chunk off big portions of the raise.

Equity crowdfunding is a great opportunity. However, it requires work. A friend of mine ran a crowdfunding campaign a while back. We were working in the same office space at the time. She stayed late working on the campaign; I expect to do the same.

Why, in your opinion, is equity crowdfunding a good opportunity for black investors?

This is a great opportunity for black investors because they can get a taste of what it feels like to truly be an investor, just initially, on a smaller scale. Gone are the days where you have to be an accredited investor in order to get in on the action. You don’t need assets of $1M or more. You don’t need to be making $200K a year or more. As a person working their way up, you can learn how to assess a good tech opportunity before you’re playing with bigger money.

Fundraising is hard. Fundraising for diverse founders is harder. What impact do you think equity crowdfunding will have on access to capital for diverse founders?

Equity crowdfunding changes the game for black folks and for other diverse founders, as well. We often don’t have a hard time building a network. We naturally support each other; we just usually don’t have the financial means or we’re too conservative to boost each other with our capital. Equity crowdfunding says, “Hey look, you got a little community around you. I’m sure more people can chip in $500 here and there, versus finding a few that can each afford to set $25K or more on fire.”