Leveling the Playing Field for Tech Start-Ups Seeking Funding
Career Development Kendrick Nguyen, co-founder and CEO of Republic, a spinoff of AngelList, provides the opportunity for anyone to invest in highly vetted startups with as little as $50.
Can you tell us about your journey with Republic? What inspired you to start this company?
In the earlier years of my career, I practiced law and worked in finance in New York City, where one has to "know someone" to fundraise or even to invest. Drawn by AngelList’s democratization mission, I joined as its first General Counsel after a short stint in academia at Stanford. When retail investment crowdfunding became legal in the United States in 2016, it opened the door for everyday people to invest in startups, regardless of net worth or income. That, I believe, represents the true potential of entrepreneurship — one that is democratized and accessible to founders and investors alike. We launched Republic on that conviction.
What are some of the biggest challenges you see when inventors and entrepreneurs are seeking to fund their ideas or businesses?
Even if a founder has perfected their pitch with an awesome deck and strong business fundamentals, the fundraising process can still be quite challenging. Obstacles show themselves if the founder is not based in Silicon Valley or NYC, or if they didn't graduate or drop out from Stanford or MIT or Berkeley, or if they don’t already have a strong network of influential friends and acquaintances, or simply because they don’t fit the stereotype of the “young tech bro." The data strongly indicate an unlevel playing field when it comes to startup financing. We hope investment crowdfunding will make it easier and more fair over time.
What are the benefits of crowdfunding, as opposed to looking for investors?
Investment crowdfunding is about customer engagement and marketing as much as it is about the money. It's a unique tool to turn your most loyal customers into brand ambassadors, and it works for all kinds of consumer-focused companies at all different stages. The companies that have the most successful campaigns tend to have the largest and most engaged communities behind them — usually of customers or users and other supporters of their mission.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
We're launching a free product called Radar that aims to make it easier for founders to get in front of noted VCs, and we're exploring avenues to supplement crowdfunded investments on Republic with institutional capital. This is part of our effort to grow Republic into a fundraising ecosystem and a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs.
What has been the best business advice you have ever received, and who gave it to you?
"He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks" Sun Tzu, The Art of War. In other words, team culture and passion are everything.