Featured case:
Equity Crowdfunding – Symbid Entering the US

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The case

Who: the protagonist

Korstiaan Zandvliet, CEO of Symbid, inspired by a desire to help others pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions.

What

Wim HulsinkSymbid is an equity-based crowdfunding platform. Crowdfunding became spectacularly popular after the credit crunch and global financial crisis in 2008 when traditional funding became scarce and it became increasingly difficult to obtain start-up capital.

Why

Symbid’s founders, Korstiaan, and his colleagues, Robin Slakhorst and Maarten van der Sanden, realised that none of their classmates at the Rotterdam School of Management Erasmus University had been able to realise their dream of becoming an entrepreneur – not because they lacked motivation, ideas or knowledge, but because they could not get any funding. In response, they founded Symbid.

When

Symbid was launched in 2011. By 2013, 23 companies were successfully funded and Symbid had won several awards as well as receiving positive press coverage, including ‘What the US can learn from the Netherlands about equity crowdfunding’.

Where

Symbid teamInitially launched in Rotterdam, Netherlands, the founders were highly ambitious and keen to grow their new company internationally. They initially focused on mature and highly westernized countries, with Europe as an initial target.

However, their biggest opportunity and biggest challenge came in 2013 with the passing of the ‘Crowdfunding Bill’ in America. This made crowdfunding legal in America and the Symbid team cheered loudly as they watched President Obama on their computer screens sign the bill into law: Symbid could now enter the potentially lucrative American market, estimated to be worth US$4 billion in 2014.

Key quote

‘Crowdfunding is a relatively new concept in entrepreneurship. It makes finance more available to entrepreneurs, and the prospect of starting a new venture more appealing and feasible to entrepreneurial students.’ – Wim Hulsink, case co-author.

What next?

Symbid faced a fundamental decision on how to shape the future of its organisation: how should it enter the US market? Would it be wiser to target a niche market, such as female entrepreneurs, or the entire market? Which option would give Symbid a competitive edge? And were they in danger of allowing their competitors to grab the lion’s share of the biggest market in the world? The clock was ticking and a decision had to be made quickly.

Symbid website
 
The protagonist

Wim HulsinkAn insider’s view: Korstiaan Zandvliet, CEO, Symbid

Korstiaan explains why he recommends taking part in a case and the uses he’s put this case to. ‘Just do it,’ he says. ‘It is an honour to participate.’

It was a unique experience to work alongside the brightest students of the RSM Case Development Centre in Rotterdam while solving the growing pains of the first equity-based crowdfunder in the world.

As internationalisation is incredibly important for Symbid Corporation, and will remain so in the future, a case of this sophistication allows us to present our challenges to key stakeholders, and as such, we distributed it to our international shareholder base.

Teaching with the case

I am a regular guest lecturer in the entrepreneurship and finance classes at RSM and talk about the business opportunities and potential of crowdfunding and about the challenges we as a fast-growing company face. For us, the case is another means of aligning us with RSM and its students.

e korstiaan.zandvliet@symbid.com
tw @zandvliet

The authors

Wim HulsinkWim Hulsink

Wim explains how he and his co-authors met the case protagonist, Korstiaan Zandvliet, and why they were so keen to write about Symbid.

Meeting Korstiaan

I have known Korstiaan for many years, but the four students who drafted this case under my supervision met him for the first time at the Rotterdam School of Management; he made a presentation about his company which was set to revolutionize the entrepreneurial financing system in Europe. At that time, he was also planning to enter the American crowdfunding market and he agreed to take part in the case.

Korstiaan is very driven and ambitious – and very motivational to work with. We were also able to challenge some of his views as he was very open to questions. He invited us to the company’s HQ where we interviewed him, met some of his people and got an impression of the company culture.

A topical subject

At the time of writing our case, equity crowdfunding was at the forefront of entrepreneurship news and is still an extremely interesting and hot topic to research. It was particularly appealing because as part of our research, crowdfunding allowed each of us as non-accredited investors to invest in start-up firms through online platforms such as Symbid’s.

In addition, we wanted to know more about the new US law that enabled drastic change to the way entrepreneurs can obtain financing in America. So choosing to write this case was a no-brainer!

Teaching objectives

The teaching objectives are to:

  • introduce students to the rising equity gap funding problem and the new entrepreneurial financing option, equity crowdfunding
  • highlight the importance of choosing the right international markets
  • identify and understand challenges that may arise due to selected entry market strategy
  • raise awareness of the advantages and disadvantages associated with broad vs. niche target audience selection.

Multimedia bonus

To make the case more appealing to students, we also created a video that includes an introduction and summary of the case and related questions. The video also has footage of our interview with Korstiaan.

Key case writing advice

Always structure your interviews, be clear about your objectives and make your first meeting with key people as thorough as possible to avoid unnecessary follow ups – entrepreneurs are very busy people! Always try to be critical towards the information you receive: ask questions and try to find more than one source of information. Look at reputable reports and research to enhance the credibility of assertions quoted in the case. Make sure that both the case and teaching note are cohesive and complement each other.

The authors

Willem Hulsink, Associate Professor of Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship, RSM Case Development Centre, Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), The Netherlands
e whulsink@rsm.nl

Jennie Dvorak, Student, Rotterdam School of Management
e jennie.dvorak@gmail.com

Joost van Houwelingen, Student, Rotterdam School of Management
e joostvanhouwelingen@icloud.com

Maria Klipper, Student, Rotterdam School of Management
e maria.klipper@gmail.com

Marcus Paulsson, Global Graduate Associate, AstraZenece
e marcus.c.h.paulsson@gmail.com

 
Interested in finding out more?
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Download the case and teaching note

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Equity Crowdfunding: Symbid Entering the US (A)
Ref 314-130-1 
Equity Crowdfunding: Symbid Entering the US (B)
Ref 314-131-1 
Teaching note
Ref 314-130-8

 

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