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Mainvest: Democratizing Investment into Small Businesses

What the company does

Mainvest is disrupting the SMB financing market and democratizing investment by building an investment marketplace that connects everyday investors with vetted Main Street businesses. Through Mainvest, SMBs that struggle to access capital can use community investment to fuel growth. Meanwhile, retail investors can invest in a previously inaccessible asset class.

The Current Landscape

RegCF, the regulation under which Mainvest operates, is still relatively new- it was established in Title III of the JOBS Act, passed in 2016.These regulations were designed to give retail investors access to private investment in response to the immense concentration of wealth generated by VCs and private equity firms. While ~40 RegCF portals exist, there are 5-10 major players in the space. Mainvest is one of the newest players and rising towards the top as one of the only RegCF portals to focus exclusively on Main Street small businesses rather than high-growth startups.

Company Birth Story

Mainvest was founded by Nick Mathews, who previously spent his career building Uber Boston as one of the first 30 employees at the company. While launching Uber in new markets, both suburban and urban, he experienced firsthand local challenges around economic development. This inspired him to seek out innovative solutions to local economic development. He founded Mainvest in 2018 with the goal of empowering communities to determine their own economic development, utilizing new regulations and novel investment vehicles to align incentives between local community members and small businesses.

The Solution

The SMB lending market is a $600 billion dollar industry, but access to capital remains the number one challenge for small businesses. Mainvest provides local entrepreneurs, who are building sustainable, community-oriented businesses, with new avenues to capital access. Mainvest’s solution, which focuses on a revenue-sharing model, was purpose-built to scale with small businesses and provide a level of flexibility unmatched by other financing options. And by democratizing access to these opportunities, Mainvest is also empowering everyday people to become Main Street investors. People are looking for alternative investment opportunities as their faith in traditional markets wanes, and Mainvest gives them access to a unique asset class while providing an avenue to support local businesses. To date, Mainvest has facilitated $19MM in investment through their platform with new businesses launching campaigns weekly. Mainvest aims to expand hyper-locally, growing their team on the ground in key small business markets across the states. In addition, they aim to be a one-stop-shop for SMB needs, scaling out consulting services and other financial tools.

A Customer Story

Because access to capital is such a huge challenge, even well-qualified and talented entrepreneurs struggle to obtain financing on good terms. One example is Top Shelf Cookies- an established bakery in Boston with an active online presence and partnerships with larger brands. Despite their success, they struggled to access enough capital on terms that they felt good about, and decided to go to the community. With Mainvest, they secured financing on founder-friendly terms, and were able to turn their supporters into investors. Now, they have a brick and mortar bakery in addition to online offerings, and the business is strong. Founder Heather Yunger states: “In March 2020, I lost 80% of my revenue and my potential location in an instant. But turns out, mail-order cookies were in demand, and between people ordering online and our alternative investment campaign on Mainvest, we built out our storefront and have seen tremendous community support.”

The Team Culture

The Mainvest team consists of other Uber alumni, financial, marketing, and operations experts, and most importantly, some deep ties to small businesses. Nearly every employee has held a small business job, whether it was bartending, serving, or bagging groceries. The team is passionate, lean, and efficient, but still places high value on human connection- employees report that they get to know clients well and see them as more than just metrics. Team outings to restaurants and breweries that have used the platform are common. One employee’s mother even raised funds on Mainvest to open a bakery.

A founder quote

“Small businesses are key to our domestic economy and essential to local communities. By empowering communities to invest directly into these businesses, we’re enabling sustainable local economic development and inspiring a new wave of entrepreneurship along the way. We’re excited about our growth to date, and in particular, the network effects that we’ve seen regionally as we’ve grown. We welcome you to explore local investment opportunities and refer local businesses that might need an influx of capital.”

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