Does Equity Crowdfunding Facilitate Access to Capital for User Innovators: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment
Author(s): S. Bapna, M. Ganco


“The digital context of equity crowdfunding broadens and diversifies the pool of potential investors and is thus touted as a means to democratize access to capital for non-traditional innovators. It is unclear whether such democratization also applies to user entrepreneurs. User innovators are consumers who create products with the goal of serving their own unmet needs; if they subsequently pursue entrepreneurship as a means to commercialize their innovations they become user entrepreneurs. Importantly, user innovators are significant contributors to consumer product innovation. In contrast, traditional entrepreneurs, also called producer entrepreneurs, create products with the goal of profiting from them. We examine whether investors in equity crowdfunding respond differently to user entrepreneurs relative to traditional producer entrepreneurs, and explore heterogeneity in investor responses. Through a randomized field experiment, we find that less experienced investors are more receptive to user innovators than investors with more experience. Experienced investors are significantly less interested in ventures by user innovators, relative to those by producer innovators, likely due to experienced investors’ concern about the ability of user entrepreneurs to commercialize their ideas. Consequently, the democratization of access to capital for user entrepreneurs comes from less experienced investors who are often inaccessible in traditional investment settings.”