The popularity of small business debt crowdfunding has been on the rise for investors, providing an alternative to equity crowdfunding. With equity crowdfunding, you receive an ownership stake in early-stage companies that could have growth potential, and your gains depend on the ups and downs that may accompany that startup’s fate. Debt crowdfunding, however, offers an expected fixed return on investments. With debt crowdfunding, you invest money in small businesses with the expectation of being paid back with interest.
Debt crowdfunding allows you to spread your money over multiple small business investments if you’re seeking to diversify your portfolio. Expected fixed returns can also make financial planning easier. One thing to keep in mind is that the SEC sets certain limits on how much you can invest each year, based on your net worth and annual income.
As with equity crowdfunding, there are multiple platforms that specialize in debt crowdfunding. Each of these platforms comes with a unique set of strengths, as well as different offering types and investment structures.
Funding portals registered with FINRA (the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) match businesses with investors. While some platforms take a percentage of the interest you earn, others remove that middleman cut entirely. Fees are generally lower for borrowers, and investors may see a higher rate of return.
These sites and apps provide small businesses with a unique way to obtain financing and get their communities involved. At the same time, investors gain the benefit of supporting local businesses that matter to them. The question is: What are the best small business debt crowdfunding platforms for investors?
SMBX connects investors with growing, local small businesses that are looking to raise capital to reach their goals. You can invest with a minimum of $10, and you don’t have to be accredited to get started. The platform makes money by charging a small 3.5% of the total funds raised to businesses, but investors aren’t charged at all.
When investing with SMBX, you purchase Small Business Bonds™ in specific businesses that you choose. These bonds are a fixed debt instrument that yields monthly payouts of principal and interest, with annual rates of return ranging from 6%-to-10%. For payouts to occur, the bonds must be successfully allocated and held by an investor until maturity, and there can be no defaults in payments made by the issuer. Monthly payments begin the month after an offering is successfully funded. Investors may withdraw funds as long as they have at least $10 available for withdrawal.
SMBX allows investors to review company and founder bios. Investors can also view the business’s financial statements and see whether the bonds are secured against collateral.
SMBX’s underwriting team holistically reviews businesses that want to raise capital on the SMBX platform based on standardized criteria for risk, and qualifies only those businesses that meet those minimum criteria. It doesn’t offer investment advice or recommendations regarding the suitability of a particular investment for any particular investor.
2. Funding Circle
Funding Circle connects businesses in need of financing with investors. The platform requires a minimum investment account of $25,000, and it accepts only accredited individual and institutional investors.
When you invest, you buy interests in business loans that Funding Circle originates. More specifically, you buy promissory notes. You collect 100% of your share of the principal and interest — minus a servicing fee — and you assume all the risks involved with investing. Funding Circle’s expected returns range from 5%-to-7% per year, accounting for servicing fees. Borrowers repay their loans monthly, and you receive a share of each payment.
Funding Circle also has an Auto Invest tool, which automatically reinvests your money into small businesses. You can pick and choose your specific investments if you prefer. You’ll need to invest a minimum of $500 per fractional note with either method.
There are numerous investment opportunities on Funding Circle. Businesses come from a broad range of sectors and industries, including retail trade, construction, and transportation. The crowdfunding platform has ranked in the top third of all technology businesses in terms of ESG standards.
Funding Circle uses thousands of data points, machine learning technology, and an understanding of lending to vet businesses. The assessment team goes through each application to ensure it approves creditworthy applicants. This process helps to manage risk for investors.
Mainvest provides opportunities for investors to lend money to small, typically brick-and-mortar businesses. You don’t have to be an accredited investor to use it. The platform allows people over the age of 18 with a U.S. bank account to become investors.
On Mainvest, you can invest with as little as $100. The money you invest gets held in an escrow account until the project gets fully funded. If you invest with Mainvest, you purchase revenue-sharing notes — agreements between you and the business that state you’ll receive a set percentage of the business’s future revenue until you receive a full return.
Instead of an interest rate, the note has an investment multiple. The multiple, which is set by the business, gets multiplied by your initial investment to determine how much the business owes you by the maturity date. So if you invest $100 and have an investment multiple of 1.5, the business would owe you $150 by maturity.
The business’s gross revenue — and the revenue share percentage — determines your rate of return. As such, revenue-sharing notes provide a less predictable income for investors. Businesses don’t have to pay anything if they don’t generate any revenue, and their payments can fluctuate based on how much they bring in. Mainvest doesn’t project or predict performance. If a business defaults, investors could lose some (or all) of the money they put in.
Using Mainvest, you can choose your investments. You can browse the opportunities and learn about each business on the platform. You’ll find information such as the minimum investment amount and the investment multiple.
Mainvest doesn’t charge investors anything to invest in projects, but it does charge businesses a Funding Securement Fee upon successful closing on its offering. The fee is 6% of the total that a business raises.
The platform offers a broad range of investment opportunities, featuring businesses in a variety of different industries. Mainvest vets the businesses it lists based on various benchmarks as well as FINRA and SEC frameworks. It also subjectively reviews each application.
4. Honeycomb Credit
Honeycomb Credit allows you to invest in small businesses listed on the site. When you invest, you purchase a promissory note for repayment. The only requirement for investors is that you must be 18 years of age or older. You don’t have to be an accredited investor. Honeycomb does require a minimum investment of $100, which goes into an escrow account until the project gets fully funded.
The average rate of return varies between 7% and 12%. Businesses make monthly repayments that include interest, assuming no defaults. Honeycomb establishes rates for each project based on a credit analysis of the applicant. Each business repays its loans monthly, and your portion goes into a third-party account. You receive your funds quarterly directly into your bank account.
Honeycomb gives you the freedom to pick and choose your investments. You can view profiles on the platform to learn more about each business. The site allows you to view all open campaigns, or you can filter by state if you want to choose one closer to home.
The crowdfunding site makes money by charging a small percentage-based investor fee of 2.85% (capped at $37.25 per investor) and a $250 posting fee for each listing. The company also charges a percentage of the total amount raised for each successful campaign, which ranges from 6%-to-8%.
The platform vets businesses by performing a review of their financials, operating history, personal credit, and business plan. If Honeycomb extends a term sheet, the business then works with the platform to build a campaign and file the necessary documents with the SEC.
5. Worthy Bonds
Worthy Bonds provides a platform for investors to buy bonds that allow them to invest in small businesses. You don’t have to be an accredited investor, but you do need to be a U.S. resident and have a bank account.
The minimum investment to use Worthy Bonds is $10. In exchange, you receive a fixed 5% annual interest. The bonds have a 36-month term, but you can make interest-only withdrawals at any time without penalty. You can watch your interest grow daily, and you’re credited weekly.
You can’t choose your investments through Worthy Bonds. Instead, you trust the company to pick them for you. Worthy Bonds does provide an option to reinvest automatically every time you reach $10 in interest.
Worthy Bonds doesn’t charge investors. The loans for businesses have interest rates higher than 5%. You receive the 5%, and Worthy uses the difference to fund its operations. The platform doesn’t disclose the rates that it charges the participating businesses.
Worthy invests the bond sale proceeds into secured asset-backed small business loans, as well as other public and private investments (including real estate). Businesses that receive the loans need to secure their debt against collateral that has a greater value than their loan amount.
Find Your Debt Crowdfunding Platform
Debt crowdfunding platforms provide unique opportunities for investors to invest in and support local small businesses. Choosing the right one typically requires a lot of research and review of the available options, but the right crowdfunding site can help you expand your portfolio and set you on the path to financial success.
Our list should help make the process of finding the one that’s right for you a bit easier and more enjoyable. When you can spend less time searching for the best debt crowdfunding platforms, you can spend more time making money and supporting small businesses.