Sydney Angels co-founder Vivian Stewart appointed chief of VentureCrowd as crowdfunding landscape changes “dramatically”

Sydney Angels co-founder and VentureCrowd chief executive Vivian Stewart

Australian multi-asset crowdfunding platform VentureCrowd has appointed Sydney Angels co-founder Vivian Stewart as its new chief executive.

Founded in Sydney, VentureCrowd is a crowdfunding platform for alternative assets and with the advent of legislated equity crowdfunding for proprietary companies, is set to become one of the first platforms to enable startups to raise funds through crowdfunding.

However, Stewart is not jumping up with excitement about it just yet.

“The late addition of private company provision is critical but still fairly embryonic in its consideration,” Stewart tells StartupSmart when discussing the federal government’s budget announcement to extend its equity crowdfunding arrangements.

“ASIC [Australian Securities and Investments Commission] has only just started thinking about the licensing regime, it appears, [with it] only just been given funding in the budget to workout how to provide some oversight and scrutiny of the licensing regime.

“It’s really early days. People are getting excited about it but we’re holding back a bit on our enthusiasm.”

Stewart, who co-founded internet service provider Magna Data before selling it to Davnet in 1999, has been playing in the tech and startup sector for more than two decades.

But leading VentureCrowd will bring a new chapter of growth for him.

“We’re really trying to be a fantastic resource for investors to get access to alternative assets they’ve never had access to before,” he says.

Stewart says VentureCrowd’s goal is to drive awareness and education about the opportunity for investors to “get some returns that are potentially different in nature than just investing in a passive index fund or some kind of other instrument like buying an apartment”.

“Investors are really just starting to understand what alternative assets are [and] why crowdfunding really is a valuable tool for diverse portfolios,” he says.

Over the next six to 12 months, Stewart says his key focus will be on growing VentureCrowd’s team of eight, while also educating investors.

“The landscape of crowdfunding is changing quite dramatically,” he says.

Stewart wants to make VentureCrowd one of Australia’s most “valuable resources for both investors and companies looking for capital”.

“There’s always going to be more deals than there is funding … while we will be another source of funding, it’s just part of the equation for startups,” he says.

“We are hoping to be part of the consideration for every company when they’re raising capital and it may not just be early-stage companies.”

Stewart’s role also involves leading the VentureCrowd team in their efforts to help the best companies across various stages gain access to funding.

But with all the excitement around equity crowdfunding, Stewart says only the “highest quality companies” will get through and startups will be subjected to a “rigorous selection process”.

“It’s not going to be a free for all just because the legislation opens up,” he says.

While Stewart says he has been “comfortable in the investment community and financial services” sector for a long time, but there’s plenty more to learn. At VentureCrowd, he expects to learn a “great deal about user experience” and tech design.

He says working closely with government, media engagements and sinking his teeth into a full-blown tech platform will be a learning curve.

“I haven’t had a great deal of experience engaging with government … [and] I’m a bit out of practice talking to the press,” he says.

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