Crowdfunding via customers is the new startup capital

Originally posted on Gigaom:

When the JOBS Act was signed in April, the startup community gave itself a collective high five. Crowdfunding would enable startups to reach out to the whole world to get access to funding, not just a small cabal of investors living in a 20-mile radius of Menlo Park.

But hidden in the headlines was a much more powerful underlying trend. With the JOBS Act came the creation of an entirely new class of capital that could be far more valuable to startups: customer capital.

Meet the new investor class: Customers.

Instead of raising capital from VCs to build a product, entrepreneurs can skip the line and reach out to customers before the product is actually produced. It’s called a pre-order, but it has a twist. In this case, the pre-order is for a product that doesn’t actually exist yet.

We’ve all dealt with pre-orders before, whether it’s the new…

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