McLean Wilson, co-founder, and manager of Spark Invest (sparkinvest.com) discusses the many new opportunities that exist in the marketplace for the average investor, and how his company is helping promising companies to take the next step to their success. Wilson is a seasoned alternative investment and asset-based lending expert. He has extensive experience in asset management and capital raises for alternative investments, as well as structured transactions, transactional operations, recourse and nonrecourse purchase agreements, negotiation, and management. Wilson’s knowledge of the aforementioned, along with his keen understanding of the underwriting processes and the elements of secured and unsecured transactions makes him exceptionally qualified to lead his team at Spark Invest.
Wilson’s considerable past accomplishments in business include his tenure as vice president of SouthStar Capital, an asset-based lender strategically focused on factoring. While at SouthStar, Wilson structured and funded many equipment leases and purchase order financing transactions. Other notable points on Wilson’s extensive resume include his work as an investment advisor with ING Financial Partners and Money Concepts Capital Corporation and Wilson’s focus was on financial planning, investment planning, and portfolio management. He holds a bachelor of science and a master of science in civil engineering from Clemson University and is a registered investment advisor representative.
Wilson explains that his company, Spark Invest, is an equity crowdfunding platform that provides an opportunity for average retail investors to invest in early-stage nonpublic companies that are poised for growth. He states that Spark Invest has higher expectations and qualifications for the start-ups and companies that are given an opportunity to exist on their platform. They typically need to have proof of concept, to have ideally already raised some capital, and have a good use for their capital. Simply having a ‘good idea’ is not enough for Spark Invest, as the Spark Invest team is comprised of many entrepreneurs who have extensive experience with starting companies, closings, and exit strategies, and understand what it takes for a company to launch and succeed. As Wilson acknowledges, they really don’t want companies on their platform that they would not personally feel great about investing in themselves. Wilson explains their vetting process and gives detail on the specifics they look at, such as audited financials, etc., to ensure that the companies who are given the opportunity to exist on the Spark Invest platform are quality, vetted, legitimate, and promising companies worthy of an investor’s time, and dollars.
In the past, these types of alternative investments in promising private companies were only available to qualified institutional investors, but thanks to a major change in securities law, these companies can now be owned by the public without the usual standard initial public offering, or IPO. This opportunity works well for new companies who have a great concept or product that has already had some success and are now looking to take on investors, but want to avoid the typical VC investor who might mandate that the entrepreneur become an employee of the VC upon taking in their investment dollars. Additionally, the platform is a unique opportunity for smaller investors to make investments in promising new companies that they typically have not had access to in the past. Thus, the platform can be beneficial to all parties involved.
Wilson discusses some of the types of companies and ideas that they like to bring to their platform, as well as some that they don’t. He explains their marketing, and how they attract some of their most interesting companies. And he provides detailed information on the various investment platforms that exist and how Spark Invest takes a different view than some of their competitors, as they monitor the kinds of companies that come into the platform and prudently review their financials. While Spark Invest is interested in many types of companies, Wilson states that they are certainly drawn to practical companies that are solving problems via incredibly innovative ideas. Through Spark Invest, intelligent retail investors can invest in companies that may someday yield higher returns than traditional platforms are able to offer. And the platform allows investors to choose the level of risk that they are comfortable with.