Silicon Valley hosting major crowdfunding event

Organizers of the Silicon Valley Conference and Expo in Palo Alto say crowdfunding will make 2013 the year of the gold rush.

While that may be true, the point of the conference itself, organizers say, isn’t entirely the money.

Sydney Armani, CEO of Silicon Valley Crowdfund Venture, is a driving force behind the conference. The event features keynote speakers such a Tim Draper, Douglas Ellenoff, Howard Leonhardt, and other authoritative names in the world of crowdfunding. Fresh off the plane from a few speaking engagements in the United Kingdom and Europe, Mr. Armani spoke with Bankless Times recently, outlining the event in its essentials.

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“We have people from the UK and Australia coming here,” Armani said, to “gather a lot of people together to talk about the importance of crowdfunding, but also to help with start-up.”

The purpose behind the two-day whirlwind jaw session, he said, isn’t for fiscal heavyweights to chat around the proverbial watercooler. More than anything, it’s a chance to break the ice, giving younger players in the emerging crowdfund game the chance to publicly explore their ideas—and maybe network while they’re at it.

“The conference is not about equity or making money,” Armani said. “That’s for the boys on Wall Street, and they usually have another conference going on over there.”

Instead, the event will bring together minds from across the crowdfunding spectrum, some of whom aren’t necessarily involved in the profit scene to begin with.

The list of panelists and keynote speakers in attendance, he suggested, represents a range of ways that strategies enabled by the JOBS Act—whose first anniversary coincides with the conference—are rippling through the non-profit sector, too. Armani points emphatically to the involvement of Sang Lee, founder and CEO of Return on Change, an organization billed as “the next generation’s investment crowdfunding platform aiming to connect investors with innovative and socially-conscious startups.”

Here, it’s charities and other avenues of progress reaping the benefits of crowdfunding, not just business.

But principally, Armani says, the whole point of the conference is to enable that next generation of investors and risk-takers—in some ways, simply by providing the opportunity to pitch their ideas. Not all of those ideas will be successful, of course. Still, the potential for failure, he says, is part of the critical, life-sustaining cycle of crowdfunded finance.

Calling on his own experiences with Toastmasters, that skill-refining pool of sharks into which those without public speaking experience are thrown, Armani suggests that crowdfunding is little different. If anything, the willingness to walk face-first into failure, not just cultivate the possibility of success, is as necessary to crowdfunding as breathing.

“When I was a student in college at Georgia Tech,” he said, “I joined Toastmasters to give me that confidence to talk in front of a crowd. To get that confidence, we’re giving them a chance for their pitch and demo.”

The days of working the levers of finance from behind a curtain, Armani indicated, are a thing of the past. In the social world of democratized finance, the face-to-face, fundamentally simplified approach of talking in front of a large group of people is essential. To shift power back to the people, he suggested, the first skill must be talking to people in the first place—and occasionally that might mean a very large audience, as Armani is expecting on April 4 and 5.

“This is going to be good for them, a chance to make their pitch through the platform of crowdfunding,” he said.

“It’s nothing new. I want for the young guy who comes up in front of a crowd to come back for a second time. It’s very important how you pitch, how you believe in yourself.”