There were 116 crowdfunding platforms (excluding those for nonprofits) in China as of the end of 2014, up from 78 a year ago, according to a report on China’s crowdfunding market by online financial product search service Rong360. Of these, 27 are equity crowdfunding sites.

A total of RMB915 million (about US$148m) was raised through crowdfunding sites in 2014, according to the Rong360 report.

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It is believed the first crowdfunding site in China was Demohour, which launched in July 2011. It soon become the go-to place for Chinese hardware makers. In August 2014 it announced it was pivoting to a platform for pre-orders and deals for consumer electronics products, having concluded a Chinese Kickstarter or Indiegogo-like crowdfunding site could not be successful.

Zhongchou.cn (“zhongchou” meaning “crowdfunding”) is one of the major players in the market in terms of its numbers of projects and backers. Founded by former Tencent execs and launched in February 2013, Zhongchou.cn covers categories from tech products to arts projects to charities. There were 1165 projects and 75,000 backers on the site during 2014.

Zhongchou.cn set up an office in San Francisco in early 2014, though an English version hasn’t so far emerged. The company has also invested in some of the startups featured on its site.

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AngelCrunch, launched in November 2011, was one of the first online equity crowdfunding platforms in China. Other well-known sites include Dajiatou, Yuanshihui, Renrentou, ihetou, Yunchou, Daibang, ichuangye, and TSJ123.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) issued the first regulations on crowdfunding in December 2014. The existing rule that non-listed shareholding companies may not exceed 200 shareholders still applies to crowdfunding, according to the CSRC. It’s believed that most crowdfunding sites have set the maximum number of equity buyers in a startup accordingly. But when there are more than 200 potential investors in a startup, a workaround has been created: some can create an investment fund, or go through a third-party fund, to collectively buy stakes from crowdfunding sites.

The CSRC also requires investors register their real names and for equity crowdfunding sites to verify investors’ bank accounts.

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After online lending service Tuandai rolled out a crowdfunding project for real estate in June 2014, several similar projects launched in the second half of the year. Most projects came through partnerships between major Chinese internet companies and real restate firms: for instance, Sohu and Vanke, and JD and Sinooceanland.

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Several major Chinese internet companies have joined the crowdfunding trend.

In December 2013, Alibaba launched Taobao Crowdfunding (our translation), formerly Taoxingyuan. Yulebao, an investment fund for movies, was launched under Taobao Crowdfunding in March 2014. More than 300,000 people invested a total of RMB73 million (about US$12m) in the week after its launch, according to Alibaba. Chinese search giant Baidu followed suit by launching Baifayouxi, a crowdfunding project for movies. Commercial bank SPD Bank also rolled out a similar fund in late 2014.

Leading Chinese online retailer JD.com released a crowdfunding site in July 2014 to complement its smart hardware incubation project. Later in December smartphone maker Dakele‘s latest model raised RMB16 million (about US$2.6mn) from 10,000 backers in 25 minutes on JD’s site.

JD and Alibaba have surpassed all the independent crowdfunding sites to become the biggest and the second biggest, respectively, in terms of backers. JD attracted 627,000 backers pledging RMB148 million (about US$24m) for 238 projects in the six months since its launch. Taobao Crowdfunding got 458,000 backers pledging RMB81.9 million (about US$12m) for 410 projects in 2014.

 

Editing by Mike Cormack (@bucketoftongues)