Mainvest Review: Invest in Local Businesses

Mainvest connects businesses with investors to revitalize communities across the United States. The platform lets you invest in the local businesses you know and love. With Mainvest, anyone over 18 with a U.S. bank account can invest in brick and mortar businesses starting with just $100.

SustainFi Updated October 25, 2021

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Rating: Excellent (4.2 / 5)

Summary

  • Investment Type: revenue sharing note (you get share of business revenue)
  • Minimum Investment: $100
  • Target Return: 10-25%
  • Maturity: varies
  • Liquidity: none
  • Open to non-accredited investors
  • Fees and expenses: none

Pros

  • You get to support local, brick-and-mortar businesses
  • No fees
  • Low minimum investment
  • Individual businesses may offer non-monetary perks
  • 97% of the businesses on the Mainvest platform are in good standing
  • Open to non-accredited investors

Cons

  • Lending to small businesses is extremely risky
  • Mainvest is a startup with a three-year track record
  • Mainvest is not responsible if the business defaults
  • No secondary market for your investment

What is Mainvest?

Mainvest is a crowdfunding platform that lets you invest in small brick and mortar businesses. Their goal is to make it simple to support local entrepreneurs. With Mainvest, you can build a diversified portfolio that includes businesses like restaurants, cinemas, farms, and even cannabis facilities.

So far, Mainvest has launched more than 400 investment opportunities, helping local businesses raise more than $12 million. 97% of Mainvest businesses are on track and making payments to investors as promised, though the track record is short.

The platform says that it accepts only 5% of the businesses that apply. The vetting process includes anti-fraud vetting and bad actor checks.

Mainvest was co-founded by Nick Mathews, a former Uber employee, in 2018. It is based in Salem, MA. According to Crunchbase, Mainvest raised $3 million in venture capital.

How does Mainvest work?

With Mainvest, you can invest in the individual businesses profiled on their website. You provide funds to an entrepreneur who wants to expand or needs cash to launch. The business will share a portion of its revenue with you until you receive the promised return.

If you choose to invest, you receive revenue-sharing notes. The notes offer you a percentage (such as 5%) of the businesses’ sales until you get back a specified investment multiple – such as 1.3x or 1.5x. Businesses must repay you the amount invested times the investment multiple by the specified maturity date, regardless of revenue. 

For example, if you invest $100 in a revenue-sharing note from Seven Grain Army, a Brooklyn bakery, you will receive a percentage of revenue, in this case, between 0.3% and 4.5% depending on the amount raised. You will continue to receive that revenue percentage until you are repaid $130 (or 1.3x multiple).

However, the annual rate of return is hard to quantify. If the business does well, and you get paid back in one year, you earned 30%, which is great, but the return is much lower if it takes five years to get paid. In addition, many small businesses do not survive, so you could lose your investment.

The Mainvest site features a calculator that lets you calculate the internal rate of return (IRR) on your investment. The IRR is determined by the business’s revenue and the percentage of revenue they share each quarter.

Although Mainvest doesn’t charge investors any fees, they keep 6% of the funds businesses raise. This may incentivize them to list as many businesses as possible. But if too many investments fail, it will be hard to find investors, and their platform won’t be successful either, so, longer-term, Mainvest’s interests are aligned with investors.

How does Mainvest select the businesses on its platform?

Mainvest lists brick and mortar consumer businesses that don’t tend to attract a lot of venture capital. In October 2021, there are 61 businesses on the platform, mostly restaurants, cafes, bakeries, breweries, and food trucks. Most businesses raise between $50,000 and $500,000.

Mainvest is expanding into cannabis-related opportunities, including cultivation cannabis and stores.

As of October 2021, investment opportunities include:

  • Eastcoasterdam, a legal cannabis cultivation facility in Massachusetts
  • Seven Grain Army, a wellness bakery in Brooklyn, New York 
  • Deep Sea Vegan, a vegan, nautical-themed restaraunt in Nashville, TN
  • The Craft of Brewing, a brewery in Ashburn, Virginia 

Mainvest’s vetting process includes:

  • Anti-fraud vetting. Mainvest needs to make sure the offering is allowed under Regulation Crowdfunding, meaning that the business owner appears capable of managing investor funds
  • Responsibility check. Mainvest interacts with the business owner, looking for potential warning signs like lack of communication
  • Bad actor check. Mainvest conducts background checks through a third party
  • Continuous review. Once the offering is live, Mainvest continues to review information as it becomes available

Although Mainvest only lists 5% of the businesses that apply, they are an intermediary and not a co-investor. Their team assesses the business and its prospects before listing it on the platform, but they don’t take a hit if the business defaults.

Mainvest provides a lot of data on each business in the SEC filings, including projected financials.

How much can I invest?

If you are not an accredited investor, under Regulation Crowdfunding (Reg CF), you can invest at most $2,200 if your income or net worth is less than $107,000. If your income and net worth are greater than $107,000, you can invest 10% of your net worth and annual income, whichever is greater, up to $107,000. If you are an accredited investor, there are no limits.

How do I invest with Mainvest?

To invest with Mainvest, you’ll need to register as a user on the site. Mainvest requires you to connect your bank account to the platform before you can make an investment. This process may take a few days. Then, choose the business or businesses you want to invest in and send the money through the Mainvest platform.

What fees does Mainvest charge?

Investing with Mainvest is free. Listed businesses pay 6%. Mainvest makes money from the fees businesses pay to be listed.

Is Mainvest safe?

Mainvest has only been in business for three years, but they are Better Business Bureau (BBB) accredited with an A+ rating. There haven’t been any customer complaints to date.

However, investments in small businesses are inherently risky. Small businesses have limited resources, and the restaurant industry is particularly volatile. For this reason, Mainvest suggests that you only invest the money you can afford to lose.

We also suggest diversifying among several opportunities on the platform if you choose to invest.

As an alternative investment, the funds you invest are not FDIC or SIPC-insured.

💰 Takeaway

Small businesses often find it difficult to get the funding they need. Mainvest offers them the opportunity to receive capital from local investors. Instead of asking for donations, a small business can use Mainvest’s platform to expand operations or make payroll during tough times.

As an investor, you can use Mainvest to support small businesses directly. Although small business crowdfunding is risky, Mainvest could work as part of a diversified investment portfolio. And you get to help local businesses you love.


🔔 Looking for other ways to invest with impact? Check our guide to investing in communities and small businesses.