Invest in the future … fund a ChangeMaker!

There ‘s been a lot of attention recently about the benefits of crowds. Everything is being crowdsourced. A project that wants to get crowdfunded, posts its project or idea on a website dedicated to soliciting small investments. These investments are often as small as ten dollars and seldom larger than a hundred. For your investment, you get a token of appreciation. This token could be a white paper, a shirt or anything else the project head wishes to give you for your support. There are also levels of appreciation which correspond to the level of your investment.

This whole crowdfunding thing got me thinking about when I was young in Minot, North Dakota (pop. 35,000) – where I grew up. When I was in high school, there was a professional golfer in town, Mike Morley, that was trying to hit the PGA tour. He had his tour card, but didn’t have enough money to go from event to event to compete. A group of Minot businessmen decided to back him and pay for his expenses. I don’t know the details of their arrangements, but I suspect that if Mike made money then they would participate in the spoils. This was kind of an informal local crowdfunding.

If we can participate in a new company or project through crowdfunding, why can’t we participate in the success of the individual themselves, like what happened with Mike – only even more esoteric. OK … work with me.

Meet the ChangeMakers

Imagine a web site or portal with a variety of different people on it, people looking for career assistance. For the sake of argument – let’s limit it to young people. Each of these individuals, let’s call them ChangeMakers – would have to put up a profile or online portfolio. These portfolios would be a “Here I am world, this is what I’m all about and why you should invest in me.” The portfolio could be an essay, it could be pieces of art, or a video or whatever vehicle the ChangeMaker wants to use to present themselves to the world.

All of these ChangeMakers would be put in a central virtual location where we, the investors, can find them. They could be organized by location, or life focus or even age. Each ChangeMaker would determine their own tokens of appreciation they wanted to give investors. Chances are, financial participation probably wouldn’t be one – but who knows.

Rather than just giving money to a faceless charitable cause (not that there’s anything wrong with that), you’d be investing in the future of an actual young adult, one that you could watch grow and progress through life – on one that you had a vested interest in. You could create a portfolio of ChangeMakers, not unlike an investment portfolio. You could diversify … or could you throw all your weight behind a single industry or group of ChangeMakers in a similar field.

Ingenious ChangeMakers wouldn’t limit the parameters of investment to just money either. They could solicit mentoring and expertise in their areas endeavour. If they were an artist, they could request studio space. If they are interested in public policy, they could request a legislative internship.

And on top of it, not only would these young ChangeMakers get the resources they need to jumpstart their future – they’d have to figure out what resources they need on their journey to success. This organizational prompt might be worth more than the assistance itself.

As we search for ways to reform schools and prepare our young for the future, we almost always overlook one of our greatest resources – our community. We look to the public sector for all the answers through political debate ad nauseam … when the solution is just down the street, or in the next town or on the other side of the country. But it’s never potentially further than a mouse click. I believe we all want to help and we all have the same goal – success for our young. But we just don’t have the vehicle to pull it all together, a vehicle where we can put a name and face to those that need our assistance – whatever assistance we may be able to give them.

I’d be interested in hearing your views on this idea I’ve been rambling on about. Maybe it’s just a pipe dream, but I don’t think so. Please give me some feedback.

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Need financing for your start-up … join the Kernel!

Let’s say you have this great idea. You’re tired of working for the “Man.” You know deep down in you’re an entrepreneur. And you’re willing to put in the long hours and embrace austerity as your best friend. And the last thing you want to do is commit to an office space, spend your creative time in your space bedroom or become such a regular at local coffee shop that the seat in the corner has your imprint on it.

But you, and countless numbers of other fledgling young business owners are all staring at one seemingly insurmountable obstacle. You need funding. Not a lot, just enough to take of things barter or a good “arm twist” of one of your friends can’t take care of.

Banks aren’t going be any help. Banks don’t understand start-ups. They have no idea how value your project if you don’t have collateral backing it up. Banks need something to repossess. Venture capitalists want an investment they can sell off down the road for profit. They’re not interested in operating profit … especially from a $20,000 investment.

Normally, you would go to Uncle Charlie. But Uncle Charlie spent a day too long in Vegas. As they say “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” … including Uncle Charlie’s money.

What do you do? You join the Kernel!

The Kernel is essentially a co-working facility. But it’s way more than that. It’s an incubator that grows the future of your community.

Imagine …

  • A place you could go to interact with other entrepreneurs, all in various stages of start-up development. Your project would be independent, but you would be open for collaboration or just general input from your Kernel mates.
  • The Kernel contains all the physical common facilities you would need to launch and operate a small business: reception, common space (kitchen, bathrooms, etc.), digital reproduction equipment (variable data printing), etc.
  • The Kernel would also provide intangible services such as accounting, legal and other needed administrative functions. The HUB could even provide sales through a rep(s) that would do crossover sales for you and your other Kernel mates.
  • Funding for the Kernel would be provided by Seedsmen or investors. The Seedsmen would provide capital to operate the facilities and also any other expenses needed by the Kernel mates. Capital however need not be money, it could services (barter). For example, an attorney could invest in the Kernel via their legal services. The same thing could be for web design, accounting and even basic administrative labor. The goal of the Kernel is resource maximization.
  • The Seedsmen would invest in the Kernel as a whole, not just in one start-up. This way their risk could be spread over several projects – much the way venture capital firms work. Individual start-up Kernel mates can also invest in the HUB through their services provided to other Kernel mates. It would also be in the best interest of the Seedsmen to go out and recruit attractive new start-ups to join their HUB. How much share each “cog” has in the HUB as a whole, as well as how much share the HUB has in each start-up would have to be determined.

There you have it … a new age barter co-op start-up incubator.

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If you like this post please feel free to Tweet away. I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg.

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