Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Radical Investing

Today, three young social entrepreneurs -- setting a radical precedent in the social innovation sector -- announced that they are offering up a portion of their future income in exchange for immediate resources to scale their social enterprises.

The trio has created a Web site and a name for their request -- the Thrust Fund. They announced their bold move today on the Social Edge Web site in a post entitled, "Invest in Me, Take My Equity."

The three entrepreneurs are: Saul Garlick, 26, founder of ThinkImpact, a startup nonprofit that connects American students to rural villages in Africa to alleviate poverty; Kjerstin Erickson, 26, the founder of FORGE and a blogger on Social Edge, and Jon Gosier, 28, the founder of AppAfrica, a social venture investing in African software entrepreneurs to create jobs and build their own companies.

"(We) are announcing that we are ready to do something we had never heard of one month ago," the post reads. "We are going to offer equity in our life's earnings for an unrestricted infusion of cash today." Gosier and Garlick are each offering 100 shares in themselves, priced at $3,000 USD per share, to raise $300,000 each in exchange for 3 percent of each man's future earnings; Erickson is "selling" 200 shares in herself at $3,000 per share for a total capital investment of $600,000, in exchange for 6 percent of all of her future earnings. Interested investors are invited to fill out and sign a contract that further stipulates the terms of the unusual offer.

The idea of 1-to-1 investing isn't new in the nonprofit sector. But it's just starting to take off in the social enterprise space. The other week, in a piece for this blog entitled "Mainstream Medicis," I wrote about how one social investor had decided to give a young entrepreneur he believed in some investment capital in exchange for a percentage of her future earnings. That move, detailed by investor/entrepreneur/tech consultant Rafe Furst last fall in his personal blog, has spawned considerable discussion across the sector in recent weeks, but today's Thrust Fund announcement was the first time that any social entrepreneurs have stepped forward to offer themselves as candidates under the concept.

The idea isn't complicated. Instead of investing in start-up companies, angel funders could invest in individuals they believe in and then take a percentage of their life's income over time as the ROI.

"If we loved perpetual hand-to-mouth fundraising for our social enterprises, we'd never make this announcement," the trio wrote in their Social Edge post. "If the market were up to speed on the scalable potential of social entrepreneurship with engaged funders like the more advanced VC community that the exclusively for-profit sector looks to for scale, this discussion would be lame. But it's not and we are raising money hand-to-mouth when we know for sure that a modest infusion of capital would scale our social enterprises."

What do you think? Is the sector likely to see a flood of such investment deals, or is this idea still too new and untested to take seriously? Let us hear your thoughts.

-- By Marcia Stepanek

(Photoillustration, above, courtesy Social Edge)
(This post first appeared on Justmeans.com and is reposted here with permission)

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Anonymous Jane Williams said...

This is a nice idea for business person...

January 15, 2010 at 6:05 AM  

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