In 2008, I tried to create a startup around TagSpot, a mobile service. And it didn’t work (so far), partly because of me and my own weaknesses, but also because it’s far too hard to create such a company in Europe, especially now.
Obviously for us, the first breakpoint was money. I don’t have any savings, so I can’t quit my day job, even for a few weeks. And I’m a tech guy so I’m not particularly excited by the idea of spending too much time on a business plan to attract investors. The only things I’ve got are ideas, skills and passion. And in my humble opinion that should be enough. And I’m fed up with all those people trying to convince me that there’s no way around, that you have to think in business terms right away. And where is the room for intuition and iterative realization? Why are so many projects with good business plans and big investors failing? There’s gotta be a better way!
Let’s invent it. Let’s create an alternative way for entrepreneurs to get started. And more importantly, let’s do it by leveraging the current financial situation instead of whining about it. There are thousands of people out there looking for better investment opportunities, disappointed by the stock market, willing to get back to a system in which they can sponsor entrepreneurship and innovation rather than participate in speculation. Banks cannot offer that kind of alternative, they are far too entangled in the current state of things. But we, entrepreneurs can do something about it.
Consider the example of MyMajorCompany. Those guys created a marketplace where music listeners can become producers and allow artists to get started. My idea is to adapt this concept to the IT entrepreneurship sector by developing a marketplace allowing startup creators to propose their ideas and prototypes to small investors willing to participate in collective funding efforts. The idea is not to replace business angels, venture capitalists and banks, but just to offer a complementary alternative for idea-stage projects.
There are a lot of details to figure out, a lot of things to set up, and all I have for now is a set of guiding values:
- Money is merely a means to an end: entrepreneurs, investors and we have to agree to that. I don’t think “money first” is a good strategy.
- Innovation is our end: it will be the main criterion by which we’ll select projects to sponsor. It should be our primary concern, and it will drive everything else (profitability, employment, etc.)
- Transparency: the key to reassure investors is to give them maximum visibility of the projects they invest on. And we have to be transparent about this platform too, it has to offer the best possible alternative.
- No speculation: investors will not buy shares but interest participations, that they won’t be able to sell. I firmly believe that buying potential value is what led us to the current crisis, and I want to allow people to invest on value creation, period.
- Focus on software: this collective investment platform can certainly be adapted to many different sectors but software-based projects seem like the best option to start with, because they don’t require too much money to start, and because it’s the sector I understand best.
We need a name, we need graphics, we need a first site, we need ideas, we need all those who agree with the values above, who are willing to change things and have skills, ideas and passion to put in this project. I’ve started to work on a first prototype but I want to involve more people because it’s the best way to make sure that we will develop the platform WE all need.
So if you have questions, ideas, suggestions, if you want to participate in this project, whatever your background, if you know someone who shares our values, use comments on this post, or drop me an e-mail. And when I say “whatever your background”, I mean it. Of course, we will need software developers (notably Grails/Flex), graphics designers but also accountants to figure out how to make our investment system fit into existing laws, small investors to let us know what they expect from such an alternative. At the very least, let’s start a debate about this idea.
There IS a better way, and we have the power to build it now. So bring it on…