“How would you you like to go to Geneva for a few months? We need to send a secondee to the Forum.”
“Can I have some time to think about it?”
“Sure, you just need to let me know by tomorrow.”
That was it. I now had less than 24 hours to make a decision.
This exchange took place early in May 2016 and the choice I made (spoiler alert: I chose to go to Geneva) had an enormous impact on my life. In the nearly two years since that short conversation with my manager, in the doorway to the office as we both headed home for the evening, I have had some of the most memorable experiences of my life and reached the lowest points I’ve ever been to (another spoiler: my time in Geneva ended prematurely).
Now that it is all over, I am going to write about of those experiences here. Mainly, I’m hoping it will be a way to make sense of everything that transpired since I faced that decision. With luck, it will make for interesting reading too.
Earlier this year Ellen MacArthur travelled to Vancouver to present at TED2015. In her 17 minute talk she shares the most important lesson that she learned while sailing solo around the world. It’s a great watch to end your day on a high!
To learn more about the circular economy the Ellen MacArthur Foundation have a number of resources available:
Circulate is an online news publication edited by the Foundation. Updated daily, it is a great source of stories and links related to the transition to a circular economy.
Every year the Foundation hosts an open-source online event, the Disruptive Innovation Festival. This 3-week event (taking place Nov 2 – 20 2015) brings together thought-leaders, entrepreneurs, designers, businesses, learners and doers to catalyse the system change necessary to shift to the future economy. You can get involved either by participating either as a viewer or by contributing your own ideas!
I’m going to bet that most of you have heard the term “crowdfunding” and are aware of what it entails. Many of you have probably visited Kickstarter or Indiegogo to have a look at what exciting (or ridiculous) projects are seeking funding. Perhaps one or two of you have even taken a step further and contributed to a project that has peaked your interest. However involved you have become, crowdfunding has become a viable, and exciting, option for entrepreneurs looking for early stage funding to launch their ideas.
Let’s Rewind a Bit
I should probably spend a little bit of time explaining what crowdfunding is to those readers who aren’t so clued up on the concept. Please feel free to skip over this section of you have even the slightest understanding of what crowdfunding is.
The concept is actually pretty simple and, to be honest, the clue is in the title. Crowdfunding is the term given to the practice of raising capital, typically for a project or new business venture, from a large number of people. That is the essence of crowdfunding, it is in the details (as with most things) that things can get a bit complicated and confusing.
Generally speaking there are three types of crowdfunding: equity-based, credit-based and rewards-based. Again, these are rather self-explanatory; in equity-based crowdfunding the finance is provided in exchange for equity in the business, in credit-based the finance takes the form of a loan and on rewards-based platforms the investors receive a “reward” from the creators of the funding campaign. These rewards-based platforms are exemplified by the likes of Kickstarter and Indiegogo, two of the most recognisable platforms.
Right, I think that’s enough background reading!
“Investing Just Got Exciting”
Or, at least, according to the people at Crowdcube. Now, they may be overstating things a little. I have certainly never found investing very exciting, but I think that there are plenty of people who do. However, that’s the point of crowdfunding, to bring investing into the realm of people like me. To give us the opportunity to poke our heads behind the curtain and play at being an angel investor.
Crowdcube falls into the category of mixed crowdfunding platforms, offering both rewards-based and equity-based campaigns. This means that certain campaigns on Crowdcube allow investors to become direct shareholders in the company they invest in and enjoy all of the benefits (and risks) that entails. The exciting part is that the minimum investment is £10, so unlike the investors in Dragons’ Den there is no need to sit ominously in a leather chair beside a large pile of cash when making your investment decision!
I should mention that there are details such as the class of the shares offered and the rights they come with (such as voting rights), so you really should read all of the fine print if you are going to make the investment.
Formula 1 – Crowd Powered
I could have chosen from a number of platforms for this article, there is certainly no shortage of them. Crowdcube grabbed my attention, however, with an investment call that appealed directly to me, a Formula 1 fan!
Ailing Formula 1 team, Caterham, launched a rewards-based campaign to raise £2,350,00 in order to allow them to race at the final race of the 2014 season in Abu-Dhabi. The world of Formula 1 has always been the realm of the mega-wealthy and uber-famous. Teams are usually financed by people who own super-yachts and football clubs, and sponsorship money drawn from global brands adorn every inch of free space on the cars. Until now.
The campaign was incredibly successful with over 6,000 investors raising a sum of £2,354,389, successfully sending the CaterhamF1 team to race in Abu-Dhabi.
That, for me, is the purest example of the power of crowdfunding. 6,467 people wanted Caterham to race in Abu Dhabi and, through Crowdcube in this instance, they were empowered to rally together and do something about it, rather than hopelessly waiting for a wealthy investor to make a decision about the team they support.
Who knows what this could mean for the future. Will other struggling F1 teams turn to crowdfunding to raise the exorbitant sums necessary to succeed in the sport? Will ardent football fans, dismayed at the decisions of the super-wealthy owner of their club finally have an avenue to do more than simply armchair commentary? It is too early to tell, but I think that is the true excitement of crowdfunding.