Thanks to Ann Christiano of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for forwarding this article entitled “Three Social Entrepreneurs Sell Shares in Selves to Scale” from the Stanford Social Innovation Review, which dovetails nicely with my previous post about funding for social impact start ups. The article is written by Marcia Stepanek who writes a very interesting blog called Cause Global, discussing the use of social media for social change initiatives.
Stepanek’s article profiles three young entrepreneurs in the social innovation sector who have taken the idea of peer-to-peer lending a step further by offering “shares” in their own future earnings in exchange for funding their start up ventures. The trio have formed an entity called The Thrust Fund to facilitate their bold proposal. They announced their offering in a recent blog post, “we are going to offer equity in our life’s earnings for an unrestricted infusion of cash today.”
The three are offering between 100 and 200 shares in themselves at $3,000 each in an effort to raise between $300,000-600,000 in unrestricted start up funding. The ROI will be 3-6% of the individual’s lifetime earnings.
“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,” the trio wrote on the Thrust Fund blog. “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.”
While the peer-to-peer lending model is being replicated in many ways, the idea of investing in an individual and their potential for lifelong earning is really quite radical. Whether this is merely a novel publicity stunt, or a truly innovative funding model is yet to be seen. Regardless, though, it is another example of a creative approach to the problem of the underfunding of new business ventures that don’t fit within the—fairly tight—parameters of the traditional venture capital box.