Crowd Funding Can Ignite Economic Development
Crowd Funding Can Ignite Economic Development
When I was approached by Justin Ryan, CEO of Sircap, in December 2013 about partnering with his organization to promote Kickercon, I had a very vague idea of crowd funding. I had heard of Kickstarter and IndieGoGo and kind of understood the concept, but didn’t put any real thought into it. As I jumped into this venture with my already tight schedule of work and starting a non-profit, I quickly realized this is something pretty major. In fact, I think it is a major disruption in financing and venture capital. Of course, as with anything new there is a hype-cycle that comes with it. I’m sure the web addresses with the word ‘crowd’ have all been taken up by now. There will be charlatans, fraud, deception and crowd-washing, but there will also be tremendous amounts of opportunities for all. I won’t go into detail about the 100 ways to use crowd funding in this blog, I will try to stick to how I could use it as an economic development tool for the South Texas Technology Council.
The South Texas Technology Council is a non-profit trade association designed to be economic development and workforce training organization designed to inspire homegrown technology ventures, and influence tech companies to relocate to the region. The purpose is to help the community-at-large, at-risk youth, disadvantaged citizens, and military veterans gain knowledge and expertise in the various technical fields. In short, get real tech training, for real tech jobs, at real tech companies. Lofty goals, I know, but they are necessary goals. San Antonio is my father’s hometown; Corpus Christi is my mother’s hometown, so I put it on myself to be productive in the community. As a veteran, I owe it to my comrades in arms to help them succeed, too.
We are in the process of incorporating the South Texas Technology Council with LegalZoom and the State of Texas. We have seven great initiatives to work on for the organization, but before we get there we need a facility for offices, training rooms, and conference rooms. Since I am a proponent of environmental sustainability and past member of the National Capital Region LEED Association, I will be looking for an old building to rehab and modify for sustainability. As a new venture with no backers this can be financially overwhelming. With the advent of new solicitation and crowdfunding laws, our members and investors can see transparency, low minimums, project by project investment and ease of transaction that can set the stage for real change in South Texas. PatchOfLand would be the perfect crowd funding platform for such an endeavor. www.patchofland.com A great example of crowdfunding for real estate would be Silicon Island. http://siliconisland.crowdtilt.com/ Granted they have huge backers from top ten tech companies, it can be done on a small scale.
After we have procured the building, it would be time to add solar panels. There would be no better place to raise funds than Mosaic. As a non-profit, I do not see any reason to maintain an electric bill. Mosaic connects investors to high quality solar projects. Their mission is to open up clean energy investing and fundamentally change the way energy is financed. As they say, the fundamentals of solar makes it an attractive component of a diversified investment portfolio: reliable technology, predictable energy output, and stable cash flows. According to their website, every project is carefully vetted and structured to minimize risk while maximizing benefits to investors and the planet. https://joinmosaic.com/
I was fortunate to see IndieGoGo at SXSW, last month. Really nice folks, I look forward to working with them. One of the council’s initiatives is for Workforce Job Training. If you watch the migration patterns over the years in America, people seem to migrate wherever there are good jobs. The fertilizer for good jobs is economic incentives, resources, real estate, and a trained workforce. I envision a Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org) style training program for software development, network engineering, and information security. Real technical certifications, so people can get trained and go out and get real tech jobs. I think it is shameful that overpriced colleges and universities are slow to adopt training programs that can actually help a student get a real job. I also think it is a great economic development initiative to have an educated workforce to attract high tech companies. IndieGoGo’s community platform would be an excellent place to start a campaign. www.indiegogo.com
Since I mentioned fertilizer for tech businesses, the most challenging initiatives are larger in scope, and may require a study beforehand. They are the Broadband Initiative and the Data Center Initiative. If we are to attract tech companies to South Texas, you need a minimum of three things, ping, power, and pipe. The data must flow. I had the opportunity to work with the Mid Atlantic Broadband Cooperative out of Virginia, and I envision an neutral broadband fiber ring built in two phases, possibly three, that connect Laredo, McAllen, Corpus Christi, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. The Broadband Initiative creates connections between technology and people to revitalize communities in South Texas. By delivering high speed broadband access across underserved communities, The Broadband Initiative opens doors for businesses to locate operations across Southern Texas with confidence they have reliable broadband access at any capacity level. It will operate an open-access network that enables businesses to work with the communication provider of their choice to secure diverse network access. As a non-profit entity, we reinvest in community programs that support the primary mission of creating jobs by attracting new businesses to the region.
The other Initiatives include: Advanced Manufacturing Technology, Nanotechnology, Robotics, and Green Tech. So be on the lookout in the coming months for crowd funding campaigns for economic development. I heard someone say, we are in exponential times, and we must act accordingly. www.kickercon.com
More information about the South Texas Technology Council can be found here www.stxtechcouncil.org or on LinkedIn Groups.