Monday, May 16, 2011

Kevin at Maker Faire (Bay Area) moderating crowdfunding panel

I'll be at Maker Faire (Bay Area / San Mateo) moderating the crowdfunding panel on Saturday May 21 (3pm).  Drop me a note if you want to meet up

Kevin at Crowdsortium Symposium

I'll be at the 1st Crowdsortium Symposium (Google HQ, Mountain View) on May 19-20.  Drop me a note if you want to meet up.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Congressional hearing on "The Future of Capital Formation" video available

The video from today's congressional hearing on "The Future of Capital Formation", which affects crowdfunding, is now available online.  Unfortunately, Woody was swapped out last minute to make room for former SEC Commissioner Roel Campos.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Congressional committee hearing on crowdfunding exemption Tue May 10

A landmark U.S. congressional hearing relating to crowdfunding and small business capital formation, takes place on Tuesday May 10th, 2011!  Entrepreneur Sherwood "Woody" Neiss testifies in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  Woody is advocating SEC regulatory change which would enable small businesses to solicit funding from the general public.  And besides the ear of congress, Whoopie Goldberg has got behind him.

The implications of such needed change are monumental to the entrepreneur, to small businesses and to the economy -- all of which have been held back by lack of modern methods of capital formation.  Despite the commercialized Internet being over 15 years old, the general public has nearly no access to private companies as an asset class, outside of their immediate circle.  And yet, people of wealth (i.e. "accredited investors") can be readily solicited for funding, and thus have virtually unlimited access to potential private investments.

While this momentous event takes place at a U.S. congressional hearing, its significance is absolutely global.  The U.K. already has an exemption in place, and at least one equity-based crowdfunding platform (Crowdcube) is operational in the U.K.  Given the proliferation of other forms of crowdfunding throughout the entire world, it's a matter of time before other countries come on board.  And thus there is also a strong competitive element in allowing crowdfunding for investment.  In an Internet-based information economy, it will be virtually impossible to compete without bringing private investment into the Internet fray.

Please support Woody and the entire crowdfunding and entrepreneur community.  The hearing should be webcast live.  Also, C-SPAN decides on Monday, May 9, which programs it will broadcast for Tuesday.  Update: unfortunately, they don't take inputs from the public.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The community tool library, from books to drills

We tend to think of a library as a communal repository of books, magazines and other literature.  But why not a library of tools instead?  The same argument applies -- it's often not feasible to own all the tools a person needs over time, so why not borrow them from a communal repository?

The Northeast Portland Tool Library is an interesting community effort which answers these kinds of questions.  It makes home improvement and gardening tools available to residents of Northeast Portland, much like people check out books from a library, late fees included.  It's very community centric, and operated out of the basement of a church!

That makes me wonder, is this a model which will become popularized over time?  Now that ebooks and tablets are shredding the paper book markets, will the next community libraries store tools?

Btw, you might want to also check out my related post about TechShop, a new club model place to get access to cutting edge machining and design tools.

Update: There's a Wikipedia page listing a number of tools libraries.

Disclosure: no positions

Physical gadget VC funds coming, crowdfunding leading the way

Until recently, software gadgetry has taken up a lot of the limelight in the startup world: social networking, mobile apps, browser plugins, you name it.  But a new trend is emerging that will drive Venture Capital to create specific hardware gadget funds, analogous to the way that Kleiner Perkins' iFund targets iPhone/iPad apps.  This time though, crowdfunding is leading the way.

We've already seen the creation of a handful of really popular hardware gadgets, such as the credit card reader from Square (angel, VC, and corporate investors).  And the TikTok / LunaTik watch band which lets you snap or bolt in an iPod nano (Kickstarter).  And the incredible Satarii Star accessory for the iPhone which automatically swivels to track you while taking video (IndieGoGo).

But of course, one of the main drivers behind the proliferation of software startups are the relatively lower barriers.  Tinkering with hardware gadgets, while popular amongst the 'maker' crowd, has traditionally presented some steeper barriers.  CNC lathes, milling machines and 3D printers aren't things the average tinkerer buys at Fry's on a whim.  So the playing field for prototyping hardware gadgets has until now, been drastically restricted.  And when I say "until now", I mean TechShop.  This is a truly amazing new model, which will crack open the market for physical item startups.  Analogous to what gym memberships did for giving broad access to work-out equipment, TechShop is doing to bring access to all the dream tools a maker would need.  Molding, milling, drilling, welding, water-jet cutting, 3D printing, design software, etc.  Being modern, many of these tools are of course, CNC based.  TechShop provides training & mentorship, and of course a community of makers to interact with.

What was really interesting at a recent TechShop event at their San Francisco location, was that there was quite a bit of talk about crowdfunding!  People were really charged up about crowdfunding as a natural fit.  When I asked if there were VCs sniffing around, they said a few have, but they're waiting for enough deal flow to make it worth their while.  Well, have a look at the TechShop locations which are operational or coming soon.

Given the enormous latent innovation that this new model unleashes, if I were the VCs, I wouldn't wait long to make my brand name in the space.  Not just because TechShop startups like DODOcase are learning how to become successful without VC money.  And not just because of the explosive nature of the space.  But because this time around, there is significant competition.  Crowdfunding is already establishing a beach-head.

Note to avant-garde VCs, calling it the MakerFund would be a great way to dial into a whole culture of tinkerers...

Disclosure: no positions