Start Up Blog

The truth about crowd funding

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 29, 2012

Most web tools that are re-shaping commerce are doing one thing, handing over control to the users from the producers. They are democratizing the factors of production so that anyone with access and ideas can now play. They do this through cutting out two things that existed and thrived in the industrial era: middle men and gate keepers. The power of collaboration has been touted as a revolution consistently since the the word web 2.0 exited the mouth of Tim O’Reilly. I think it is entirely justified. This is particularly the case with the latest disruptor to emerge – crowd funding. The reason that funding our projects from the crowd changes everything, is because it doesn’t really change anything.

All things have always been funded by the crowd, we just didn’t know it before.

To bring this idea to life let’s consider a couple of examples:

Debt funding via banks is a form of crowd funding: They take our deposits, assess and carry the risk of ‘sub-letting’ our deposits on margin. Essentially banks make money from crowd funding projects and managing the organisation of it.

Capital raising via VC firms is a form of crowd funding: They take large portions of their venture money from Superannuation or 401K funds which has been allocated to ‘high risk’ investments. This is typically between 1-5% of the total asset allocation. Again, our money is being allocated in our behalf from which transaction profit margin is made.

The point is that pretty much every type of investment that involved aggregated money, has always been the money of the ‘audience’ hidden within a structured system. A system which we are now re-structuring with deomcratised tools so that we can organise our capital amongst ourselves. So that we can access each others funds without permission from financiers. So that we can decide what is worth funding. So that we can make the margin available on float capital. And this is just the start of the inevitable changes to the financial system.

The very truth about crowd funding is that before it arrived in its current ‘web organised’ form – we got locked out of the system that our money funded. And it feels like crowd funding of micro projects is just the begging of something much bigger and more important. The question for aspiring entrepreneurs is how can we disrupt the finance industry further with newly connected commercial eco systems?

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10 ways to significantly increase your income

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 16, 2012

There are a bunch of ways to increase our incomes. Whether we are business owners, startups or employees the principals are the same. So here’s a list of 10 things we can do (starting tomorrow) to boost the income we receive from whatever we do.

  1. Learn or improve our public speaking skills - Our ability to sell ourselves and anything verbally is still the number skill in business. Anyone who can speak in private, can speak in public – it just takes practice. There are tricks we can learn and if we learn them what we earn will increase dramatically.
  2. Write a blog – If we write a blog on what you do it has a wondrous way of increasing our knowledge bank, our reputation and builds a verifiable asset we can use to sell our credentials. All I can say is that of all the things I’ve done in my life, blogging has created more  economic benefit for me than anything else. You’ll only know how this happens if you have faith and do it.
  3. Keep your body in good shape - I believe it has two important ways it impacts our earning potential. Firstly a fit body has a brain that works better. This is a medical fact. Secondly, people subconsciously judge us on what we look like. If we are in good shape people increase their trust levels of us. Because we look after ourselves, they believe we can look after them and their business. I know this is almost cultural heresy, but I do think it is true.
  4. Groom & dress well – As per the second point above. How we look is an asset. It doesn’t mean we need to wear expensive clothes or look like a movie star, but have pride in our own human existence. Never be afraid to invest money in nice clothing.
  5. Work harder on yourself than you do on your job – People buy us as they asset, both in startup land and employment land. So we must invest in self development more than developing the business. If we do the former, that latter happens automatically.
  6. Leverage the wood chips – Every job has some kind of ‘off cut’ or left over which is part of the process of being productive. This is often a great asset which can be leveraged. Know what your wood chips are, and take them to market. This not only invents revenue, but displays vision. People will notice.
  7. Learn another language – It might be Chinese Mandarin or Javascript. Any language will do. The point is that it increases our mind power and enables us to see and understand things that other people can’t. It is far more impressive to know how to speak another language than it is have a post graduate qualification in the same area. It separates us from the crowd. And differentiation leads to greater income.
  8. Help others grow – Help friends and colleagues achieve their goals. Help them with what you know and inspire them to be all they can. Do it without desire for any repayment. It will inspire you and karma will return the benefits.
  9. Save 30 percent – Keep 30 percent of your income to be invested. Do this before any expenditure occurs at all. Put 10% into active capital (your own entrepreneurial ideas). Put 10% into passive capital (shares, interest bearing deposits, other peoples business ventures) and put 10% back into society – this should be defined by yourself. It takes far less than people think for the compound benefits of such a simple financial strategy to accrue.
  10. Spend 10% on your income on self education – No matter what we earn we must ensure we allocate 10% of this to re-educating ourselves. In a world of rapid change this is not a choice but a must. This is the ingredient to continued self worth and value. It pays for itself many times over. Just ask any millionaire.

By the way this list is ‘non-exhaustive’ – but a set of activities I have learned and used. Maybe you’ve got some additional tactics you can share in the comments.

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Top 10 financial hacks

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 13, 2011

There is no point being a successful entrepreneur, or selling a startup if we have no idea how to handle the money we get. So here is my top 10 financial life hacks.

  1. Spend less than you earn, no matter what that amount is. The net result is happiness.
  2. Allocate cash to savings & investments before anything the day you get your profits, pay or dividends.
  3. Never go into debt for anything which does not appreciate in value.
  4. The real definition of an Asset: Anything that puts money in your pocket. The accounting definition of an asset is flawed.
  5. Do not trade stocks. Trading makes the broker and tax man rich and you poor.
  6. The greatest financial instrument is ‘compounding’. It only happens when we hold assets, not by trading them.
  7. If you can’t afford a consumer product in cash, you can’t afford it.
  8. There is no such thing as ‘financial engineering’. It was invented by Wall street to trick you.
  9. The best type of share investment is an Index Fund. They are investments in civilization. If that fails, we have bigger worries than our money.
  10. Invest more in education than entertainment & ‘things’ and you will outdo society financially.

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Borderless Venture Capital

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on January 25, 2010

This is the third of my crowd sourced blog entry ideas as suggested by Aida_Lee. Aida wanted to get my thoughts on the following: In today’s cheap, quick and global market, what do you see as the blueprint for a border-less venture capital to work?

There is no doubt Venture Capital has been a bit of closed shop historically. And although we’ve seen some opening up of business funding in the USA with vehicles such as the techcrunch 50 and Paul Graham’s Y Combinator, other markets such as Australia are lagging behind quite significantly. My views are the opinion of someone who has raised venture and angel funding before for new ventures.

In my view a thing things need to happen for the traditional structure of Venture Capital to change:

  1. A startup community must evolve in a tight geographic region – this often facilitates events such as those mentioned above in Silicon Valley.
  2. Disruptive technology must become available which breaks down traditional access barriers to outsiders.

Number 1 has happened in only a few locations, namely S Valley, but number 2 has happened all over the world and this is where I see the major changes. The thing that new internet technology has done is brought entrepreneurial communities together. Now we can find each other without having to live near each other. But the funny thing about raising funds for what is considered risky investments, is that it isn’t nearly as much about the idea or revenue potential. It’s about the ability to the team raising to sell themselves. And all real selling requires lots of face time. It’s hard to do this on line, or across borders. So I think that large capital raising wont change a great deal in the future. But, I do see an important  capital raising revolution coming:

Crowd funding.

It’s been done already in a few markets, and some entrepreneurs and start ups have already used this technique to raise money for their venture. The idea has been well documented, but a true revolution, such as social networking  has yet to happen. The main thing holding it back has been government regulation from the likes of the SEC and ASIC in Australia. What I think the next iteration will be, is a web based business which takes micro payments / investments (a little bit like Kiva) from a large number of punters (for lack of a better word) to fund the new business. Method of which would be like an on-line float for startups. The investors who then would become digital evangelists for the new company. There would be a synchronized  ‘investment beta’

The key service of such a site would be to overcome the legal vagaries for all participants and be able to take investments in multiple currencies from multiple markets. There is no doubt this would leverage the quickly building on line entrepreneurial communities. It would also have an important impact the venture capital industry structure the same way digital freelancing websites like elance have respectively.

I’d be interested if there are any sites already doing pure crowd sourcing, and to hear what your thoughts are.

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Short memory – GFC

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 18, 2009

Reading the New York Times this weekend it seems clear that the Global Financial Crisis has not diminished the ability of investment bankers to extract bonuses from poorly performing assets and even losses.

I still believe that private profits should also result in private losses. I remember back last year having a discussion with a prominent Australian Venture Capitalist. He held a strong view that the bailout activities were justified, while my view was strongly opposed.

He said:

“If a child trips and skins its knee that’s fine, but there is no point letting it fall from a 10 story building. The consequences are too great”

I said:

“It’s not a child, they’re investment bankers. And maybe what we need right now is a few of them splattered on the sidewalk.”

My view has not changed.

But it seems the general populous has a short memory as the rot is returning very quickly. In fact, it might do both our economy and our environment good to let the current system bleed for a while. Why not allow time for new eco-friendly industries and  egalitarian reward systems arrive?

Startup Blog wonders what your think?

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Timing vs Time in

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 6, 2009

The timing versus time in argument is a long standing one in investment circles. And it gos a little bit like this:

People who are for ‘timing’ the market proclaim that smart investors should time their entry and exit for their investments. And that investors should exit when markets are too hot, for example when price earnings ratios are well above the long term average. And enter at the opposite end of the spectrum. Resulting in higher profits.

People are are for ‘time in’ the market proclaim that smart investors should stay in the market at all times. That when you enter or exit the market does not matter so long as the investment has been in market long enough. Which will result in a long term result of profitability due to the period of time in the market, allowing market averages to endure.

Both parties happen to be correct.

What neither side bothers to discuss is most important factor in either strategy. Probability. The probability of success of either the two different investment strategies. It turns out that it’s a pretty simple proposition related to risk and probability.

Timing the market – Can have very high returns (losses) but a much lower probability of success.

Time in the market – Has average returns (rarely losses) and a very high probability of success.

Numerous studies have proven the above to be fact.

How does this pertain top startups? Well it reminds me a lot of the internet and entrepreneurs attitude towards it. Most entrepreneurs believe that the only way to succeed is to win big. To sell out our startup to some digital behemoth. Our business brains have been hijacked by the Techcrunch stories and the large novelty checks presented to the likes of My Space, Facebook, Digg, Flickr and friends …

These are a little bit like investments where the market has been timed. It’s a low probability event. Sure there’s a lot more to it than a passive investment vehicle, but the probability of it happening is so to us, is so low that it’s not worth considering.

What we ought do instead is focus on the high probability events. In an entrepreneurial sense success is a very long term proposition. So our goal should be to remain in the entrepreneurial game as long as possible. As we do this we inevitability move up the learning curve and increase our chance of winning at some time in the future. Winning may not mean a cheque in the millions, but it might mean earning 5 times what we could in wages, as well as having a lot more fun doing it.

So how do we stay in the game?

Keep our costs low. Know how to bootstrap. Enjoy the simple things in life. Know that the having is in the doing, not in the owning of stuff.

Startup Blog says: Use probability to your advantage

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