Traveling Investor Network
- I got an idea that our laboratory might serve as a network for
"traveling investors", those who have a "home away from home". My
hope is that a lot of ideas will now come together.
These last few months I had some modest success in finding several
small jobs where I was paid to "work openly". Also, I am very happy
that we have our first customer, Ian Bruk, for our team-building
services, and if this service works, then a lot of our lab's activity
can pay for itself.
However, I have debts that make me consider, how might our lab return
a profit? How might it yield a return for an investor? What
opportunity is there, if any, for a venture capitalist? This is on my
mind at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ki-work/ where especially Neil
McEvoy is thinking along these lines.
This especially concerns me because this summer I have the opportunity
to apply for small business support in Lithuania, which will be
receiving about 1 billion euros per year for the next three years. If
my proposal is selected, I could receive a grant of up to 100,000
euros for any matching funds that I bring in.
This is money that is intended to help integrate and uplift Eastern
Europe. And much of it may be used ineffectively. I think it would
be good for all if we won this. I imagine how I would like to use
this. I would like to strengthen our network of independent thinkers
in Lithuania and elsewhere, especially in the villages. I would like
to identify such wise loving people, and encourage young people to
learn from them, help get their thoughts out onto the Internet, and
help implement their projects. I would like us to design a program of
self-education around such activity. Around the world, such travel
might even serve as an alternative to college. I would like us to
develop an information architecture that would support such activity
in areas where we must assume that we have infrequent connection to
the Internet. I would also like us to collect the troubles that we
find, and learn especially how to touch our hearts when we are distant
to others, as I think is the case with too many Serbs in Bosnia, too
many class-minded people in India, too many pale-skinned people in
Chicagoland. I would like us to lead our activity through our
investigators, and let it reveal for us the reality of our mind, and
yield a shared language for talking about that.
However, these are activities that foster caring, and may be great for
spending money, but not helpful for earning it. So I thought, given
what I want to do, what could we do that would serve an investor?
So I imagined, how would I think if I was an investor? For example,
what would I do if we won the European IT prize,
http://www.it-prize.org , 200,000 euros! (We find out this month.)
Well, there would be taxes. Loans to repay. Symbolic dividends for
people who have helped all these years. A bit of charity for the
poorest of the poor. Some help for people I know well. Maybe a vacation.
I expect, though, that I would dedicate a good portion as capital.
Some projects require a marshaling of resources. How would I put
capital to best use? One idea is to give it away to whoever needs it
the most. Certainly I can do this with some of the money. But I
think the best that I can give is not just my money, but also my
participation. I also think, as a participant, that I should invest
in myself (and others). Personally, I believe in investing in people.
I like to see multiple benefits, and so I believe in investing in the
human network, especially in ways that make a difference in social
structure. I would like to make an effort to include all manner of
people, of all types of thinking, from all kinds of regions, who might
not otherwise be able to participate at our lab. I would like to
train and send organizers to do such outreach. It may seem
paradoxical in this age of the Internet, but I believe in travel. I
think that, in communicating a new worldview, it is often most
practical to send people to that world, or from that world, especially
if those people come with jobs, then to try to create materials and
an infrastructure for participating from afar. I would also consider
how such activity might be self-sustainable.
I suppose this shows that I would be an awful person to give money to
if what you wanted was a high monetary return on investment. This is
because, in my (very small) investments, I look at many dimensions,
not only money. I think that, if you have capital, and you know what
to do with it, what you value and how to include yourself as a
participant, then you make your own personal plan. If you don't know
what to do with it (perhaps you haven't had time to figure out), that
is when you simply listen to the market. And the market will simply
tell you, for a particular risk, what kind of return you might expect.
I see that I don't have much to offer to the investor who doesn't
personally know what to do with their capital, and is simply parking
it, looking for the best place to let it grow while they figure out.
And I don't think it's much of a long term strategy to just let your
money grow - what is the point of having a lot of money if you don't
know what to do with a little money? But I think there are many
investors who do know what they want to do.
Why would any of these investors be interested in a network of
villages in Lithuania? Well, actually, there are quite a few
Lithuanians around the world who do have summer homes there, or have
farms or invest in businesses there. They don't do it only for
money. In fact, their investments may or may not make sense
financially, and typically there are many dimensions at play.
I think that for every such existing investor there are many more who
would like to, but are afraid to, because they can't trust anybody.
They can't trust people to protect their property, or to run their
farm, or to be fair in their business. They can't be there, they
don't truly know the people there, and so they can't invest.
But this is what our laboratory does well! We attract people who
share with us thoughtful, responsible, generous, open behavior. We
foster a community. We do this online, but in Lithuania, we also do
this on the ground, including small towns and villages.
It makes good sense for such a distant investor to want the support of
a community of self-directed, transparently-motivated people. They
can find in us a pool of people from whom they can find partners,
workers, managers, etc. I would think it's nice to have a summer home
if you have neighbors that you like, and perhaps somebody who might
live there in the winter, and a community that you feel part of when
you stay there. It's great to invest in a business in your home
village when you know that there is a community keeping an eye on it.
Or to involve a promising young person who you know is active in
helping others and learning from them. The opportunity that we can
offer is enormous.
This makes sense not only in Lithuania, but even more so in other
places. My two weeks in Bosnia helped me see the painful lack of
trust between the few million who stayed, and the million who left.
So many might invest if they had a "web of trust" that they could work
with. I also think of our Indian emigre community, Umesh and his wife
being a wonderful example of support for one's homeland.
In the Balkans, I have realized that a network of villages multiplies
the opportunity of each. I think the same is true for investors - it
is that much more rewarding if you can travel through a network of
villages, and likewise receive travelers into your community. You can
learn about other projects, and share your own experiences, even if it
is simply about how you've built your particular cottage. This is
exciting even within one country, Lithuania, but imagine it being
international, so that you can spend your summer in the Lithuanian
village, but then take trips to a village in Austria or the beaches of
Such a Traveling Investor Network is, I think, a very attractive idea
for Lithuania's small business program, especially because they are
focusing on the travel and tourist industry. The number of investors
who might participate is, I think, quite large, and very much the kind
that we can serve and reward with our "web of trust" and our uplifting
mission. I think that the value of our community is evident enough
here that we can, from many of these investors, receive a significant
mark-up (20% to 50% or more) for wages they might pay to members of
our laboratory for various work (for example, watching over a house,
managing a business, etc.). They would know that a large portion of
the mark-up pays for our community activity which they will be very
In fact, I think that a sizable portion of that mark-up might go to an
investor (or even venture capitalist) who enabled us to organize such
a network. I would like to find a logic for paying out this
percentage, perhaps one that worked a little bit like issuing stock,
so that the percentage might be diluted so as to raise more capital,
but also a percentage might be sold by a speculator for a return.
I appreciate thoughts on this idea! (It is evolving.) And, along with
Stanko Blatnik, I look forward to meeting Hansjorg, Franz, Peter from
Kirchbach, Austria this Saturday.