Crowdfunding The Dream in 2018

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2017 marks the three year existence of the crowd funding proposition, CulturalGrassroots.com. Our goal is to register 50,000 Black people who want to use the collective financial strength of like-minded Black people to fund the goods, services and ideas created by the Thinkers, Tinkerers and Entrepreneurs amongst us.

Crowd funding is an opportunity! I still maintain that if a small group of Black folks with a self-centered, historical view of the world work collectively, we can accomplish big and substantial things!
       Challenges remain, though.
       Recently, there was a study of all Kickstarter projects led by women (“Gender Dynamics in Crowdfunding”). The scientist used a custom built algorithm to identify all women led projects and their contributors. What the study revealed is that women back women-led projects more frequently than do men, and vice-versa. They called these patterns, “taste-based discrimination”, which simply means that people are more inclined to support projects led by people they relate to, that look like them, have similar backgrounds and experiences.
       I know, you’re thinking, Duh! but not so fast. The experience of talking about crowdfunding and promoting CulturalGrassroots.com, has put me in hundreds of conversations with a complete spectrum of Black people and it’s clear to me that what seems like a no brainer — Black support for Black projects — is not a slam dunk.
       It appears that Black people, even the so-called “Consciousness” crowd, are concerned, I dare say, scared! of the “exclusionary factor”, which, according to an article reporting about the demise of yet another of the few Black crowd funding efforts (“Black Entrepreneur is Broke”), is a fear by Black people of being excluded from the benefits of the larger and richer pool of White investors.
       Of course this reasoning is circular because any discussion of investment in Black capacity is always a discussion about the dearth of opportunities for Black people to get funding from traditional investments sources.
       No, my experience is pointing to something much more insidious and deeply seeded in our psyche: We don’t want to appear to be competing AGAINST White society. Black folks with their own survival routines, whether upwardly mobile or mediocre, do not want to give the appearance of not wanting White money, jobs and support. Apparently, White people view Black-led community empowerment as “separatist movements”, “reverse racism”, etc. (see “Black Entrepreneur is Broke” article). And this scares Black folks because advocating Black competitiveness specifically, becomes a zero-sum game: either you are with them or with us.
       This is obviously a false choice and Black folks with a self-centered, historical view of the world dismiss such specious arguments out of hand. Increasing Black competitiveness will make the whole system better. Competitiveness brings out the best in people and society, it solves problems and recognizes real accomplishments and talent. Competitiveness leads to innovation, innovation leads to better lived lives.

Apparently, White people view Black-led community empowerment as “separatist movements”, “reverse racism”, etc. And this scares Black folks because advocating Black competitiveness specifically, becomes a zero-sum game: either you are with them or with us.


CulturalGrassroots.com is about increasing Black competitiveness worldwide through the development of an infrastructure of self-sufficiency rooted in the economy of our existence.

        Our individual successes in the White world are spectacular! and their countries, cities and communities have benefited from these achievements (think about Annie Easley, NASA scientist in the 1950’s)  We have done a good job of integrating into the fabric of civil society but yet civil society is still producing vast disparities in racial life outcomes. Our individual successes don’t seem to impact this reality despite our best individual efforts.
       Crowd funding, as a mechanism, creates an umbilical cord that re-connects Black accomplishment to the Black body politic from where these success stories originate. The largest pool of contributors to crowd funding campaigns contribute between $10 and $25. Fifty thousand Black folks chipping in $20 is $1 million dollars, which, if some of the Kickstarter campaigns are any indication, can happen in 24 hours, certainly in 30 days. So here we are on any given day with a million dollars ready to invest in goods, services and ideas that can succeed on a number of levels. The first level is the basic business proposition, can it succeed on its own terms? The second question is whether the project can benefit from the network of people that we’ve assembled in terms of the services necessary to succeed: in a crowd of 50,000 contributors is there a potential manufacturing, sales, marketing, and distribution apparatus?
       The next big challenge is to get on the same page with regard to strategic entrepreneurialism — businesses where our objective relationship provides a competitive advantage. Two good examples of strategic businesses where our objective relationship of being Black gives us a competitive advantage: natural hair (see, “Natural Hair: Ascribing Value to the Economy of Our Existence”) and images and stories. Images and stories includes books, television shows and films, web series, plays, life-style games, etc. No one can do us better than we can do ourselves. This is an objective relationship that gives us a competitive advantage in the content production, distribution and sales business worldwide! So now we have a business infrastructure capable of investing, producing, marketing and distributing our images and stories, a multi-billion dollar, global industry with millions of eager customers we know about.
       I can think of any number of stories about how we navigate the modern world that I would like to see made by us. I don’t want to see Hollywood make the Assata Shakur story; I would love to see an international thriller from the perspective of a Black protagonist trying to protect his/her country’s assets from illegal exploitation. There are visceral differences between Raoul Peck’s “Sometime in April” and Hollywood’s “Hotel Rwanda”, that can only be explained by the point of view of the makers: Raoul Peck steeped in a self-centered historical world view that informs our humanity; Hollywood shape shifting culture to make the case for its own cultural and political dominance. “They are only movies!” No! This is the information upon which we build our lives and ambition.
       Crowd funding is a mechanism that can be utilized by a small group of committed people to fund the initiatives and projects they want to see! Fifty thousand represents approximately less than 1% of working age Black Americans. The process is transparent and uncomplicated. We know from Kickstarter and others that the Crowd is just as smart as the professionals when it comes to picking winners, and avoiding fraudulent schemes. There are no monthly tithes or dues, you don’t have to believe in witchcraft or learn a secret handshake. You simply need to have an open mind and a week’s worth of specialty coffee money and you too can be an “angel investor” (see, “Strategic Entreprenurialism: We Are Our Own Angles”) in projects that have as their goal, increasing our competitiveness as a community through encouragement and support of our best and brightest Thinkers, Tinkerers and Entrepreneurs to innovate on our behalf!
Financing the Dream in 2016!
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How crowdfunding for real estate really works | Bankless Times

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At its core, crowdfunding means pooling money together from a group of investors to make an investment. In this sense, crowdfunding has existed in real estate for centuries … Neighbors have bought property together, husbands and wives and their sisters and brothers have collectively bought property and even multiple institutions have come together to collectively purchase property.

The major difference between collective real estate investing of the past and crowdfunding for real estate today is the ability to transact online and the unparalleled access to deal flow by using the internet as the new distribution platform.

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Innovation and Empowerment: How Crowdfunding is Impacting the Who, What and When

AfroCrowdfunding is enabling innovation and empowering entrepreneurs and like-minded people with foresight, skills and a can-do attitude to define their own opportunities, and the world                 they want to see.

 

This is the 21st Century! And there are plenty of discoveries worthy of the future we now inhabit: Genetics, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Nano Processes are transforming the world in which we live, work and play. From Smart Cities, to self-driving cars and cognitive computers, to robotic warehouse workers and Librarians, the world we know now is rapidly transforming. While a majority of us are not yet interacting daily with the most far-reaching of the technological innovations defining our future, the time is now for the future workforce to think in new ways about the world they will inhabit.

It is not a coincidence that new paradigms are emerging in finance, and money itself. Bitcoin, the most popular of the many crypto currencies being used and traded by a growing constituency of techies and entrepreneurs, is challenging the big-bank owned agency called the Federal Reserve and its power over the money supply. Complementing this challenge to the money supply, Crowdfunding is challenging the “first-in, most out” entitlement enjoyed by the small but powerful clique of venture capitalist and “angel” investors of Wall Street.

Crowdfunding, popularized by the multi-billion dollar success of Kickstarter, is an old concept super-charged by the world-wide ubiquity of the Internet, whereby like-minded people contribute modest amounts to innovative goods, services and ideas promoted by individual entrepreneurs. The type of projects vary from social to personal to commercial. Films and television programs like “Veronica Mars”, and “Reading Rainbow” have done well, however, the biggest and most proliferate of the successes have been in the technology sector. Occulus Rift, a virtual reality headset got started on Kickstarter, and was recently sold to Facebook for $2 billion; the Pebble smartwatch famously raised over $10 million dollars from enthusiastic people looking to encourage the New and Innovative, and Empowering themselves along the way.

Crowdfunding is enabling innovation and empowering entrepreneurs and like-minded people with foresight, skills and a can-do attitude to define their own opportunities, and the world they want to see.

What could be more tailor made for Black folks worldwide, and particularly here in the West. Every entrepreneur knows that start-up financing for businesses comes first from friends, family and business associates. And for all the reasons that history has to offer, including the economic dependency that was forced upon Black folks worldwide — from Africa to the Caribbean to the Americas — our individual “affinity networks” have been inadequate to provide a level of entrepreneurial support that would help us develop an “infrastructure of self-sufficiency” which is the key to our community being competitive with other communities economically.

Crowdfunding has the potential to allow us to turn our collective pennies into the investment dollars that our Best and Brightest need to innovate and create on our behalf in the first instance. And with the introduction of equity crowdfunding, it will be possible for our “crowd” to potentially benefit from an idea turning into a product turning into a company.

As the crowd funding industry grows, there will be many portals parceling the market out in categories. CulturalGrassroots.com is the most promising proposition targeting the segment of the Black market that sees power in the ability to ascribe value to the economy of our existence (good example: our images and stories). The pitch is unique in that CulturalGrassroots.com will only exist if the crowd wants it too, and,  in its focus on infrastructure building through entrepreneurialism that gives us a competitive advantage (natural hair, for example).

I’ve been in business for 20+ years and I’ve met very smart and enterprising Black folks that take our collective condition very personal; these folks spend good time, energy and money trying to develop pieces of this self-sufficiency infrastructure that we need to compete with others, and the only thing standing in their way much of the time is Black money. Because in my experience, it’s only other Black people that are also focused on improving our competitiveness as a community, that see the strategic value of these investments in infrastructure building.

This is exciting time, and CG.com is in the middle of an emerging industry unburdened by old-school barriers to entry. For those of you who want to experience the excitement of being part of a dynamic Start-up company, we welcome you to be part of the experience, and ultimately to be part of the company.