Crowdfunding

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nanofarm

Small scale farming and Nanofarming improving

How are we going to feed ourselves in 2050, when the population of the world reaches 9.7 billion? How are we going to manage resources, when the majority of fresh water in the world goes to farming, and nearly half of farm produce ends up in landfills? Food waste of various types is the leading cause of methane gas production from landfills, which is contributing to climate change and impacting our access to fresh water. Across the world, being overweight (rich countries) and underweight (poor countries) is causing loss of life and human potential, and an enormous burden on health care systems. Will a kitchen still be used?

These strangely circular global problems can be broken down into these: unequal land and water resources; systems of agriculture that will require infrastructure development for storage and shipping of food in the developing world; systems of food shopping and eating behaviors in the developed world that perpetuates waste and obesity.  It might seem like a simple problem with simple solutions, to have half of the world ill from poor nutrition and vitamin deficiency, and half dying of diseases caused by obesity. Even stranger to have people going hungry while half the food we produce goes to waste. But these are problems of different systems, and changes in one system, while impactful, do not necessarily cause change across the board.

The challenges of agriculture, infrastructure development, storage and shipping of food, and nutrition in the developing world, are related systems that can be affected by resources, research, and hard work. In the developed world, resources, research, and hard work are also needed to affect change. But what is it that we need to change? Patterns of behavior, cultural standards, entitlement, habit? Are we all just spoiled brats who want what we want, and if it isn’t right, we throw it away in a snit? Will we have to face a global Armageddon on fresh strawberries and the decimation of the artisanal cheese industry before we start showing some care about our food?

We can leave the whole charged issue of spoiled brat/snit to the sociologists. The rest of us want to do better. We want to eat healthy food, and we want to eat ugly squash and tomatoes to save them from an afterlife in the landfill, covered with flies and making methane gas. We don’t want to throw away food, but we also don’t want to overeat, and after two weeks in the fridge, the Chinese food take out really needs to go. We would all probably eat less meat and more quinoa if we had a clue how to cook it, or what you were supposed to do with it in reference to a pot of chili. And we all want to support local organic farmers and reduce the carbon footprint of monoculture farms, but some mornings we just need to grab a muffin and go, and we don’t care how far that muffin had to travel to get into our hands.

These are guilt-laden conundrums, in which we take on responsibility for the fate of the planet as a direct consequence of how far our coffee beans were forced to travel. It’s no wonder that eating, tasting, growing, a simple cob of corn comes with a mantle of blame and quiet desperation before we even begin to douse it in butter and salt. It’s ridiculous, but it’s us.

But individual changes in behavior, while helpful, are not going to change a system that is unsuited for the current population growth v. resources issue as we understand it. At this time, most of us have kitchens in our homes or apartments. We shop for groceries in the grocery store, and take food home to cook for meals. We eat out in restaurants or fast food places a couple of times a week. In this system, farmers are going bankrupt, farm workers who pick produce are starving, fast food and restaurant workers are living below the poverty line, and grocery stores are showing huge profits. In addition, much of the food we buy is better travelled than we are. Those crazy jet-setting grapes, that arrive in the store after a long ocean voyage from South America!

Food waste happens in the current system in several places: at the farms, unattractive fresh fruits and veggies are not even picked–too expensive, and no market. At the grocery store, the nice-looking stuff goes fast, while the asymmetrical squash sits until it is past prime.  And when those lovely grapes are on sale, we take home a huge bag, and after several days of gorging on grapes, we let the rest of the bag sit until it starts to form raisins, even in the fridge, and we throw it away. There are several nonprofit groups who are developing systems to deal with food waste, including rescuing ugly produce and delivering it to food banks. While these groups are doing good work, they are not changing the system that is producing the problem. Continue reading

wearables

Smart Clothing for Woman

The dress works like this: it’s made of efoil, a new textile that is engineered to change opacity, and connected to an integral heartbeat monitor. When the wearer’s heartbeat accelerates, such as with the approach of a lover, the dress turns transparent. Part of an ongoing collaborative series about intimacy, technology, and fashion, the Intimacy 2.0 dress is the work of FashionTech designer/engineer Anouk Wipprecht and Dutch Studio Roosegaarde.

The majority of Anouk Wipprecht’s  FashionTech clothing, a wonderful mix of robotics, artificial intelligence, and wearable electronics, features a fierce beauty, like powerful exoskeletons, clothing that is ours to command. This FashionTech isn’t designed to make us pretty, but to make us powerful, a wearable host-system that can poke the eye out of any stupid bastard that approaches us with evil intent. The fierceness of most FashionTech, clothing that will bring a smile of delight to the eyes of powerful women everywhere, is why the Intimacy 2.0 dress has it backward.

Imagine this. You walk into a party, dressed to the nines in your new efoil dress, and naturally you feel a bit nervous, a bit excited, so your heart is beating excitedly, and then, just as you always knew it would, your clothing betrays you, turns translucent, and you stand naked in front of a crowd of strangers.

Your heart beats faster with the approach not just of a lover but of an enemy. A heart beats faster with challenge, dread, excitement, and what we need our clothing to do when our heart beats faster is to protect, not reveal. Continue reading

femtech

Female startups rising

The last years have seen a number of exciting startups securing venture capital and developing innovative products that include healthcare wearables. FemTech is the name for the women-led, women-designed new product startups, and the success of these traditional and consumer health care products can be summed up in two words: market potential.

Women’s healthcare has been underfunded by the research and development world, but the last few years have seen a number of innovative products brought to market. While much of femTech is focusing on reproductive technology and sexual health, such as fertility startups that are helping young women harvest and save their eggs for later childbirth decisions, to a birth control telemedicine and delivery model, to apps that are as sensitive as the birth control pill for contraception, not all the focus is on reproductive health.

Cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer of women worldwide, and Bloomer Tech is developing a number of wearables with biometric sensors to collect and analyze heart heath data. The data can be used to guide real-time medical decision making, while collecting big data amounts of women’s heart health data for research. The material developed has flexible, washable circuits embedded in textiles, a technology that will allow a number of interesting developments in the ability of wearables to collect biometric data. Their first product is a bra with the flexible circuits embedded to collect data on heart disease risk factors. It communicates to an app on a smartphone via Bluetooth. Most important, the user decides on how much and what data can be shared with a medical professional, researcher, or other person.

Bellabeat, the maker of LeafUrban jewelry, is leading the jewelry/design/health monitoring pack. The beautiful leaf-shaped jewelry looks nothing like a fitness tracker, and provides several important tools for women hoping to find a better tool to monitor health: it helps track menstrual periods, so women can keep track of fertility and contraception, and it monitors signs of stress and offers guided meditation. Like other health and fitness devices, it monitors activity and sleep, and gives the user data.

However, the largest amount of VC funding remains with startup companies focusing on a product that has both cachet and market potential. Many, or most, new products focus on women’s sexual and reproductive health. Elvie raised $6 million for a small device to help women do Kegel exercises properly. Women’s health care startups in FemTech have raised, to date, over $1.1 billion for research and development. Continue reading

e-cars

3 Revolutions: Transportation, Climate Change, and the Future of Cars

In one future world, we will live in the less expensive suburbs or rural areas, and come into the city for work in our driverless vehicles. To avoid expensive parking fees, we’ll send our vehicles out to roam around, hang out at the mall and grocery store and come pick us up when work is over. The possibility of hoards of driverless and riderless vehicles on the streets and in parking lots, hovering, just waiting for instructions, seems like the opening scene of a movie where you know things are about to go terribly wrong.

This scene of the zombie vehicles taking over the parking lots and streets of urban centers is quite possible. But a University of California professor is working to save us all.

Lewis Fulton’s 3 Revolutions Policy Initiative

A professor at the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis, Fulton has been publishing work on a mobility program for the future world. He says, and back up his claims with science, that three things have to change simultaneously for the future of transportation and climate change to work: electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, and ride-sharing. The Paris Agreement in 2015 hopes to keep global warming at 1.5 degrees. Some estimate this means 100 million new electrical vehicles on the road by 2030.

The snake in the woodpile is the lithium-ion battery, and the extensive mining for raw materials that is needed to supply the battery power for electric vehicles. There is concern that the current levels of energy use to produce these batteries means they will have a higher carbon footprint for much of their life, compared to current petroleum-based internal combustion engine vehicles. We can hope that the scientists who are working on this technology can continue to improve methods and materials used in manufacture, and lower the carbon footprint of these batteries.  Continue reading

Stratecta

Crowdcasting to Drive Innovation and Manage Customer Relationships

Crowdcasting is the newest use of the crowd to change the paradigm of two important functions of business: innovation and customer relationship management.

Innovation is being moved from the realm of experts to the crowd via problem-solving platforms like Hero-X. Incentives include contests and other forms of interaction, including cash prices, and problems that range in complexity are presented to the group. This use of the crowd as a group of out-of-field experts has produced some innovative and quirky thinking on knotty problems. Unlike university and other expert-based methods of traditional problem solving, issues of intellectual property and royalties for this work are managed by participants trading off their ideas for a possible prize.

This type of crowdcasting works to find innovative solutions to both business problems and complex social problems. Businesses can bring a problem to the crowd, where groups of unusual and esoteric specialists can collaborate. Non-profits can bring the complexities of social change and social justice to individuals and groups who bring off-center and out of the box thinking to multi-faceted issues.

One of the benefits of the crowdcasting model is the open-source ethos of shared problem solving. With the understanding that unusual solutions can be shared across industries and communities, the ideas and work are regularly published for use by others, with their different problems to solve.   Continue reading

stratecta

Organizing your start-up business in an efficient way

For startups concentrating on new product development, the first idea is the minimal viable product. When a market need is identified, the minimal viable product that can meet that need is developed. And then the product is further refined and developed by using crowdsourced feedback.

Gathering actionable metrics means the product is tested in small ways by a wide variety of people, and their feedback is solicited. When the Drumi was being perfected, after their successful Kickstarter campaign, they gave prototypes to people doing their wash. Detailed interviewing after use showed that the majority really liked the machine, but suggested a carrying handle. When people across the world, in Africa and Canada, both suggested a carrying handle would make the machine easier to use, the developers went back to the factory and redeveloped the prototype to include a handle. This change delayed shipment of their first production run by nearly six months, but they detailed the process and the changes on their website, so those who are eagerly awaiting their new Drumi will probably check out the new handle as soon as they open the box.

The goal of a startup is to develop a sustainable business by developing a product, making money, or meeting a service need. In the current business environment, agility is the key to this sustainability. Using metrics to measure feedback early during product development is the first step in startup development.

However if we think about organizational structure for a start-up, a new structure is needed that can adapt to rapid change. This could be done with a triangle working group model, designed to bring the strength of a geodesic dome to business structures. Continue reading

stratecta crowdinvesting

Equity-Crowdinvesting Developments

Equity Crowdinvesting is a crowdfunding rose of a different color, and while it shares many elements of donation or reward crowdfunding, its nature as a capital investment means it comes under securities laws in the country of origin. In essence, crowdinvesting is equity-based crowdfunding. With crowdinvesting the investor moves beyond simply supporting start-ups, and becomes an active player in the future of that project. Equity crowdfunding means an investment through a crowdfunding platform, usually for a startup or early business, in exchange for a piece of the business. It is hoped by both the investor and the business owner that the value of the business, and the value of the equity investment, will grow over time.

The popularity of crowdfunding of all types has put the pressure on governments to try and regulate the practice, especially equity crowdfunding. Capital investment has in the past been made with large sums of money by big corporations. Securities and investment law has been set into place regulating what should be done on both sides of the investment equation. There have been laws about who can solicit investments, how much, how much an investor has to have in order to invest, and similar. All of these laws are designed to protect both parties.

But equity crowdinvesting is different in that it allows, and is usually comprised of, the small investor with little to give and little to lose. The regulatory burden is significant, and involves financial statements, prospectus, and other documentary evidence suggesting the business is sound. This degree of regulatory requirement is in general not reasonable for the startup business – but there are certain reliefs in some european countries. So the new crowdfunding platforms that are offering equity crowdfunding are a new option for small investors who were previously not allowed into the market, and startups who had to find other ways to raise capital. These types of business investment also come with significant risk for capital loss. Continue reading

startup

The New Capitalism

The New Capitalism brings together business values and practices to make a product, make some money, and change the world. The business values that are being built into these new companies from the beginning include fair labor practices, environmental stewardship, a supply chain with a conscience and transparency, and a social justice heart. They are also using new capital funding options such as crowdfunding to build sustainability into the bones of the enterprise.

Several successful textiles industry startups are using the new models to build companies that address, first and foremost, the issues of unfair labor practices and supply chain fixing. The textile industry is the source for some of our most shameful practices, including sweatshops that use child and forced labor and keep workers living in poverty, practices to fix prices of raw materials so farmers and shepherds continue to live in poverty without access to markets, and use of hazardous materials, such as heavy metal dyes for silk and other natural fibers that bring disease and environmental degradation to communities of craftsmen.

The new models are building environmental stewardship and fair labor practices into their companies through company values that address these areas, and many are structuring a business model with both profit and non-profit arms. Everlane is a clothing company that uses what they describe as radical transparency to give consumers a look into their supply chain and factories. They recently took their Black Friday profits and turned them over, providing worker-focused benefits. A couple of shipping container hydroponic gardens will be moving across the ocean to live outside the cafeteria of the factory in Ho Chi Mihn City, where many of their clothes are made, to supply the workers with fresh leafy greens. Continue reading

Crowdfunding stratecta

Crowdfunding Campaigns: Advice for Success

Crowdfunding is an excellent resource for hopeful entrepreneurs, with the potential for providing start-up capital for new businesses. It is a highly visible way to market your company and your ideas. However, there is a downside as well: a failed campaign can also mean bad press for your company. In order to avoid these downsides, have a look at our Crowdfunding Advice in this Blog. A vital step before jumping into the crowdfunding waters is to do your research first. The most common mistakes that cause new ventures to fail include:

  • Lack of research and planning
  • Financial mismanagement
  • Poor hiring and leadership practices

Research and Planning

You need a solid business plan and a good working understanding of what your target market wants. You need to understand the value of your own product and how to communicate that value to your potential investors and client base. To garner the initial start-up funding you need with a crowd-funding campaign, you can’t just assume you have supporters out there—you need to identify and target your supporters. A professional investor pitch story is critical – why do you need funding, why should investors fund you, what separates you from your competition, what makes you unique and special? Will your product contribute to economic growth? Continue reading

engagement

Using Principles of the Engaged Workforce for a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign

Here is what we know about the engaged workforce: engaged workers, those who are loyal to the business and focused at work, those who are paying attention and working hard when they are on the job, are directly related to profit in the short and long term.

Now it gets more complicated. We can’t recruit and hire for engagement, because it is not a fixed quality. A worker who appears very engaged may get disillusioned or react to the business culture by becoming disengaged. The work may not meet needs the person can hardly identify, or may interfere with critical life goals and responsibilities, such as family. We do know a great about the characteristics of disengaged employees, because they are legion and vocal. But being disengaged is no more a fixed quality than being engaged. It’s not the worker, and it’s not the workplace. It’s the way those two meet and meld, or meet and clash.

The way we can influence the culture of the workplace to cultivate engaged employees is the same way we can attract those same people to support a crowdfunding campaign. If the company, not just the product or project, but the company is something people can believe in, they will support the ideas behind that belief. People get you, they get your ideas and goals, and they want to participate and contribute.  Continue reading