This blog post was originally written by Marissa Feinberg for Forbes.com published on 6/13/2012
Green Spaces is New York City’s sustainable coworking space for startups, entrepreneurs, and others who like to work happily while improving the world. Members and guests from diverse and overlapping fields make us NYC’s networking hotspot for the eco and socially minded. I’m Marissa Feinberg, Green Spaces co-founder, PR and marketing media whisperer, and rapid dot connector. See my recent interview about Green Spaces on Mashable.
Idea Bounce goes digital
Each Wednesday, members gather for the Green Spaces “IdeaBounce,” also known as “startup therapy with dumplings,” to share news and fun facts. Then, one person or company (sometimes a member, sometimes a guest) introduces a challenge they’re facing. The group bounces ideas, recommending strategies and contacts. I’ll be sharing some of what we come up with here on this blog.
Your dream is so big!
Pretty much every entrepreneur knows the struggle of crafting one sentence that makes people “get” what their business does. How could your dream possibly be capitulated into one, tiny utterance?! Well, here’s one startup with legit reason to stress about that.
Mission Markets is the hub connecting sustainability ventures and social enterprises to the money people. By money people I mean investors; also financial, legal, and business service providers; and issuers, the people who register and sell securities in money markets.
From the startup perspective, that means that environmental, social justice, etc. ventures can join Mission Markets to look for 1.) funders, and 2.) people to help them with their “business end” and become more attractive to said investors. Investors can find 1.) investment opportunities, and 2.) detailed financial information on companies they might invest in. Think investment bank, but with values in mind and great technology in development.
But wait, there’s more! Now Mission Markets is adding branded “Affinity Groups,” smaller networks within the Mission community, such as incubators, university groups, angel networks, and investor groups (ahem, Green Spaces calling!).
At last week’s Idea Bounce Olivia Frazao, Senior Business Developer of Mission Markets, guest presented. She wants to know how best to grow the Mission Markets community at large while simultaneously dividing it into Affinity Groups communities. Thus, our challenge for this week’s Idea Bounce.
Wait up there, lady
There’s no such thing as a tangent at an Idea Bounce, but sometimes we do get a little off track. After Olivia introduced herself and her company, members stopped in their tracks. Dumplings hung in midair between plate and mouth. We’re an entrepreneur-heavy, passionate group with a lot of ideas and startups we want to get off the ground, and we’re interested in funding for new ventures (“interested” = understatement). In addition, we have quite a few people in our community who got involved in the startup world following former lives on Wall Street. Some of our questions:
- Can anyone invest in any company?
- If I invest a small amount in a creative endeavor, e.g., a filmmaker’s movie, does that mean I own a share of something?
- What is FINRA?
- How can Mission Markets help my startup get all its ducks in a row and attract serious investors?
Here’s a little more gist, which Olivia explained. To invest seed money into a business, you have to become an accredited investor: a person or organization of a certain financial worth. If you donated a small amount to someone’s, say, kickstarter.com campaign to make the next great zombie movie, no, you don’t own shares of anything. (Typically the filmmaker would give the film to those who supported him with funds following production, so you’ve essentially “pre-bought” the goods.)
FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) is a non-government entity charged with protecting investors by regulating securities firms and exchange markets. Meaning that if securities are being sold that will finance your business, FINRA is meant to make sure the issuers (securities sellers) are trustworthy. Clearly, regulatory issues are an important component for Mission Markets’ goals of standardizing and scaling sustainability markets.
Back to the bounce
Following Startup Finance 401, we came back to the question Olivia posed. How to grow, scale, and strengthen Mission’s role in sustainability and social venture markets while creating individual spaces that serve specific groups? For example, if Green Spaces created an Affinity Group on Mission Markets, we could have a branded portal that collates our unique community’s technical and professional resources, as well as our startups looking for services and investments, while benefiting from Mission’s infrastructure as a whole.
As Olivia put it, “I love how in business, problems are called ‘opportunities.’” I think that’s even more apt here than she thought — Green Spaces members weren’t even sure that Mission Markets’ big picture would be at odds with the smaller, integrated Affinity Groups. In fact, one of Mission’s taglines is “Many missions, one marketplace.” What members felt really mattered most was Mission Markets’ USP (unique selling point). In this case, it may be that the company creates an all-in-one venue for ventures, investors, and related professionals in the sustainability sector — one that didn’t exist before.
Certainly Mission Markets has competition in its work to connect potential stakeholders to innovation. The company’s comprehensive vision to put all of what investors, issuers, service providers, startups looking for funding, etc. are looking for in one place seems likely to be its all-important USP and what will fuel its success.
After all, just in learning what Mission Markets does, we learned more about the investment process and the social enterprise market. And what does USP directly tie back to? That idea of that one sentence that tells people why your company is needed.
Bonus idea: Olivia shared with us some of what’s likely to come in the very near future of crowdfunding. Wheels are in motion to change the way it works, so that people (read: not just accredited investors) who provide small amounts of seed money will own corresponding shares.