I have been a rather vocal critique of how startups are funded currently. The startup crowd says you should invest out of a commitment to help the community, but the way to do that is a pain in the butt. Basically you are given the option to “invest” or crowd fund.
The issue with investing in startups is that it’s really not an investment. Basically you’re gambling with the help of lawyers. To really invest you have to be willing to put $250K+ on the table to make it possibly be worthwhile. You need to hand over $25K+ per company you support so that if they in fact do make it big that your returns actually matter. (A 10X return on a $1000 just isn’t worth the time or risk), and you need to invest in 10+ startups simply because so many of them fail or barely break even. (Realistically the number that I hear consensus on is somewhere around 30 investments to have a good base). Beyond the outlay of money there’s a bunch of paperwork you have to wade through and different laws and regulations to abide by. Frankly simply being able to hand a startup some cash with no strings attached can end up being a better deal than trying to deal with gaining equity.
Crowd Funding can be great except that many times the process distracts from the main goal of the startup. Printing bumper stickers and shipping out T Shirts has nothing to do with creating autonomous drones. The crowd funding process forces startups to worry about logistics and products that exceeded the scope of what their trying to accomplish and can skew their mission. (Mission creep is one of the most dangerous issues for startups to deal with).
Personally for the most part I’d prefer just to hand a founder a few thousand dollars and be able to write it off my taxes. A “thank you” and a write off is all the appreciation I need, but there are few easy systems to allow people to do this. FUSE Coworking in Lincoln Nebraska allows you to support startups as a sponsor so you can then write it off your taxes, and not have to call your lawyer to wade through terms sheets.
Currently for $750 you can sponsor an entrepreneur to work at FUSE for no cost for 6 months. This is a very reasonable amount of money many successful entrepreneurs can easily afford, and it’s a sponsorship so you can write it off as an advertising expense. For new entrepreneurs $750 is an amount of money that can really matter when they’re first starting out, and simply knowing someone is sponsoring them may provide that recognition they need to stay motivated. (It’s harder to give up when you know someone was willing to back you.)
For people who want to support startups but don’t want to deal with equity sponsorship seems like a great way to go. I have been a proponent of funding startups through sponsorship for a long time, and it’s good to see at least one way that this is being done in the real world.
FUSE Coworking Sponsorship: http://www.fusecoworking.com/become-a-sponsor/