This is very insightful and encouraging, Jonathan.
There’s something that keeps banging around in my head that is both self-serving as well as potentially a game-changer for our community here. It offers an opportunity for overlap with a topic that’s gaining increasing visibility and momentum around the country: a guaranteed minimum income (GMI).
The thing is, a GMI needs to start somewhere. A lot of efforts are picking random people and somewhat random amounts to give them, and they’re waiting to see what happens over time. What if we, as a startup community, were to take this on in a more focused manner?
As you stated above, there are people with ideas who are looking for funding, as well as people both looking for “co-founders” and those who can BE those “co-founders”. What’s in the way in most cases is not millions of dollars for each one, but enough to pay the bills and get access to common resources.
There are also a lot of us “seniors” around who are finding it increasingly difficult to find work for whatever reason. I for one would be quite happy to act as a technical resource for startups if I could somehow earn enough to cover my bills, because I’m not in a position to give up my time purely as a volunteer.
Consider an organization, perhaps a foundation of some kind, funded initially by seed monies from large corporations and other successful startups. This entity would offer, say, annual grants to support individuals in the community who are willing to dedicate their time acting as resources to the startup community here. It could also allocate grants to people who have ideas, to help them flesh out their ideas with the assistance of the others. It would operate somewhat like an incubator, taking equity in companies it assists to help fund future needs. But it would operate in a way that’s far more broad, supporting as many “resource people” and entrepreneurs as possible.
It would operate in contrast to most startup funding “competitions” in that it would focus on providing a GMI to those who want to create a startup or support them as resources, with an initial focus on embracing “seniors” in our community who are stuck on the sidelines for whatever reasons.
In my case, I’m a software developer, and I’m great at building rapid (software) prototypes to serve as “proof-of-concept” and “functional” prototypes, what someone might want in many cases before committing to an MVP (or sometimes serving as one). The problem is, the people who need them have no budget, and many of us software folks capable of doing this kind of work simply can’t work for free.
Some incubators offer such resources, but it’s a steep hill for startup founders to climb getting there, and most fail. Many times the key to proceeding is simply having a viable prototype to show people, and it’s amazing how difficult it can be for most folks to find someone who can just do that much.
I see it as a Catch-22 that can be addressed by tapping into underutilized resources in our community through a program designed mainly as a means of providing them with a GMI rather than an incubator, if that makes sense. (It’s a difference in priorities.)
Additional funding for this entity could come from taking on small projects from local firms who need to outsource various tasks. This would be a great way to support locals rather than sending the work overseas just because it looks cheaper on the surface. (The failure rates are quite high, and in the end you don’t save a lot of money unless you’re very lucky.)
I’m just starting work on a contract back east at the moment, but when I’m finished, I’d love to help investigate what a program like this would entail. But it would be great to see what kind of interest there is for it in the meantime.