How Loomio raised ethical investment and made our social mission even stronger

I liked a blog post about how Loomio raised some capital from “values-aligned” investors by using redeemable preference shares, so I decided to reblog the article.

Loomio is a collaborative decision-making tool (software) for groups. Hosted version is at http://www.loomio.org; check it out if your organization needs a democratic decision-making online tool.

Loomio Blog

The last few years have been quite a journey for Loomio. This is a story about navigating the world of startup financing to find ethical investment that works for a truly mission-driven tech company with big ambitions.

So many social enterprises face challenges finding the right capital model. We want them to know that there are amazing values-aligned investors out there, who are prepared to put their investment where their values are. Bold impact investors who put social impact first sometimes feel alone, but we want them to know that they’re not – they’re part of a growing movement.

We want to share our story to reach other purpose-driven startups, and other impact investors like the inspiring folk we’ve met along the way. More than anything, we want our mission-aligned capital raising story to become a more common one. 

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Elon Musk at Code Conference 2016

“Somebody should do it. If somebody doesn’t do it, then I think I should probably do it.”

– Elon Musk

 

I recently watched a very interesting interview with Elon Musk filmed at Code Conference 2016. The full interview is available on Youtube and is embedded below. Here is a short summary of the things Elon talked about:

He started by explaining why his company SpaceX needs drone ships in the Atlantic, for rocket launches from Cape Canaveral: these ships will serve as landing platforms for reusable first stages of their rockets, which are worth about 70% of the cost of the rockets. Here is a video of a successful Falcon 9 first-stage landing, filmed with an onboard camera (video is sped up):

 

 

At 13:43 mark into the interview Elon describes SpaceX’s plans for the future. In a few months they plan to start re-flying the landed first stages (which they now have 4 of them). Then, by the end of 2016 they want to launch Falcon Heavy, soon-to-be the most powerful rocket in the world.

In 2017 SpaceX will fly Dragon 2 spacecraft which is capable of taking up to 7 astronauts to International Space Station, as well as being able to fly to anywhere in the Solar system. In 2018 they intend to send one of them to Mars (on an unmanned mission). Elon said he will present the architecture for Mars colonization in September this year, but he gave us a little preview of the timing: if things go well, he wants to launch people to Mars in 2024, with arriving there the next year. Pretty ambitious, considering NASA is thinking about sending people to Mars in the 2030s.

At 24:10 the conversation shifts to the future of electric vehicles (EV) and autonomous driving. Tesla Motors, another Elon’s company, is working on scaling up the production – in 2018 they aim to make half a million vehicles in total and then a million per year by 2020. Their next model (Model 3) will have a starting price of $35,000, but it is important to note that operational costs will be lower compared to a gasoline powered car – electricity is cheaper than petrol, and EV maintenance costs are much lower. He also predicted that we are less than 2 years away from complete autonomous driving technology.

At 41:35 Elon gets asked about his views on artificial intelligence (AI). He is convinced that any AI we develop has to be friendly, and AI power has to be broadly distributed (not concentrated in the hands of a few people), otherwise the future may not be good.

The wackiest thing Elon talked about, when asked by a member of the audience, was his belief that it is likely that we live in a computer simulation. His reasoning goes like this: the technology is developing very fast, so relatively soon (on an evolutionary scale) we will have a virtual reality capabilities that will be indistinguishable from the reality itself, so if these kind of things are possible then we must also conclude that there is only a one in a billion chance that we are living in a base reality.

I don’t know how you can estimate the odds about that. Also, there is no evidence that we are living in a simulation, so I find pondering about these things pure speculation. But, if someone could devise an experiment that would either prove or disprove this hypothesis, it would be worth finding out.

During the interview Elon also talked about Hyperloop, American presidential elections 2016 (he didn’t want to answer questions directly), becoming a cyborg (merging with digital intelligence by having a direct brain-computer interface), direct democracy on Mars, his family life, and more.

Elon Musk at Code Conference 2016 – full interview.

 

Why having a smartphone is a good idea when travelling

FreeImages.com/Keith Syvinski.

FreeImages.com/Keith Syvinski.

I don’t have a smartphone. I never had one and never thought that I would need one. I have a regular mobile phone that does have some limited internet capabilities, but they are a joke, so I never use them. I liked the fact that I was disconnected from the internet when I was away from my computer. I have a slight addiction to internet, so not having a smartphone seemed like a good idea.

Recently, I was travelling in England for a couple of weeks and I discovered that the world has changed. Most hostels don’t even bother to have a computer available for their guests anymore. They just offer free Wi-Fi and that’s it. Only one hostel had a computer available, but you couldn’t even connect to the internet there, because the connection didn’t work. Actually, the computer itself looked like it will crash if you press any key.

Internet cafés became a rare thing, too. I only found one, and they charged £3 per hour. Worse yet, they kicked me out after 40 minutes, because it was 8.30pm and they were closing. I still had to pay full price. Compare that to the free Wi-Fi in the hostel, which is available 24/7.

Some libraries offer free computer access to anyone. I went to one of them, but they only allow one 30 minute session (per day, I assume). So, the bottom line is that it is a hassle to connect to the internet, if you don’t have a smartphone or a tablet. Of course you could carry a laptop with you, but that is burdensome in it’s own way. My backpack was already too heavy, even though I packed a lot less things than I normally would.

Not being able to connect to the internet can be costly. The train ticket from Salisbury to London costs £38.30, if you buy it at the train station. The same journey can be made for £14–20 (depending on the hour of the day of your train), if you buy the ticket online.

I definitely will get myself a smartphone the next time I go travelling somewhere for an extended period of time. Maybe I will use it only for travelling, and I’ll still use regular mobile phone in everyday life. Who knows. But, the one thing I do know is that technology is changing fast and that old-fashioned infrastructure is no more. Evolve or suffer consequences, your choice.

Guerrilla marketing example

I’ve never been working in advertising, but I’ve always found the concept of guerrilla marketing fascinating. Promoting your products in an unconventional way with limited budgets available requires a lot of imagination and creativity, and that is why I’m drawn to it. It’s not boring.

I don’t claim that I’m very good at it, but occasionally I’ve had an idea or two. Not much has been realized though (as I said, this is not my profession). One marketing idea that has been put into practice and that I’m proud of, is this one:

The product here is Overcome Anxiety Course, that I’ve written review of in my last post. This marketing idea utilizes a domain hack tr.im (reading it as “trim”), a URL shortening service, in order to convey a message: trim anxiety (by trimming the poster, going to the web address that is written on the trimmed part, and signing up for the course).

We will see if there will be any signups. I like my idea, I think it’s clever, but whether it will be effective is another question.

Do you know any good examples of guerrilla marketing? Leave links in the comment section, and I’ll be happy to check them.


P.S.: If you want to sign up for the Overcome Anxiety Course, you better do it as soon as possible. This is not a marketing trick. The author of the course (Mark Manson) decided to pull the courses off the market soon (in a couple of months) as it’s too much work with it and he wants to dedicate his full time to his writing career instead. The courses will continue to work, but no new members will be admitted.

Overcome Anxiety Course (review)

FreeImages.com/Márcia Rodrigues.

FreeImages.com/Márcia Rodrigues.

I’ve recently completed an online course on how to overcome anxiety. The author of the course is Mark Manson, and since I’m a fan of his work – as was obvious from one of my previous posts – I decided to write a review of this course as well.

The course consists of 8 video lessons. Each video is accompanied with a short written summary of the things explained in the video, and an interactive exercise underneath. The exercises require you to write something about yourself, or incite you to plan your future actions. You cannot progress to the next lesson until you do the exercise. An exercise can also require you to comment on what other people have written in the same lesson. Most videos are around 10 minutes long, the longest is a little less than 20 minutes.

The focus of this course is self-explanatory. It uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) methods to help you overcome your anxieties.

The central point of the course is that anxieties arise because you don’t feel competent of meeting the expectations of whatever you are facing. So, the solution is to either increase your skills and/or change your expectations. One lesson is dedicated to exploring your defense mechanisms that we do in order to avoid things that we are anxious about. The final stages of the course instruct you on how you can structure your life, so that success becomes inevitable and streamlined. When you finish the course you hopefully have a plan of committing to baby steps that will lead you to success.

When you get the course, you also gain access to a private forum, many additional bonus videos from Mark, and some downloadable bonus materials (PDFs, audio files). The community on the forums is very kind and helpful. Being a private forum behind a paywall practically ensures that only highly motivated people will flock there. Members are of both sexes, though I don’t know what the ratio is.

The price for the course is $67, which is a little costly. I think this price is intentionally inflated, because Mark also offers two other courses: Connection Course and Dating and Relationships Course, and naturally he would want you to sell you all of them. You can get all three courses for $117, which is a much better deal.

I’m currently in the middle of doing the Connection Course. I haven’t finished it yet, but from what I’ve seen so far, I’m satisfied with the course. This course teaches how to improve your conversation skills, in order to be able to better connect with people, which is very useful if you suffer from social anxiety. In that sense, both courses neatly work together.

All courses can be repeated as many times as you want – you don’t lose access once you’ve finished a course. Mark also offers 100% money-back guarantee on all sign-ups for up to 60 days. If you are not happy with the course, just demand a refund.

So, if you would like to get Overcome Anxiety Course, here is my affiliate link:

http://bit.ly/anxiety321

If you want to get all three courses, then just select option “ALL THREE COURSES” when placing an order.