Project Hub: An equity crowdfunding platform and accelerator for social enterprises

Some time ago, I wrote a piece titled "Changing business as usual through an active, engaged membership, and with the Companization." In that time, I've been tossing a few ideas around about how to do this. One of those ideas is developing an equity crowdfunding platform/business accelerator for social enterprises. I will go over how I think this could work in this post. I seek your comments, insight, critique, and inevitably your support. 

In my piece, I detailed ways to use the Companization model. In his book, Business as usual is over, Hans details ways companies could use the Companization to experiment in creating new, more socially ethical businesses. Beyond developing greenhouses that produce ecological, function food delivered directly and daily to consumers, Plantagon's innovation is in creating a new, better way of doing business. It shows via the Companization, how others can do this and use the influence it affords one, to do as entrepreneurs do: disrupt the market. 

Let's say, that like myself, members of the Association (PNA) or others generally interested in how to use the Companization, subscribed to the model and created companizations. So let's say there are all these companizations created. What else? What happens? How are these new social entrepreneurs as they would be called, be able to grow in a way that shows the model is a success? How in effect, does one make this scalable and replicable in such a way, that they can grow rapidly. What are the steps that could make this happen?

I think equity crowdfunding in conjunction with a business accelerator could be a viable answer to these questions. Combining the business development needs for social entrepreneurs by aiding them in the development of companizations with connecting these new enterprises with a network to fund their ventures would be the way to go. This would be done via equity crowdfunding rather than just the normal, rewards based crowdfunding, though that too could be employed. Sharing equity means we're in this together, and could also serve as a way to bring revenue back into PNA. This will be what I will spend the remainder of this and upcoming posts detailing this.

The idea is perhaps simple: 1. Members of the Plantagon Community would participate on the platform, pitching an idea to the community. 2. The Community, would vote on the ideas they feel are most viable and that they believe they'd be willing to give backing to. The voting can be done via the accumulation of Plantapoints. 3. Once a threshold is achieved (and that threshold should be discussed), the member would be seeded funding to bring that idea to fruition. Before receiving the funding, the recipient would have to go through an incubation period of 30, 60, or 90 days. During this period, they'd learn about Companization, become certified, and whatever else business development would be necessary to bring their innovation to potential investors. This is the rewards based crowdfunding phase. The end result of course, is a viable Companization.

After the incubation, the entrepreneur could opt to go through an accelerator. The accelerator like most others, is purposed with connecting the entrepreneur with additional resources to grow their innovation. The periods are ideal to correspond with the above intervals of 30, 60, or 90 days. It is my belief that 90 days is the best time period for both phases so to call it. Both give the entrepreneur and their a real opportunity to build up the support and network to bring their innovation to market. The second, accelerator phase is interesting because after the 90 days (or 30 or 60) the entrepreneur could have another 30, 60, or 90 days to raise funds through the network. This is where our equity crowdfunding platform would come into play.

Coming from Arabic for love, Project Hubb exists to create this equity crowdfunding platform directed at growing social enterprises. Helping them design their business in a way that achieves the desired end of the Association, we'd help spread the companization model as an alternative corporate structure. Project Hubb as I call it, would connect social entrepreneurs with investors that want to divest out of less ethical, socially or environmentally companies, and invest in these companies coming out of the accelerator. As an equity crowdfunding platform, investors are able to choose which investments they feel are worth taking the risk in investing in. Moreover, they are assured that these new entities share in their values, effectively creating that market for a human face Hans and we all talk about. 

This would benefit the association in other ways. Seeding the venture, the association does this in exchange for equity. Like Y Combinator, that equity comes with training and support/mentorship. Post mentorship, the Association's stake would be sold initially to members, and then perhaps, during the crowdfunding campaign (the equity one). This would in effect, share the risk of the association and ensure that it is generating income on its own. 

This idea was first pitched in Silicon Valley at the Muslim Public Affairs Council's Young Leaders' Summit in Silicon Valley, to thought leaders, serial entrepreneurs, and representatives of the Muslim Community in Silicon Valley. The team there spent about a week at Google Headquarters, LinkedIn, Plug and Play, The Stanford D School, learning from industry insiders including former BP Solar CEO Reyad Fezzani and Elixir Capital's Managing Director Abrar Hussain. Upon returning to NY, I was determined to launch Hubb and in November of 2013, myself and co-founder Bushra Kabir launched The Hubb Syracuse at Startup Weekend 2013 as one of the 15 companies launched that weekend.  

The idea needs work of course, from support to critique, and I look forward to hearing what your impressions are as I begin to bring this idea into action. This weekend, I pitched this at Startup Weeked Syracuse after having spent 54 hours developing it. We were well received and peeked interest. I think this can be viable and am going to keep working on making it happen as part of the work I do with my own startup, which I'm working on creating as a Companization. But, what do you think? 


Join the Conversation. Follow me on Twitter: @YusufAQ or @TheHubbSyracuse


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