Sunday, January 20, 2013

Kickstarter for People Instead of Projects?

I've always been fascinated by the idea of investing in people. On more than one occasion, I've met a person that I've been truly impressed by and have thought about how amazing it would be to invest in them, their ideas and their career. This is also one of the reasons why I'm excited about investing in passionate entrepreneurs by learning more about angel investing and venture capital.

Recently I discovered a new website that takes this idea of investing in people and makes it into a business. Similar to Kickstarter and MedStartr (basically Kickstarter just for healthcare companies), there is now a company called Upstart, where "the startup is you" and others can invest in your career or ideas if you are a recent undergrad or graduate student. In fact, I was talking to a Stanford GSB alum who recently received the seed funding for his startup through Upstart, which fascinated me because it was such a unique new way to raise money that I hadn't heard of yet.

Upstart is a community of "Upstarts" and "Backers," where the "Upstarts" are able to raise a certain amount of money (they need to reach at least $10,000) for a small amount of their future income (the max being 7% of their income over 10 years). Based on a statistical model the company uses, it says that the average "Backer" tends to receive an annual 6-8% return on their investment, which of course also depends on the "Upstart" they pick by browsing through their profiles, but this is still a very decent return given the state of the public markets today.

I think this is a nice option for raising funds for recent graduates who have a cool startup idea, but are unable to raise funding through the traditional method of angel investors and VCs.  It's also interesting that most of the "Backers" on the site right now are actually angel investors or VCs who want to invest directly in very promising individuals and their ideas. At the end of the day, I truly believe that early-stage investing comes down to investing in the right people and teams and Upstart is a unique new way for people to invest in passionate and creative young adults.

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