Monthly Archives: December 2008

A New Kind of Company

In recent years, there has been a surge of “new kind of” companies entering the marketplace.  Social entrepreneurs launch these companies with lofty visions of creating positive change while making money.  They offer a win-win for everyone, by focusing on the triple bottom line – people, planet, and profits.

I am huge supporter of this these “new kind of” companies.  I think the only way to create an economically sustainable company is to create an environmentally and socially sustainable one.  You can only exploit people and the environment for so long before you run out of those resources.

However, in recent weeks, I have started to question whether anyone has truly created one of these “new kind of” companies, including myself with Atayne. I am in no way questioning people’s vision or intentions.  But I do strongly question if the structure of our financial system allows people to truly redesign the way they establish their company.

If someone is going to create a “new kind of” company, they need to start from the very beginning.  This includes redesigning the typical corporate mission and vision, company values, management team, product design/service offering, etc.  In most cases, tremendous thought is given to these areas and a lot of innovative work has been done.  Unfortunately, one very important area has been neglected – company funding.

As these “new kind of” companies have entered the marketplace, we have also seen the growth of organizations that are dedicated to investing in them.  There are now a handful of environmental and social focused angel, venture, and private equity funds.  Investors’ Circle is one of the most well known offering “patient capital for a sustainable future.”  Resources like Investors’ Circle are critical to help social entrepreneurs.  But I believe we need more innovation in this space.

As an entrepreneur, I am seeking more innovative funding strategies for the development of Atayne.  Here is my thought: how can you apply a micro-loan strategy like Kiva or grassroots campaign strategy like Obama to engage the masses (and not the monarchs) in funding a company?  How can you raise $25 from 10,000 people instead of $25,000 from 10 people?  They both lead to $250,000, but there is a key difference that Abraham Lincoln would describe as “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

In theory, it seems simple. Create a campaign to raise $250,000 in equity investments from 10,000 people.  But this is where it gets complicated and our current financial and regulatory system in the U.S. gets in the way.  Unless the person qualifies as an accredited investor (makes over $200k a year or has a net worth of over $1M), that $25 investment must be a registered security. Unfortunately, the regulations and compliance of registering this type of security would be so overwhelming for a start-up or small venture that this strategy becomes infeasible.

What this means is that potential small investors are prevented from getting involved in start-ups, even if the investment is as little as $25.  Why?  “The system” acting as patriarch wants to protect people from the companies offering these investments.  Some degree of protection is good.  However, the assumption is that people who make under $200,000 a year or have a net worth under $1,000,000 are not smart enough to make a decision to protect themselves.  So how democratic is our company financing system?

If you have some ideas on how to democratize the funding of companies like Atayne, I would love to hear your thoughts.

The Milestones I Live For

Things have been pretty exciting around Camp Atayne the last few weeks.  Unfortunately, that is one reason why my activity on the blog has slowed a bit.  I apologize for the silence and hope to get back on my weekly routine.

Atayne has achieved some great milestones over the last few weeks.  Sales are picking up very nicely, and we are off to a great holiday season.  If you did not receive the most recent newsletter, check it out here to see our holiday giving promotions.

We are starting to get some great mentions in the media.  Trail Runner magazine gave us a great review in their December 2008 “Green Issue.”

Trail Runner Atayne Review
Trail Runner Atayne Review

We have also received some fantastic mentions in a variety of holiday gift giving guides:

As the leader of a start-up, these are the type of milestones I live for, right?  The answer to that question is yes…and no.  Let me explain.

Getting exposure and making money is important.  It enables us to grow and continue our operations.  But let me be very clear.  I did not start Atayne to get rich. If I did, I must be doing something wrong because I have not gotten a real paycheck in over a year.  My future may look bright, but right now I get way too excited for a free lunch or beer (I want to put the emphasis on the beer for anyone I may meet).

Why did I start Atayne?  To inspire positive environmental and social change through the power of sports and active lifestyles.  Selling environmentally sensitive and people safe performance and lifestyle gear is what allows us to fulfill this vision.

Where am I going with this?  While the typical milestones are important and get me very excited, it is really a whole different type of milestone that keeps me going and gets me up in the morning.

Last week I was in New York.  Becca and I had just finished a workout at the Greenpoint (Brooklyn) YMCA. (My knee is in recovery mode, post-Maine marathon.) I was, of course, wearing an Atayne top (glacier blue, 4Rs).  While waiting for Becca to come out of the locker room, I was stopped by another gym-goer upon seeing my shirt. He asked, “Did you get that at a race expo?”

I replied, “No, I actually started the company.”

He smiled and responded, “Very cool, I bought one last weekend at the Philadelphia Marathon.  I love it.”

This was the first time I had been randomly approached by an Atayne customer.  I have to say the energy I got from that conversation is enough to drive me through 2009.  He had no idea I was the founder; he was just starting a random conversation about Atayne.  I am not sure why he felt compelled to start it, but I have to imagine it is because he is an Atayne fan in the making.

When you place an order or if you already have, please know that the greatest enjoyment for me does not come from money going into our bank account (although it is nice).  It comes from knowing you believe in what we are doing and that we hopefully inspired you to make your own positive impact on the world.

P.S. Just so everyone knows, my favorite beer is Gritty McDuffs while in Maine and Sam Adams or Guinness while anywhere else.