Old Ideas and New Tools Create the New Capitalism
by Francis P. Koster, Ed.D.
In the past few years, our once diverse and decentralized banking system has gone through dramatic change. Three out of every four dollars entrusted to banks are now held by just 6 institutions (sometimes referred to as the "too big to fail" banks").i ii This change has significant implications on your families future, particularly in the area of job creation in your town.
These six institutions focus on profitable large commercial loans, consumer accounts and credit cards, and approve only around one in six loan requests from small business. iii If you want a loan to start or grow a small business, they do not have the welcome mat out. The banks eager for your business are those banks that control the other one dollar out of every four - the 7000 community banks.iv Get it? Six banks control three quarters of the money, 7000 control the rest. In recent years, unlike the big banks, these community banks have approved one out of every two small business loan requests.v But there is a wrinkle.
Close your eyes and visualize a "small business". How does it match up to this definition, which is the one used by lenders and the "Small" Business Administration: Construction - $35 million annual receipts; Manufacturing - between 500 and 1000 employees; Retail trade - around $7 million in annual receipts.vi
You can see that the word "Small" is misleading in this case - we need another term which is more descriptive. There is one. The technical term for a business with less than a one million dollars in sales is "micro business". Typically, such a business employs approximately 5 people. There are 27 million microbusiness in the United States.vii Almost all of them need capital to get up and running, and once running, to expand.
When the people controlling 75% of all the lendable money turn down five out of every six loan requests, and the most cooperative banks with the least amount of money to lend turn down one out of every two requests, the future of job creation through new business requires a re think.
We need to fix this to create a better future.
The most common source of money to start up new business often comes from family and friends. One fun example is Mr. Jonathan Swift, an Irish Episcopalian priest, best known as the author of Gulliver's Travels. Faced with Irelands overwhelming poverty in the 1700's, he organized an investment fund created by parish donors. This fund was loaned out in small amounts to other parishioners to help them break the cycle of poverty by enabling them to start a business, and employ their fellows. viii An early version of a "hand up" not a "hand out".
Fast forward three centuries, and you find the modern equivalent on the internet funding entrepreneurs.
In the world of business, the on line solicitation of investors is called is called "crowdfunding". This was given a huge boost last year when both political parties united to pass, and President Obama signed, the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Actix . Microbusiness owner post their market analysis and business plan, and essentially solicit investors blindly. Interested parties can either make a loan, or receive an equity interest in the new company, or in some cases take a percentage ownership in some asset like a truck or real estate, or combination of all three.
The best known site is called Kickstarter, started in April of 2009. Just four years later over $381 million had been invested in new businesses! On February 9, 2012, two projects (a charging dock for an I-phone and a computer game) tied for the honor of raising over a million dollars in investment through Kickstarter in a single day.x
Not all projects are this size. Two teachers in Billings Montana had an idea to create party dinnerware which locked a bowl into a dinner plate so that people attending a reception could carry both without spilling. The did a business plan, determined they needed a minimum of $20,000, posted their solicitation, and a few minutes had their first $100.00. A few days later they had secured 300 investors and met their goal of $20,000.xi
If you Google "crowdfunding business startups" you will find more than 10 pages of links to explore.
We can create a better future with many new jobs if we study role models like Father Swift in our history, update our view of how the world of big money is really working, and adapt to new tools.
You better get started - your kids need you to help them cope and flourish in this changing world.