Investing with Purpose

Ok, so Irrational Design was featured in the NYT because of our (now my) passion for avoiding investment.

Over the past few weeks I have started to explore the idea of taking investment for a few reasons:

  1. I’m worried about my personal finances as I try to get these businesses off the ground
  2. I’ve been introduced to a few investors that are amenable to deal structures that will not hurt the long-term risk taking / “do crazy shit” ability of the company (e.g. no board seats)
  3. The Matching Game is at a point where an injection of capital would be put to immediate and good use, providing a clear and effective return on their investment (or at least the numbers seem to suggest that).

Despite all of that I’m still hesitant about taking capital. A few things still nag at me. One thing:

Why don’t any investors ever ask me about why I’m building this? What’s the purpose of all of it?

They ask about the idea, the numbers, the team, the technology, etc, but they don’t ask why?

Why do the vast majority of investors view companies simply as a vehicle for profit? Most of them spend their own time and money supporting non-profit work, giving back to the community, etc, but they very rarely ask “How can what your building really move the dial, change the world, or even just change the community, or even just one person’s life?”.

How is your company going to make a difference beyond just making money?

Here’s the deal, and I structure my thinking around this more and more:

I want to spend my time doing things that can’t fail.

TheMatchingGame may fail financially, but in the meantime I’ve helped thousands of people meet someone, maybe meet someone who will be with them for the rest of their life. That may not sound like non-profit work to you, but it’s some of the most meaningful work I can think of. For a lot of people companionship can help empower them to do more good themselves, which is a huge multiplier effect.

SecretGoals may fail financially, but in the meantime it’s giving people a place to discuss, vent, brag, etc. about the most important goals in their life, free from judgement. It’s actually pretty close to a lot of the work non-profits do. If I can get it to a profitable state where it’s self-sustaining, how awesome is that? If I can’t, then well at least I affected people’s lives for the better along the way.

Why don’t more investors think like that? Why aren’t they saying to themselves, “Here’s 10 grand. Even if I never get a return on my money I’ll be happy spending 10 grand with you because I like what you’re doing and, even if you fail, that 10 grand will be put to good use along the way.”?

Sounds cheesy, I know, but it’s also common sense. Why not have an investment that can’t fail?

Why does doing good and making money have to be separated out? Why can’t we try to build companies that are capable of doing more and more good because they’re making more and more money? Why can’t we look to reward our employees with good pay while at the same time rewarding them by giving them time and resources to give back to the community?

If I can get Irrational Design profitable enough I want to explore starting a school (I already have a lot of ideas around it).

How many investors would balk at that?

100%?

And yet something like that would be putting capital to good use in the community, would make people look at your company and want to support it, would probably garner a lot of press and great attention, and would make your employees feel like they’re part of something truly special. It could end up making the company far more successful in the long run.

And yet I doubt there’s too many investors who would support, let alone encourage something like that.

Investors: you’re already rich, why aren’t you supporting more crazy shit?

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