College Ave Student Loans Is Now Offering Special Graduation Loan For Harvard Law School Students

Student loan marketplace, College Ave Student Loans, announced on Monday it is offering a special graduate loan for Harvard Law School students through its new program, College Ave Harvard Law Program, which offers one low fixed rate (5.695% APR).

“The College Ave Harvard Law Program loan also offers an extended grace period of 9 months after graduation and can be deferred up to 12 months for a judicial clerkship. As with other College Ave loans, there are no origination fees or application costs, which can save qualified borrowers money over federal Grad PLUS loans. This program is available to both domestic and international Harvard Law School students.”

Speaking about the program, Joe DePaulo, CEO and Co-Founder of College Ave Student Loans, stated:

“We continuously listen to both our school partners and customers, and through that dialogue saw a unique opportunity to improve the experience for Harvard Law School students. We created a simple, straightforward loan with a great rate, tailored features, and an easy application so students can put their energy into their education and professional career ahead.”

Ken Lafler, Assistant Dean for Student Financial Services, also commented:

“Working with lenders to create new, lower-cost loan options for students is just one of the ways Harvard Law School is working to broaden access to a legal education. Combined with increasing amounts of need-based financial aid, as well as the Low Income Protection Plan, we are reducing barriers and making a Harvard Law School education affordable for everyone, regardless of means.”

College Ave Student Loans went on to add that in addition to the College Ave Harvard Law Program, it recently announced new financing options for graduate students pursuing degrees in business, law, medicine, and dentistry. The platform’s suite of graduate student loans features benefits for those pursuing specialized advanced degrees, including extended grace and deferment periods, longer repayment plans, and a higher aggregate loan limit.

Harvard’s Endowment Fund Invests in Blockstack Tokens, Supports Company as Part of Token Advisory Board

Harvard University, via their endowment fund, is backing Blockstack’s security token offering.

Digging into the Reg A+ Offering Circular filed with the SEC last week, Blockstack highlighted the relationship with Harvard Management Company:

“In connection with the sale to the QP Fund, we have formed a token advisory board, the LP Advisory Committee, the main purpose of which is to determine whether the above milestones have been met.  The token advisory board consists of seven members. Three of the members, Charlie Saravia, Zavain Dar and Rodolfo Gonzalez are designees of affiliates of the Harvard Management Company, Lux Capital and Foundation Capital, respectively, limited partners of the QP Fund which have purchased an aggregate of 95,833,333 Stacks Tokens; the board also consists of four independent members, Koen Langendoen, Arvind Narayanan, Arianna Simpson and Catherine Tucker.”

Harvard Goes Crypto

Saravia is a Managing Director of Harvard Management Company.

The 95.8 million tokens represent an $11+ million investment but perhaps, more importantly, the Blockstack offering now gains with the affiliated prestige of Harvard’s backing and Ivy League stamp of approval.

Crowdfund Insider reported last week, when the Form 1-A hit the SEC website, that Blockstack expects their Reg A+ offering to be qualified by the SEC as they have been working with lawyers to assure their protocols comply with SEC regulations:

“Our framework is consistent with the latest SEC guidelines released last week.”

To date, not a single Reg A+ filing that is affiliated with a blockchain/crypto offering has been approved by the SEC.

Reg A+ is an updated securities exemption and one of three crowdfunding rules approved under the JOBS Act of 2012. The exemption has been described as a “mini-IPO” type facility. Issuers must complete a comprehensive document explaining their business and associated risks. The document goes through a lengthy review process by the SEC. If approved, a Reg A+ issuer may raise up to $50 million in securities.

According to the Offering Circular, investors may participate in the “Stack Token” offering via either fiat currency, Bitcoin, or Ether.

Investors in a Reg A+ offering may be accredited or non-accredited. Importantly, securities issued under Reg A+ are immediately transferable or tradable – something the crypto industry is extremely interested in as it may provide an easier path to better liquidity.

The Harvard Management Company is the largest university-affiliated endowment fund in the world. The Fund’s 2018 report said the value of its holdings stood at approximately $39.2 billion. Over $1.8 billion was distributed to Harvard’s operating budget during the fiscal year and the endowment rose by 10% during the same period.

The “Stack Token” is currently soliciting interest from investors also called “testing the waters” under the Reg A+ exemption.

The project by Blockstack will provide a “fast, scalable distributed ledger for identity, storage, and transactions in the Blockstack ecosystem.”

Stack Token projects currently include decentralized storage, App mining, an SDK and a fund to support decentralized Apps (DApps).

Blockstack has previously raised capital from outside investors. A SAFT offering in 2018, under Reg D, raised $21.2 million from 683 investors.

Harvard Public Health Grad School Partners With Levi Strauss For New Blockchain System For Factory Healthy & Safety Reporting 


Harvard’s public health graduate school has teamed up with Levi Strauss & Co. for a new blockchain-based system designed to augment outside auditors of factory health and safety with self-reporting by workers, Reuters reports.

It was revealed that Consensus will provide the project’s blockchain solution and it will be funded through a grant from the U.S. State Department. Tomicah Tillemann, founder of the Blockchain Trust Accelerator (BTA) at New America in a statement, that the solution will be providing “a secure, standardized, auditable, and transparent platform through which worker survey data can be aggregated and analyzed.”

Dr. Eileen McNeely, director of Harvard T.H. Chan’s Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise, also reported for the past 25 years workers in supply chains have been monitored mainly by audits and the system alone is not effective. She noted that a distributed system of inquiry on the blockchain that goes right to the source and offers a new solution.

The project’s first pilot will notably be tested in factories in Mexico in the second quarter of 2019 and another pilot is currently planned for 2020.

Karen Mills on Marketplace Lending: It Is Transformative, But Don’t Count The Banks Out Yet

Karen Mills London October 2015

Karen Mills is currently perched as a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Business School and at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School. She spends her time focusing on competitiveness, entrepreneurship and innovation – all extremely important areas of economic policy. Prior to returning to Cambridge, Mass., Mills was the 23rd Administrator of the Small Business Administration from 2009 to 2013.  Selected by President Obama to lead the SBA, Mills was engaged with small business during a challenging time in the country’s history: the Great Recession.

After transitioning from public sector to academia, Mills put her first-hand experience to work. She co-authored a white paper entitled “The State of Small Business Lending: Credit Access during the Recovery and How Technology May Change the Game“.  This was an early, comprehensive look as to whether or not there was a credit gap in small business lending. Her answer? A resounding yes.

The marketplace lending industry has boomed in recent years. The industry started out slowly (as many do) but advancements in technology and institutional interest have fueled vertical growth. Online lending has capitalized on the fact that mainstream finance is ensconced in traditional, brick and mortar operations. Meanwhile finance is rapidly moving online.  Legacy costs, varying and convoluted regulatory environments and a culture that is too tied to the past, have hurt the old banks. Online lending has the power to provide better service, at a lower cost, while generating higher returns for investors.  But, according to Mills, don’t count the banks out quite yet.

P2PFA ThinCats Funding Circle MarketInvoice at Lendit

Recently Crowdfund Insider had the opportunity to speak with Mills at the LendIt conference in London. I spoke with Mills about her frontline experience. Where we are now and, in her opinion, where online lending is heading.

Mills noted that we get a small business loan pretty much the same way we did 50 years ago. You walk down the street to your local bank, you have a relationship, you bring them a mountain of paperwork and somewhere between three weeks and three months you get an answer. This new set of models, at the very least, deliver a transformative customer service experience.

Mills explained the lightbulb moment while she was managing the SBA;

“…Until this point the banks had been saying we are lending to every credit worthy borrower that is out there. Small businesses were saying, I still can’t get a loan.”

The enigma was that SMEs were being denied access to capital. It is these same SMEs that are the engines of economic growth.  Now Mills accomplished some impressive tasks while at the SBA. By raising the guarantee rate during the crisis, the SBA was able to improve small business lending. But even while delivering record amounts of capital, there was still something that was not happening. “I was traveling across the country and there were credit worthy borrowers who were really still struggling”.  Mills investigated the problem.

“I had the banks take me through the economics of $50,000 to $100,000 loans. They couldn’t make money with individual, personal underwriting. Unfortunately, that’s the size loan that most small businesses want.  I think that 70% of the loans small business want are under $250,000 –  40/50% are under $50,000.”

For banks, the equation simply did not work.  Too much effort and cost. Not enough money. In the end, we all lose.

Karen Mills at Lendit London 2015

About the same time, online lenders were starting to ramp up. Platforms like Prosper, Lending Club and soon after Funding Circle, were providing a needed alternative for loans.  These new lending products filled the market gap. Mills was surprised as to how much interest the industry received from early investors. In a low-interest rate environment, the hunt for investor yield heats up.

Innovative financial entrepreneurs saw opportunity where traditional finance saw a loss.  Asked if internet finance is transformative? Mills states;

“Absolutely. It is transformative, but I would not count the established players out yet … Because they have a lot of assets. They have customers. They have low-cost deposits. They have underwriting expertise.”

The future of traditional banking is a good topic of discussion at a gathering like LendIt where young financial entrepreneurs and disaffected banking executives convene to discuss the future of finance.

Mills is not completely convinced that in another downturn that marketplace lenders will fare quite as well. The banks still have a lot of customers and Federally insured deposits.

“It is very difficult for these new entrants to find borrowers who are ready to take on a loan and the first place they actually come is the bank. That said, the traditional bankers I have spoken with have said they have sat up and taken notice of the customer service transformation. One way or another they need to increase and improve customer service. That might be creating a faster turnaround cycle, that is definitely on the minds of some of the larger banks I have spoken with. Creating a more online process where you do not have to xerox your tax returns and drive them around…”

Some banks have decided to move into the new territory. Others have determined a partnership makes sense. Most continue to watch on the sidelines as strategies are formulated in board rooms – waiting to act.

Asked about the regulatory environment for online lending, while the US Department of Treasury reviews the nascent marketplace lending market, Mills believes US policy makers have a tall task. They are paying attention but there are overlapping agencies and much work to do.  She contrasts the regulatory process in the UK with that of the States;

“I actually think they are trying to solve two different problems. In the UK, the problem they have to solve is they basically have [only] 5 banks. When the crisis hit those banks were not able to respond in a way that small businesses needed. In the US we had the SBA.”

“I was over here at the time and they [the UK] very much wanted to duplicate the SBA but they don’t have 7000 community banks with whom to partner with on any type of guarantee scheme. The creative alternative was to develop the British Business Bank, designed to facilitate other distribution channels of credit to the SME market.  I think they are doing quite a remarkable job in the 18 months they have been doing it.”

The US is a far more complicated beast.  US regulators are thinking about how to protect the market from bad actors. About borrower and investor protection. The US situation is further complicated by the fact that nobody has explicit oversight mandate for this sector – because it, online lending, didn’t really exist. Direct lenders are not banks so they do not fall under banking regulation completely. There are state laws. The SEC oversees part of the sector.

The UK has been lauded for its regulatory approach on disruptive finance. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), gained oversight on the industry. But their mission of rule-making and enforcement is balanced with a need to foster competition – something missing in the US.

“One of the things we see here [in the UK] is principles-based regulation and in the US we have rules based regulation.  I think this is something the US market is looking at. I think one of the big principles for the borrowers is transparency. You have to give this [marketplace lending] industry credit because many of the leaders of the industry have fully embraced transparency. That is setting the tone for the industry. It is good for us. It is good for the borrower. It is good for the customer.”

Panel Small Business Borrowers'  Bill of RightsOf course, regulatory uncertainty creates risk for the young industry.  A recent initiative that Mills is part of is the Small Business Borrowers Bill of Rights.  Mills was asked to join by Lending Club CEO and founder Renaud Laplanche.  Mills wants to help lay the framework for the industry;

“I think the BBOR and the Treasury RFI and all the discussions going on behind the scene are all helpful. I think what they are all trying to understand is a complicated question: How do you provide the appropriate level of oversight but not dampen the growth in creativity and innovation in a marketplace that is clearly transforming and innovating in a sector where there is a gap?  Many businesses will benefit to access to credit and these small loans.  But it needs to be transparent. It needs to be easy for small business to understand how much they are borrowing and how much it’s going to cost and what the exact terms are. And one wants to make sure that the marketplace evolves in a positive way without burdening anyone.”

For the moment, Mills believes the regulators are doing their homework.  Treasury truly just wants to better understand the fast moving industry.  Morgan Stanley sees the industry becoming 60% of the market by 2020 – clearly relevant for policy makers.  Mills is of the opinion that we are at a very early stage in the transformation but, the disruption is clear.

“I think this is good way for Treasury to get a sense of the products and the potential for this market,” says Mills.  “They need to try and create enough understanding so that a regulatory framework, written by whomever, makes sense and it doesn’t dampen the positive aspects of this market but still provides investor protection and borrower protection.”

Karen Mills London 2015This is not insignificant for the US economy. The rate of small business startups remains tepid at best. Creating good, transparent and efficient access to capital for small dollar loans will be a plus for that segment. The question is can proper rules be balanced with light enough approach so innovation can evolve?

Asked about the big picture and Mills states;

“I do not think the winners and losers are clear. I do not think the product innovations are completely clear. I hope we will continue the transparency and adherence to the industry standards we put together in the Borrowers Bill of Rights.  If this is the case this is very positive for small business owners.”


 

Women Changing FinanceThis is part of a series of articles where Crowdfund Insider will be interviewing the many women changing the profession of finance today. In FinTech, crowdfunding and peer to peer lending, there are many female entrepreneurs leading or assisting innovative firms that are altering the process of capital formation around the globe.

New Equity Crowdfunding Platform Arthena Backs the ‘Startups’ of the Fine Art World

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 11.05.37 PM

Equity crowdfunding platform Arthena is mixing crowdfunding and fine art to create a modern masterpiece.

arthena-logo

Founded by 27-year-old Harvard alumna Madelaine D’Angelo, Arthena offers casual investors to fund undervalued, modern artists who are creating art pieces that could quickly appreciate in value, as a recent story in Upstart Business Journal notes.
The New York-based platform is similar to AngelList or iAngels, and a product of the AngelPad accelerator, listed as the no. 1 U.S. accelerator for 2015. Previously, Crowdfund Insider also wrote about investments in Arthena by Beamonte Investments and its affiliate, Beamonte.

madelaine-d'angelo-arthena

Here’s how Arthena works, according to the company’s website:

Individual collectors choose an advisor whose area of expertise matches their collecting interests. They pool their capital with other collectors who have chosen the same advisor, and the advisors purchase a collection of art for all to enjoy. In addition, collectors get access to exclusive studio visits, lectures, panel discussions, and gallery and art fair tours.

The minimum investment is $5,000 for casual investors of just under 100 to fund a collection of three to five works.

arthena-logo

D’Angelo said,

One of the reasons I started Arthena is I wanted to give transparency to art investment,” she said. “It’s such a multifaceted world, and there’s a lot of kind of shady dealing going on.

Upstart Business Journal also noted the presence of legal and logistical complications of collective ownership of real property. For example, in contrast to securities, invested works must be stored, displayed and relocated, which requires a decision-maker, among other significant “wrinkle[s] for a tech startup looking to keep things simple in the early days.”

Wine Arthena’s founder hopes that the platform will benefit art advisors by bringing them new business, as they have generally not turned to the Internet for business development purposes. Going forward, she

sculpture-versaillesalso has her eye on crowdfunding for tangible properties, such as fine wine, cars and sculptures. As someone whose parents managed a shipping and logistics business, D’Angelo seems prepared to tackle the challenges ahead. She notes that she “learned through osmosis” as a child.

Patch of Land Selected to Participate in Harvard Real Estate Venture Competition

Harvard Real Estate Venture CompetitionPatch of Land, a real estate crowdfunding platform that is debt-based, has been selected to participate in Harvard Business School’s Real Estate Venture Competition. The competition will take place during the annual Harvard Real Estate Weekend and is focused on early stage startups who will pitch their business in front of industry leaders. Patch of Land is up against 24 other innovative real estate focused companies.

The judging criteria for participants is as follows:

  • How well does the business solve a customer pain point?
  • What will be the overall impact of the business on the industry?
  • How does the business seek to acquire customers and scale over time?
  • How does the business seek to navigate competition?
  • Are the financials and business models reasonable?
  • Will the business face any substantial regulatory risks?
  • How capable is the founding team?

patch of landReal estate crowdfunding, both debt and equity, is poised to transform a market sector that has traditionally been a fairly exclusive realm of institutions and family offices.  Patch of Land has positioned its platform as a debt based funding portal that has focused mainly on the residential segment – both single and multi-family. Since founding, Patch of Land has generated over $16 million returning more than $4.2 million to investors. Patch of Land was the first real estate funding portal to pre-fund deals exhibiting confidence in the viability of their deals.

The Harvard competition is scheduled for March 28th and 29th on the campus of HBS.

 

Update: Humans of New York Kickstarter Hits $1 Million After New Photo Goes Virtual

Let's Send Kids to Harvard

Last week, Brandon Stanton, the face behind the popular photography blog Humans of New Yorkdebuted its crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to raise $100,000 to send the students of Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brownsville, Brooklyn to prestigious university, Harvard.  Now after only one week, the project has not only surpassed its initial goal, it has raised over $1 million dollars thanks to a new picture that has gone virtual.

Humans of New YorkPreviously, Crowdfund Insider reported the campaign was to help those students be able to say that they have made their ways to the grounds of Harvard. The project’s organizers wrote, “We’re going to send kids to Harvard! Well, not exactly. But we are going to send the students of Mott Hall Bridges Academy to visit Harvard. ‘What’s the big deal?’ you ask. Thanks for asking. Sometimes a visit is more than just a visit to Harvard.

“Mott Hall Bridges Academy is a middle school located in Brownsville, Brooklyn – the neighborhood with the highest crime rate in New York City. It’s not the best place to be a kid. So Principal Nadia Lopez, aka SuperWoman, has a plan for her Brownsville middle schoolers.

“At the beginning of the year, she wants to accompany the incoming 6th grade class on a tour of Harvard. Since many of her scholars have never left New York, she wants them to know what it feels like to stand on the campus of one of the world’s top schools, and know that they belong. She thinks the experience will broaden their horizons and expand their idea of their own potential.”

Business Insider revealed that a photo Stanton took of Vidal Chastanet, a 13-year-old who is a sixth grader at Mott Bridges Academy. The picture captured the eyes over 1 million Facebook viewers, including Harvard’s administration.

Humans of New York

Explaining his excitement for the Harvard visit, Chastanet said, “If you’re from Brownsville, they don’t expect you to be much in life. They don’t expect you to have a quality education; they don’t expect you to know what you’re doing. They expect you to fail. They don’t want you to become anything that you want to be.

“I realized that if I want to do anything in life, as Lopez said, I have to learn how to be better. It doesn’t matter about the past and present; you must focus on the future. Your future is what you set it to be in your mind.”

Humans of New York Blog Launches Indiegogo Project to Send Brooklyn Middle Schoolers to Harvard; Captures Nearly $540,000 in Two Days

Let's Send Kids to Harvard

On Thursday (January 22nd), Brandon Stanton, the face behind the popular photography blog Humans of New York, launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to raise $100,000 to send the students of Mott Hall Brides Academy in Brownsville, Brooklyn to prestigious university, Harvard.

Humans of New YorkThe campaign reads, “We’re going to send kids to Harvard! Well, not exactly. But we are going to send the students of Mott Hall Bridges Academy to visit Harvard. ‘What’s the big deal?’ you ask. Thanks for asking. Sometimes a visit is more than just a visit to Harvard.

“Mott Hall Bridges Academy is a middle school located in Brownsville, Brooklyn – the neighborhood with the highest crime rate in New York City. It’s not the best place to be a kid. So Principal Nadia Lopez, aka SuperWoman, has a plan for her Brownsville middle schoolers.

“At the beginning of the year, she wants to accompany the incoming 6th grade class on a tour of Harvard. Since many of her scholars have never left New York, she wants them to know what it feels like to stand on the campus of one of the world’s top schools, and know that they belong. She thinks the experience will broaden their horizons and expand their idea of their own potential.”

AZGNx7WLopez shared, “This is a neighborhood that doesn’t necessarily expect much from our children, so at Mott Hall Bridges Academy we set our expectation very high. We don’t call the children ‘students,’ we call them ‘scholars.’ Our color is purple. Our scholars and so our staff. Because purple is the color of royalty.

“I want my scholars to know that even if they live in a housing project, they are part of a royal lineage going back to great African kings and queens. They belong to a group of individuals who invented astronomy and math. And they belong to a group of individuals who have endured so much history and still overcome. When you tell people you’re from Brownsville, their face cringes up. But there are children here that need to know that they are expected to succeed.”

Within the first 24 hours, the “Let’s Send Kids to Harvard” campaign surpassed its initial goal and event raised more than $335,000. Now, after just two days, the project has captured $539,418. It is set to close on February 5th.

Two Harvard Grads Launch Kickstarter Campaign to Bring Their Tomato Paste to Nigeria

TomatoJosReady to help the country of Nigeria grow its very own delicious tomatoes, two Harvard alums, Mira Mehta and Shane Kiernan, launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter this week to raise $50,000 for their company, Tomato Jos.

Although Nigerians love fresh tomatoes and tomato paste, the country has a hard time growing the crop, and most of their harvest rots before it reaches the consumers in the big cities. Since Nigerians are unable to get their tomato fix locally, they have become the largest importer of tomato paste in the world and reportedly spending almost $500 million each year.

Tomato Jos, which apparently means “cute girl” in Nigerian slang,  “because the tomatoes from Jos, Nigeria are especially sweet and juicy.” is said to believe in the power of local food production for local consumption. The company is a for-profit social enterprise that is based in Keffi, Nigeria, a small town located a few hours outside of Jos.

Tomato Jos 1

What the Tomato Jos is aiming to do is to reduce the stress for farmers and ultimately deliver a delicious product to hungry tomato lovers everywhere. To achieve this, the company is going to make the first homegrown paste to hit the shelves in the country.

Explaining how to make this difficult process easy, the Tomato Jos team stated,“The first step to great paste is great tomatoes. Farmers learn best practices on our model farm, and then we support them back on their own farms with high-quality seeds, fertilizer, and on-site advice when problems crop up. We also guarantee to buy their tomatoes, so they know they’ll get a fair price once its’ time to harvest. The farmers we work with can make up to five times more income.”

Shane KiernanDuring a recent interview with Bostlnno, Kiernan shared, “Transplanting is a stressful process for tomato plants. They’re much more likely to survive if they’ve had a chance to develop strong root systems, which they can only do in a highly controlled greenhouse environment.”

With the funds, the startup will be able to purchase $30,000 worth of tomatoes in its first month alone. The rest will be used to buy better equipment and have a greater impact in Keffi. Since its launch on Thursday (October 16th), the project has so far raised nearly 18,000 from close to 200 backers. It is set to close on the crowdfunding platform November 16th.

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Harvard Grad Hits Kickstarter to Raise Funds For New Affordable Standing Desk

StandStand 3

Ready to bring his easy-to-use standing desk to the market, Harvard grad and resident dean, Luke Leafgren, has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter for the StandStand.

StandStand 4StandStand has been noted to be the “only truly portable” standing desk. It can be used anywhere and the user can transform any table or desk into a standing desk. Not only is the StandStand portable, it is affordable, engineered for strength, ergonomic, and 100% stable.

Nothing what made he decide to create StandStand, Leafgren wrote, “One morning during a meditation session, the thought crossed my mind that I could make a portable standing desk, something I could carry as easily as my laptop and set up on any table and desk. Since tables and desks are found everywhere, I only needed to raise my computer about twelve inches.I made my first prototype within a week. I thought a trapezoid would give stability, but it pivoted back and forth a lot. When I added two sticks to brace it, that was already six pieces—too many to carry easily.

Below features the StandStand’s specific:

StandStand 1

Although the StandStand is not adjustable, you can purchase the size that fits you. While all tables and desks come in a standard heigh of 29-30 inches, you can simply measure the height of your hands above a table when you stand in typing positing and pick the height that is the closest.

StandStand 2During a recent interview with Business Week, Leafgren also admitted another reason why he came up with the StandStand idea. He revealed during his resident dean job, he read that sitting for long periods of time has been established as a health risk, yet he struggled to stand up and avoid sitting.

“I’m supposed to be out seeing people and available,” he explained. “That means working in the library, the dining hall, and other spots around campus. But I was reluctant to do that [as] I had to be sitting in all of those places. There was always a table or desk wherever I went. So I wanted to make something that was as easy to carry as a laptop that I could bring with me.”

Leafgren also revealed that he had taken shop class in middle school and had worked at a cabinetry shop for a couple of summers, which gave him the confidence to handle powers tools for the prototype. While it took a few tries, he finally came up with a working model a few months later.

Set to close on October 20th, the project has already surpassed its initial $15,000 goal and raised over $58,000 thanks to over 950 backers. The StandStand has been promised to be delivered this holiday season.

MIT Alum Raises Over $250K In A Week For Kickstarter Watch For The Blind

eone timepiecesEone Timepieces has launched a Kickstarter campaign seeking $40,000 in funding for a tactile watch designed for (and with the help of) the blind. Just about a week into the campaign, funding for “The Bradley” timepiece has already crossed $250,000.

Eone Timepieces was founded by Hyungsoo Kim, a graduate of MIT’s Sloan School of Management. The Boston Globe explains how Kim synthesized the idea for the Bradley watch…

hyungsoo kim

The story of Hyungsoo Kim’s start-up begins in an MIT classroom, not with some high-tech experiment but with a simple question: What time is it?

The inquiry came from a blind student seated next to Kim during a graduate course at the Sloan School of Management. Kim’s neighbor wore a wristwatch that spoke the time aloud at the press of a button, but he felt that using the audible feature in public was disruptive and, frankly, embarrassing.

“It’s 2013,” Kim said. “We went to the moon almost 60 years ago, and there’s no good watch for the blind.”

“The Bradley” is named after Bradley Snyder, a Naval officer that lost his eyesight in an IED blast in Afghanistan in 2011. Since then he has become a paralympic swimmer, winning gold and silver medals in London in 2012.

bradley-snyder

I’m going to show people that I’m not going to let this beat me. I’m not going to let blindness build a brick wall around me. I’m going to find a way forward.Bradley Snyder

Eone Timepieces was Kim’s self-funded pet project. He injected $150,000 of capital into the company and took to designing the Bradley timepiece. He was unsuccessful in finding outside investors and turned to Kickstarter in hopes of finding consumer interest and funding. Safe to say he has been successful in doing so.

Kim worked directly with his most likely consumers in developing the Bradley timepiece: the blind. He held focus groups and asked the community what features they would expect in their perfect watch. Some of the process was chronicled in the following video.

The use of ball bearings and magnets in order to denote the hour and minute is an innovative and discrete approach, especially considering the talking watch alternatives on the market. Perhaps the most compelling thing about the Bradley is the overall design. It has appeal that goes well beyond the market for the visually impaired. The device is stylish and the titanium construction means lightweight durability.

The Bradley can be preordered on Kickstarter for $128 with higher pledge levels netting an earlier delivery date. Delivery is expected for the end of this year.

As far as the likelihood of delivery, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more impressive team on paper…

HyungsooFounder & CEO. MIT Sloan School of Management (’12)

NickCo-designer and Production Manager. Harvard Graduate School of Design (’14 candidate)

DavidLead Industrial Designer. Rhode Island School of Design (Master of Industrial Design, ’12)

Amanda: Lead Graphic Design and Branding. Rhode Island School of Design (Master of Fine Arts, Graphic Design, ’13)

JinhaInteraction Designer & Adviser. TED Fellow, MIT (Ph.D. in Media Arts and Sciences, candidate) / leejinha.com

The Godfather of Disruptive Innovation and Crowdfunding

Worlds Top Management Thinker Clayton ChristensenClayton Christensen is a business thought leader who is standing on the shoulders of some of the great economists of our times.  Schumpeter, a Professor of  Economics at Harvard, focused on the importance of entrepreneurism to modern economics.  But it is Christensen who applied Schumpeters basic thesis to the empirical experiences of contemporary business.

In his seminal work Disruptive Innovation, Christensen discusses how successful businesses frequently are the makers of their own undoing.  He provides a plethora of examples.  Grand companies enjoying the fruits of labor won powering forward like an aircraft carrier in mid Atlantic.  But then along comes a competitor.  One that is targeting a segment of “their” business which the much larger company is simply not willing to allocate the capital to defend.  Why should they?  It is such a small portion of their business. Certainly the expenditure made will never return quite like their grand, more significant business line does today.  And yet something occurs where this much smaller business slowly grows and erodes the underpinnings of the old grand business until one day that small, insignificant business dominates the old way of doing things and the old business is no more.

Disruptive InnovationThere are many examples of this phenomena today.  When is the last time you went to Blockbuster Video?  Tower Records? Or used a gas lamp for that matter?  Students of Christensen can provide many more examples.

Innovation occurs. Be it sustaining, evolutionary or revolutionary.  Industry must embrace innovation to survive and continue to add value for their customers.  Otherwise the customers leave.  Have you looked at the newspaper industry recently?  The morphine of monopolistic practices allowed this industry to be devastated by the revolutionary technology of the internet.  The industry of finance is about to embark on an enormous shift in capital allocation and funding for business.  I  suggest they embrace this new technology because, as history proves,  one must change and adapt or one will simply whither away.

Recently Christensen spoke at the World Economic Forum where he discussed three types of innovation:  Empowering; Sustaining; Efficiency.  Yet it is only Empowering Innovation which creates new jobs.  The other two increase productivity.  He states “capitalism seems uninterested in capitalism”.  Continuing this thought, “the heart of the paradox is a doctrine of finance employing measures of profitability that guide away from investments that create growth”.  Business today operates in an environment where capital is not scarce.  The balance sheet of corporations are awash with cash.  Yet they are not investing in growth opportunities or empowering innovations.  Regulations and uncertainty do play a significant role.

CircleUp

So if corporations are unwilling to finance the next big thing because risk is to great,  or to invest in a business which may not pay off for years to come,  what will be the source of capital to finance fledgling industry?  This is where crowdfunding will play a significant and lasting role in wealth and value creation.  Perhaps once large corporations see the power of the crowd, maybe then they will start to invest once again.  Christensen is already leading the way on crowdfunding by taking a stake in CircleUp.  Will corporate America follow his lead once again?