On the way home from work, I started thinking about the women’s clothing not coming in real women’s sizes issues, and how it’d be great if there were a way to bridge the gap between “someone ought to fix this problem but it would take more money than I have” to “real functioning company doing that thing I wanted”. Because it’s way easier to convince companies to change what they’re doing or address an ignored market by going out and creating a viable competitor for their business than by lobbying the company to see the errors of their ways. Everyone responds to incentives, and lost business is a huge one, the most direct kind.
I think I came up with a way to do it, at least for things like the clothing issue, where there are plenty of people who have an interest in this, but not the capital to change things. Set up a fund where people can contribute money in exchange for a stake in the eventual company. Keep the donations small enough that even people who aren’t normal investors can participate (ideally, as small as $20–but you could contribute more in exchange for more shares. I’d probably set a maximum so no one could buy out the whole project at the start). Make sure that everyone gets their money back if the project doesn’t hit a pre-determined fundraising goal in a set amount of time. This sort of model is already being used in politics and lobbying (well, aside from the refunds), so why couldn’t it work in a for-profit situation?
Lucas asked whether my bright idea was applicable to strippers (I came home and said I needed to write something down before I forgot it, but didn’t mention what it was). And it is, kind of. Want to open a strip club? I bet lots of people would give you $50 in exchange for a share of something like that.
It’s possible that there’s some law against this, since there are all sorts of complicated regulations surrounding businesses and investment, but I’d be very curious to see someone give this a shot.