This last one is particularly interesting as it is designed to help would-be investors in equity crowdfunding projects be “better informed and more discerning” – to help improve the chances of making money from their investments.
Investors will follow a free online programme learning more about the nature of investing in small or even startup companies, what to look for and what to look out for. They will learn from experienced angel investors to “look past the hype” and know the crucial questions they really need answered before deciding whether or not to invest. It is a worthy and innovative idea but it doesn’t tackle perhaps the biggest issue surrounding these websites – getting behind the online screens and pitches to really understand a business and the human beings behind it. Read more about crowdfunding:
Hiding behind technology is a social problem. Just consider the general election for a minute. In the past I remember wannabe MPs hitching a ride on the back of a trailer and chugging their way through residential streets and town centres tannoy in hand belting out their message. Those same candidates would no doubt be appearing at your doorstep sometime later that evening asking for your vote, explaining their views and ready to take your questions. You could laugh at them as they stumbled on the back of trailer or forgot half their message as they spoke or noticed them look away uneasily or dismissively if you asked a particularly tricky question. This year I feel like pinning a notice to the door of my local party offices in town promising the first candidate who dares come to my doorstep and actually knocks rather than put a leaflet through the letterbox my vote. Even those crazy independents in chicken suits. Instead we are asked to log online, look at Twitter feeds and ask questions remotely. Businesses are also guilty of hiding behind the screen. Again a few years back local tradesmen would knock on your door – milkmen, grocers, butchers etc. They wanted to sell their produce but they also recognised the importance of getting their face known and their character over to potential customers. This just does not happen anymore – even those startup firms talking up their healthy, organic, community principles. Perhaps an appearance at a local farmers market say, but certainly not “round the doors” as in the past. We can’t turn into a society of internet cavemen. We are not socially designed to be like that. Businesses using crowdfunding websites or doing all their communications and transactions online will benefit from finding new ways to get out there in front of their customers. They could even harness digital technology to do this – apps including video messages from management, tours of offices etc, would certainly help investors on crowdfunding sites. Some business leaders will say that they don’t have the time or it’s not part of their strategy. That they can capture the attention of more potential customers and investors online. The reach of online compared to knocking on doors is undeniable. But investors certainly should be asking more of these crowdfunding sites and businesses themselves in their everyday operations to see a little bit more of the people behind the startups they will be investing in or spending their money on. I read during the week of a school which encourages children not to look at their smartphones or play video games at set times including trips out on the bus. They are encouraged instead to read, play card games or just stare out of the window and people watch – see how they interact, facial and physical gestures. We need this human emotional intelligence in society and we need it in business. The link between company and consumer/investor is too great just to exist online.
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