I have received a lot of brickbats for the way I run fractal ventures. In just ten years of time, I stand before you bereft of all my assets and earnings. Yes, you heard it right. I have had to do several things that I ask my fractal entrepreneurs never to do! Pioneers have it tough!
One of the things that I teach them, which like me they never follow, is to run their ventures with other people’s money. Never their own. Has it been possible? Only around the third year or later. The first three years as a fractal entrepreneur, today, as I speak, are fraught with toiling and bootstrapping.
Like me though, the ones that exist are smartly earning extra money through all kinds of ways to keep afloat.
In a world full of woes, shining beacons like fractal ventures are the early pioneers that are evolving and therefore do not have a financial framework waiting with open arms to invest and promote them. GEM (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor) reports that while developed countries have their governments backing funding of social entrepreneurs between 40 to 50 per cent, those in the more coloured parts of the world have government funding of 10 per cent or less only. Families, friends, colleagues and personal funds form most of their options with banks playing the Shylock game!
Finances continue to stay in the hands of the powerful while those who heal through commerce are pitted against each other along with the rest of the folks who engage in hardcore commercial pursuits. If at all there are financial institutions that do fund folks that heal through commerce, then those have the privilege of doling out portions as they see fit simply because there is not enough going around for all and the ones giving have to look noble enough as givers. Such is the pitiable state of the world. We seem to have failed as a species on this planet on many fronts. Which is exactly why fractals have to exist, evolve, grow and impact.
Amongst the fractals, like trees in the forest, wealth is distributed. Never hoarded in any singular pockets. But every visionary entrepreneur is left high and dry to face the world that cannot gauge the beautiful person each one of them turns out to be. There is however a small portion of the world’s population that cares and invests in fractal ventures…and those are customers! Customers who see the true impact of these ventures.
At the very beginning of initiation into becoming a fractal entrepreneur, is a formidable innovation exercise conducted through a heavy-duty innovation process called IDEIn. On engaging with this, fractal entrepreneurs develop the foundation of the directions for their venture based on unshakable sustainability principles. Never can a fractal entrepreneur do something unsustainable even at the point of bankruptcy. To illustrate, an instance comes to my mind of a past incubatee of mine. She is not a fractal entrepreneur now. She had a beautiful concept promoting sustainable principles in creating plant based dairy alternatives. However, she would not accept to keep them in bottles as the breakages were high in transit. She wanted to badly opt for plastic, disposable containers. She could not continue in the incubation as this went against basic fractal principles of never getting tempted to do unsustainable things in order to earn better in the short term!
In the same breath, I have to point out to two other ventures working in the area of whole food plant based sweets and snacks, that refused to engage in exporting their wares to countries beyond India in order to not create a larger carbon footprint! If they had opted for this they would have become richer by now. They prefer to wait and open franchises in other countries that stress on the necessity of being local over importing wares from far off lands.
Stubborn little davids. Scarred and wounded but not out.
There are countless attempts these davids have made to “pitch” their ventures in front of grant givers, funders and investors. The number of times and the manner in which we have all been turned down or been forced to refuse to accept as a deal is enough to give heart attacks many times over! Even we can falter in our steps when we turn to look back and reflect on our journey so far! The reasons we have been turned down would be as follows:
- There have been 2000 more applications than what we could offer grants for. It was so tough to decide. Sorry!
- While we love your concept, we are forced to fund other projects that are removing the maggots from the eyes of living victims in society! Please could you reapply later. I respect this reason actually…
- We are sorry to say that we only fund technology-heavy projects
- We are sorry to let you know that your venture seems too lightweight compared to the ones that use heavy machinery and equipments to reach similar goals
- There’s another that goes…”I mean, why fund a venture that works to help marginal farmers out of poverty by supplying naturally grown native vegetables while another contestant exports pink baby onions!”
- You are not as glamorous as xyz
- You are not the apple of the eye of the donor
- You do not come from the cream of universities
- Your english is not impressive enough
- Funding you is not going to push me into the aura of glory
- I cannot see how you can achieve things as easily as you say as someone else who we wish to fund makes it out to be so tough!
- We do not have a process of elimination and will fund every project but you must dance so hard on the tip of your toes and excite our souls to eternity until we burst into flames for us to open our tight fists!
- I like what you do but my CA doesn’t think that my money would grow if I invested in you.
These and more happen to us. Our reaction is to joke about it and say, jaane dho yaar! And we laugh and move on to the next step. Never mind the limb that is falling off our shoulders as it got sawed out trying to work up that silly intrinsic dance act to impress poverty ridden guardians of empty coffers!
On the other hand we, too, have turned down many offers. Offers we have turned down run as follows:
- We wish to take on a giant equity if you want us to invest
- You have lovely concepts but why enhance the lives of the labour class by treating them as co-entrepreneurs!
- The core of what you do is great, but you must cut down expenses by not stubbornly adhering to sustainability principles! Commerce cannot happen if you wish to be green!
- We will be the bosses and you must simply comply. Hand over all intellectual assets and we shall direct how things need to run from here
- All this is fine, but what is my exit strategy?
- Don’t you know you are privileged that we are even considering investing in you? Just leave it to us.
- Sure we can offer money. Interest is just 35 per cent.
The funding that has all the time worked for us have been small investments from happy customers and help from other fractal entrepreneurs who help to rotate funds. Period. This makes us focus with all our might on marketing and telling the world about what we do in the hope that we might add more people to our fractal community.
I reflect a lot on the reason behind this situation and I realise that the world is still caught up in the grips of wanting positive ROIs and that SROIs are still in their infancy of seeming to be a matter of interest for the investing groups of the world. Maybe the world is too poor truly! It is indeed a vicious cycle. In our case, the fractal ventures evolved since the world is so messed up. But the world is so messed up that it cannot invest directly into ventures whose SROIs are bright and shining. Most of the funds, for example, are available for curing cancer but not much for preventing it and none at all for those who survive it! I can vouch for this as I am one such a survivor.
The day social entrepreneurship is considered as a necessity for climate change and we set aside budgets for it above all other activities, we would start progressing, is my opinion. Today the rate of individuals leading or operating from a social enterprise itself forms a very low percentage. It is just between 0.4 to 14 per cent only, in countries globally, based on surveys done in 58 prominent countries that engage in such activities according to GEM! For us who live and breathe social entrepreneurship, it comes as a surprise to watch people engage in any other way in their lives! Cannot everyone see the doom ahead if we continued living the way we live?
However, since fractal entrepreneurs do not lament and move on to the next step, I now have the following goals to reach:
- Create a fund to fund fractal entrepreneurs
- Keep the search on for ethical funders who are keen to invest in genuine well-paced social ventures that are simple, effective, totally sustainable and impactful with the future in mind.
Would you like to join our community and fund us in any way, if you are seeking to invest in ventures with high SROIs? Do write to me at email@example.com. If you seek to impact using simple but innovative means, you have reached your destination. We don’t have to put on an act or show off muscles grown through artificial protein supplements. We are elementary, deep and profound. We are here to stay, heal and grow steadily. Be blessed.