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Funding Friday: Ameelio

A VC - July 10, 2020 - 5:38am

Ameelio is a nonprofit tech company seeking to break the prison communications monopolies and provide free communication solutions for prisoners and their friends and families. They have a Kickstarter project up right now and I backed it today.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Hanel Baveja — Jul 23, 2020
Headgum

Albert Wenger — Jul 21, 2020
Help Stop Fascism

Categories: Blog articles

Reviewing The CEO’S Performance

A VC - July 9, 2020 - 5:04am

The CEO is an interesting case when it comes to performance reviews. They manage an entire company and they specifically manage the senior leadership team. They do not have a single reporting supervisor. They report to a Board. And that Board may, like the team they manage, have differing views on their performance.

Also, some executives are strong at managing down but weak at managing up. And the reverse is often true, where an exec is great at managing up but weak at managing down.

A failure mode I have seen in CEO reviews is when a Board thinks a CEO is doing well but they are not and that CEO gets a strong review. I’ve seen the opposite when a CEO manages up poorly but down well and they receive a weak review from the Board.

Given all of that, this is what I have learned to do.

1/ Schedule a CEO review cycle with a regular frequency and stick to it.

2/ Review compensation at the same time that performance is reviewed. If performance is reviewed more than once a year it is fine to only review compensation on the annual review cycle. Do not review compensation without doing a performance review at the same time.

3/ Have a third party (a CEO coach or some other skilled facilitator) interview all of the CEO’s direct reports and all of the Board members.

4/ I like to have the facilitator interview the direct reports first and provide that data to the Board prior to interviewing the Board members. This ensures that the CEO’s performance inside the Company informs and colors the Board members’ feedback. This is the best way I have learned to mitigate the “manage up well, manage down poorly” issue.

5/ The third-party facilitator compiles a review report and shares it with one or more Board members. If there is a Board Chair, she should be part of this part of the process.

6/ The Chair and possibly one other Board member (the Comp Chair if there is one) meet with the CEO, go over the performance review in detail, and then address compensation in light of the review.

This is a time intensive process and must be done thoroughly and with care. The stronger and more experienced the third party facilitator is, the better. You cannot skimp on this work. It might be the single most important thing a Board does on an annual basis.

Feedback is so important to ensure that a leader develops in the role and functions at a high level. In my experience, CEO feedback is often an afterthought because no single person owns the responsibility. If there is a Board Chair, she owns this. But otherwise, it can be a shared responsibility that falls through the cracks.

As Board members, we can’t let that happen. We owe it to the CEOs we work with to give them clear, regular, and accurate feedback. And this process (above) works well to do that.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Hanel Baveja — Jul 23, 2020
Headgum

Albert Wenger — Jul 21, 2020
Help Stop Fascism

Categories: Blog articles

Hyperactive?

A VC - July 8, 2020 - 4:49am

When the pandemic started, the conventional wisdom was that the capital markets would take a beating, including the venture capital market for startup capital.

The second quarter of 2020 is now behind us and we will see the data on it soon. I suspect what we will see is a very active venture capital market, quite the opposite of what was initially expected.

There are a number of reasons that I think we will see that.

First, venture capital firms raise funds and it is our job to put them to work. If we see interesting opportunities, it is our job to invest in them. We are not paid to hoard the cash.

Second, the stock market for tech companies has been on a tear in the last three months and that weighs on the minds of investors. A bullish stock market leads to a bullish venture capital market.

Third, the pandemic showed that software based businesses, e-commerce, software infrastructure, and other sectors popular in startups and venture capital are resilient and attractive right now.

Fourth, sitting at home all day, not being able to travel, not being able to socialize, creates an efficient work environment for many (but certainly not all).

And finally, there are so many great founders out there coming up with excellent business ideas. The pandemic has not slowed that down. If anything, it has sped it up.

It is possible that some sectors of the venture capital market have slowed. Some areas which have attracted big growth investments over the last few years were quite negatively impacted by the pandemic and I would imagine we will see parts of the growth market negatively impacted as a result.

But looking back on the second quarter of 2020, what I see is a hyperactive venture capital market firing on all cylinders. And that is good news for founders and innovation.


USV TEAM POSTS:
Categories: Blog articles

Doubling Up

A VC - July 7, 2020 - 5:42am

Regular AVC readers may have noticed that after blogging about my once a day routine, I posted twice yesterday.

What happened is that I had been planning on blogging about Summer Bridge, a project we’ve been working on for the last few months, first thing Monday morning after the July 4th holiday.

But when I woke up, I had a DM from my friend Jonathan with some data about the content on AVC over the years and got excited to share it and did.

A colleague reminded me about doing the Summer Bridge post and so I published as planned mid-morning.

For those that may have missed my post about Summer Bridge, it is a new youth summer employment program for the neediest kids in NYC. It is a virtual/remote internship program that runs most of the month of August. The City and State are providing the stipends and companies provide remote “workplace challenges” for the kids.

USV is planning a workplace challenge around finding interesting startups working to address the climate crisis. I am excited to work with our teenage interns on that project next month.

If your company wants to work on an interesting problem with inner-city youth this summer, please consider participating in Summer Bridge. You can sign up here.


USV TEAM POSTS:
Categories: Blog articles

Money and Finance Have Now Been Completely Collectivized

Beyond Money - July 6, 2020 - 12:34pm

It is almost laughable to see “the powers that be” fumbling around, and bending everything they touch out of shape, as they try to maintain some semblance of life in the deeply flawed zombie system of money, banking and finance. Laughable, that is, if it were not so tragic.

This financial “Titanic” has not been ripped open by a sudden encounter with some unexpected and random “iceberg.” It was doomed from its very beginning because of its flawed design, construction, and operation, which I have repeatedly described over the past thirty plus years.[i] It has been taking on water and shaking itself apart for a very long time, but it is just within the past few years that its inevitable demise has become obvious, and is now imminent.

The Great Revelation of 2008
— more —

This article was first published on Medium

Categories: Blog articles

NYC Tech Companies: Please Consider Participating in Summer Bridge

A VC - July 6, 2020 - 8:30am

NYC’s Summer Youth Employment Program is the nation’s largest youth employment program, historically connecting NYC’s neediest young adults (between the ages of 14 and 24) with a paid work experience every summer. The COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into it this summer and it was canceled. In response, the City and State and over 50 nonprofits have come together to design the Summer Bridge program for summer 2020. Summer Bridge will provide low-income NYC students with City and State-funded professional workplace experiences in the tech industry and beyond.  

Summer Bridge will provide summer internships to 35,000 young adults this summer.  Student interns will participate in workplace challenge projects for 10-20 total hours (2-4 hours per week for 4 weeks.) The program begins on August 3rd and finishes on August 28th.  Summer Bridge and its non-profit partners will match student interns with companies, compensate students with a stipend ($700-1000 for the summer), and manage day-to-day-student relationships.

We want the NYC tech sector to be a big part of Summer Bridge this summer. Please consider having your company involved. Here is our ask of your company:

  • Design a “workplace challenge” for students based on a real business need or problem in one of four areas: product, engineering, marketing, or design.  Tech: NYC is providing templates for these challenges.
  • Recruit employee volunteers to meet weekly with small groups (15-20 students) for hour-long virtual interactions. Ideally, each volunteer would see 2-3 groups a week.
  • Offer feedback to students at a virtual final workplace challenge presentation.

We hope your company will participate in Summer Bridge this summer. If you would like to participate, go here and sign up.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Lauren Young — Jul 9, 2020
Collecting Diversity and Inclusion data for your company

Albert Wenger — Jul 8, 2020
Restoring Discourse (Won’t Be Easy)

Categories: Blog articles

Short and Sweet

A VC - July 6, 2020 - 4:09am

My friend Jonathan sent me a couple graphs he made of the content on AVC over the years.

Here is how word count has evolved over the years. I started out with short posts, got longer for a while, and am now back to the short post.

Here is how post count has evolved over the years. In the early days of AVC, I would post multiple times a day (like many people use Twitter today). I moved to the once a day post around the time Twitter came along, although I don’t think they are related, and have been doing that ever since.

So that’s how the short daily post format evolved here at AVC. It is neat to see it visualized like this.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Lauren Young — Jul 9, 2020
Collecting Diversity and Inclusion data for your company

Albert Wenger — Jul 8, 2020
Restoring Discourse (Won’t Be Easy)

Hanel Baveja — Jul 6, 2020
NYC Tech Companies: Please Consider Participating in Summer Bridge

Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: Second Chance Studio

A VC - July 3, 2020 - 4:16am

My partner Nick blogged about this Kickstarter project yesterday and I immediately backed it.

Second Chance Studio is a nonprofit digital media company that trains and employs formerly incarcerated individuals.

You can back their Kickstarter project here.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Lauren Young — Jul 9, 2020
Collecting Diversity and Inclusion data for your company

Albert Wenger — Jul 8, 2020
Restoring Discourse (Won’t Be Easy)

Hanel Baveja — Jul 6, 2020
NYC Tech Companies: Please Consider Participating in Summer Bridge

Categories: Blog articles

Crawl, Walk, Run

A VC - July 2, 2020 - 4:14pm

I am a fan of the slow and steady approach to building a business. I call it “crawl, walk, run.”

I have seen many founders try the “run right away” approach and it is super hard to make that work.

An example of “run right away” would be to raise a $30mm seed round, hire a couple of hundred employees, and go for broke. That mostly results in being broke.

Of course, there are examples of founders who did that and succeeded. But they would be the exceptions that prove the rule.

Crawl, walk, run generally means start small, do one thing really well, then get a little bigger, do a few things really well, then get a little bigger and do a few more things really well.

Crawl, walk, run is more resilient. It allows for mistakes that aren’t fatal. It takes a bit longer to get to the finish line this way, but the probability of success is way higher with crawl, walk, run.

Crawl, walk, run is a mantra for doing a startup and I recommend it to everyone.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Lauren Young — Jul 9, 2020
Collecting Diversity and Inclusion data for your company

Albert Wenger — Jul 8, 2020
Restoring Discourse (Won’t Be Easy)

Hanel Baveja — Jul 6, 2020
NYC Tech Companies: Please Consider Participating in Summer Bridge

Categories: Blog articles

Masks

A VC - July 1, 2020 - 5:01am

I’m sitting outside of my favorite coffee shop sipping on a coffee and writing. I do this many mornings.

When I walked into the coffee shop this morning I was wearing a mask:

I counted all of the people in the shop waiting in line (six feet apart) and waiting for their coffees. There were twelve people in total, including two people behind the counter making coffee and taking payment.

Everyone in the store had a mask on and was wearing it properly.

That’s how it is and how is has been in that coffee shop since May 1st when we arrived here.

Wearing a mask is easy. I keep a bunch in my car and one in the pouch on my bike. It’s no big deal to put it on every time I go indoors anywhere other than our home.

I can’t think of anything simpler and more powerful that we can all do other than wearing a mask. I wear one proudly and I hope everyone else does to as long as the pandemic continues.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Lauren Young — Jul 9, 2020
Collecting Diversity and Inclusion data for your company

Albert Wenger — Jul 8, 2020
Restoring Discourse (Won’t Be Easy)

Hanel Baveja — Jul 6, 2020
NYC Tech Companies: Please Consider Participating in Summer Bridge

Categories: Blog articles

Mail Hosts

A VC - June 30, 2020 - 5:10am

I got a question this past weekend that kind of stumped me. The question is – are there any really good mail hosts other than Gmail and Outlook?

I realize that Yahoo still operates a mail host as does AOL. And that many of the ISPs offer mail hosting. But all of those feel like 20 year old technology. Of course I could be wrong about that.

I am not talking about mail clients like Superhuman and Hey and others (including Apple and Microsoft’s mail clients). I feel like there has been a lot of innovation in that area over the years.

I am talking about the hosting platform that receives the email, filters out spam, and provides the connectivity to the mail client.

If you know of a modern and reliable mail host that supports the various third party mail clients, I would love to know about it.

If you are reading this on the web, please click on the button that says “Discuss On Twitter” and share your suggestion with me and everyone else who is interested.

If you are reading via email, please reply to this email or go to the web and share it with everyone via “Discuss On Twitter.”

I appreciate the replies!!


USV TEAM POSTS:

Lauren Young — Jul 9, 2020
Collecting Diversity and Inclusion data for your company

Albert Wenger — Jul 8, 2020
Restoring Discourse (Won’t Be Easy)

Hanel Baveja — Jul 6, 2020
NYC Tech Companies: Please Consider Participating in Summer Bridge

Nick Grossman — Jul 2, 2020
Second Chance Studios

Categories: Blog articles

Working Virtually

A VC - June 29, 2020 - 8:47am

Many of us have been working from home or some other remote location for over three months now. We have learned a fair bit about this approach to work and we have more to learn in the coming months. I don’t think we will be done with remote work until the pandemic is over.

It has taught me three conflicting things:

1/ I can be a lot more productive working remotely than many of us believed before the pandemic

2/ Those with kids at home don’t experience the same productivity boost

3/ I can’t wait to be back working together in person

On the first point, I am able to get a lot more done in a day working remotely than I am able to do in the office. I now regularly do days with ten to twelve meetings/calls/videos. I don’t think I was able to do that in the office.

I have also found it easier to find time for work that requires a lot of focus (writing/modeling/analyzing/etc).

And I’ve been much better at keeping my inbox and other communications up to date and current.

And I can do all of that while making time to go biking, do yoga, meditate, etc.

It is a revelation to me how productive I can be working remotely, particularly when our entire team is doing the same.

All of that said, my friends and colleagues with kids at home have not experienced the same productivity boost. They get some of the benefits of working from home, but they also face distractions, double duty, and more. If we cannot reopen schools in the fall, it is going to be a very challenging time for parents.

It is also the case that I miss the feeling of being together with my colleagues. Today we will spend four to five hours on Zoom in our weekly team meeting. It is way more enjoyable doing it in person around our conference table.

Reconciling these conflicting realizations will be the key to what happens when the pandemic ends. I am certain that we will all want to retain some of the convenience and productivity that comes with working remotely. But I am equally certain that we will want to work together again.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Lauren Young — Jul 9, 2020
Collecting Diversity and Inclusion data for your company

Albert Wenger — Jul 8, 2020
Restoring Discourse (Won’t Be Easy)

Hanel Baveja — Jul 6, 2020
NYC Tech Companies: Please Consider Participating in Summer Bridge

Nick Grossman — Jul 2, 2020
Second Chance Studios

Categories: Blog articles

Newsletter — June 2020: Making sense of the Covid-19 “pandemic”

Beyond Money - June 27, 2020 - 10:48am

In this issue:

  • Facts about Covid-19, a report from Swiss Policy Research
  • Analysis of Crisis Management from the German Ministry of Interior
  • Perspectives on the pandemic, one nurse speaks out
  • Mass surveillance begins with kids: WIRED Magazine
  • The injection fraud–it’s not a vaccine: Catherine Austin Fitts
  • All Governments Lie: Oliver Stone
  • Meet Bill Gates: The Corbett Report
  • Coronavirus: It is governments not coronavirus which threatens our lives: Dr. Vernon Coleman
  • My (tentative) final thoughts

Because this is a long one I’ve posted only the list of contents. You can read the entire newsletter here.

If you’d like to be added to my mailing list to receive my newsletter directly, please fill out the subscription form below.

Join my email list

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Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: Checking In On The $1k Project

A VC - June 26, 2020 - 4:29am

I wrote about this project to financially support people who were laid off because of the Covid pandemic back in early April. We also participated in the project and supported a family in the NY metro area back then.

I saw this tweet yesterday:

https://twitter.com/alexiskold/status/1276310273884925952?s=20

$1mm in funding, almost 350 families supported, in ten weeks. That’s terrific.

If you want to participate, you do so here.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — Jul 7, 2020
Let Foreign Students Stay

Hanel Baveja — Jul 6, 2020
NYC Tech Companies: Please Consider Participating in Summer Bridge

Nick Grossman — Jul 2, 2020
Second Chance Studios

Categories: Blog articles

Board Diversity

A VC - June 25, 2020 - 5:20am

This is a topic of great importance and one that we in the tech/startup sector have not done a good job with. We wait until a company is ready to go public and then address it. While that is better than nothing, it is not good enough.

The board diversity problem is a symptom of a much broader problem around lack of diversity in founders that get funded and lack of diversity in VC firms. Most startup boards are made up of a few founders and a few VCs. No wonder you have no diversity on the board.

Here are some suggestions for addressing this situation. I am working on this in my portfolio and USV is working on this in our broader portfolio. We are not control investors so this is a process of advocacy and persistence. This post is a part of that effort.

1/ When a startup board is created, there should be two independent seats on it. Day one. I know that will mean that founders will be unable to control their boards early on but these “independent seats” can be nominated by the founders to allay those concerns. And founders should put diverse people (gender, race, life experience, etc) into these independent seats.

2/ VCs should accept observer seats instead of board seats when they invest in companies. Boards don’t need three or four VCs on them. One is often enough. Two maximum. Instead VCs should negotiate for an observer right and the ability to nominate an independent director. And they should nominate diverse people for those seats.

3/ There should be term limits on board seats. Nobody and no investor should have the right to sit on a board forever. I could argue that in some situations, the founder might be the exception to this statement. That does not mean a valued board member should step down. That valued board member can always be asked to serve another term. What term limits do is raise the question about whether a person is the ideal board member for the company for the next few years. Often the answer is no.

4/ We need more resources like The Board List, Athena Alliance, and ELC to surface great board candidates. One of the many problems with boards that aren’t diverse is that they are not well connected to diverse candidates.

5/ We must commit to addressing this issue and make it a priority. Board development in general is not a high priority for founders. They are rightly focused on their company, their products, their customers, and enormous challenges of building a business from scratch. But boards are important. They need to be a priority and a diverse board is a better board for everyone. So we need to increase our efforts here.

Ten years ago the the tech/startup/venture industries started to make gender balance a priority in management teams, boards, and the venture capital industry. While we are not where we need to be, we have made good progress. We can do the same with diversity across the board. We can use the same approaches and the same persistent approach to the issue.

I am committed to making this a priority with the founders and companies I work with and I hope that all of you will too.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — Jul 2, 2020
A Theory of History and Society: Technology, Constraints and Measurement (TCM)

Nick Grossman — Jul 2, 2020
Second Chance Studios

David Gabeau — Jun 26, 2020
Augmented Reality NFTs

Categories: Blog articles

Relocalization and Community Empowerment–How to get it done

Beyond Money - June 24, 2020 - 12:15pm

You won’t want to miss this webinar with
GAYLE MCLAUGHLIN for a conversation on
How a Progressive Alliance Can Change Culture

Gayle McLaughlin was a two term Mayor of Richmond, CA and she is currently running for the Richmond City Council in 2020. Under her leadership as Mayor, Richmond increased the minimum wage to $15 an hour in 2008. Homicides were reduced by 70%, and the Richmond Chevron refinery was forced to pay $100 million dollars in additional taxes after a successful lawsuit that required payment for the environmental hazards and harm they caused to the community. She led the fight against foreclosures in Richmond. She co-founded the Richmond Progressive Alliance, which was the precursor to the California Progressive Alliance. As Mayor, she also oversaw the hiring of a new police chief who radically altered the police culture in their community by reorganizing the police force to one that worked with, instead against, the community. In 2016, she helped pass the first new rent control law to take effect in California in 30 years. Her book, Winning Richmond: How a Progressive Alliance Won City Hall, is available online. Gayle has never taken any corporate money in her campaigns and she has won every one thus far. Her enlightened leadership has altered Richmond but, as she says, there is much to be done to keep the progressive values and gains alive. Which is why she is running for the Richmond City Council again.

Gayle’s first book, Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of an American City, was published in 2017 with a foreword written by Bernie Sanders. In 2019, her political memoir, Winning Richmond: How a Progressive Alliance Won City Hall, is literally a how-to for radically changing city governments. In all of her campaigns for public office, she has never taken any money from corporations.

Friday, June 26 at 4:00 pm, Pacific Daylight Time.

Tickets: $20 General. * $15 for Praxis Members – Zoom link sent upon Registration. Click Here to Register. If you cannot afford a ticket or need a reduced fee, please Contact: info@praxispeace.org  

#     #     #

Categories: Blog articles

Stablecoin Adoption

A VC - June 23, 2020 - 1:33pm

I was perusing the crypto markets today and noticed that Tether, the grandfather of all stablecoins, is approaching a $10bn market cap, making it the third most valuable crypto asset after Bitcoin and Ethereum.

I also noticed that USDC, the US Dollar stablecoin that Circle and our portfolio company Coinbase are behind, is approaching a $1bn market cap.

Unlike other crypto assets, the value of stablecoins, particularly “fiat backed” stablecoins, is not theoretical. These coins are backed by fiat deposits of people who have bought them. It is not entirely clear to me how fully reserved Tether is. But USDC is 100% backed by fiat. So that means that almost a billion USD has been paid for and set aside for USDC.

I’ve been spending a lot of USDC lately. I keep USDC at Coinbase and can spend it via the Coinbase mobile app. I’ve settled some golf bets with it, bought crypto with it, and am starting to use to buy crypto gaming assets.

I used to settle golf bets in Bitcoin. I have friends who claim they have tens of thousands of dollars in Bitcoin from golf bets I settled with them six or seven years ago. And we don’t play for a lot of money. So I don’t do that anymore. Settling in a USD backed stablecoin seems a lot more sensible. The same is true of most commerce and p2p payments applications.

I’m bullish on crypto as most readers know and I’m quite bullish on the stablecoin sector in crypto. I think their utility is just beginning to be understood in the west.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — Jul 2, 2020
A Theory of History and Society: Technology, Constraints and Measurement (TCM)

Nick Grossman — Jul 2, 2020
Second Chance Studios

David Gabeau — Jun 26, 2020
Augmented Reality NFTs

Categories: Blog articles

The Daily Email

A VC - June 22, 2020 - 4:46am

AVC has always been a blog. But over time, it has also become a daily email.

Ten years ago, the average monthly visitors to the website was 100k. Now, it is around 60k.

But over the same ten year period, the daily email subscriber base has grown from 2,500 people to over 30k people.

That is the power of push media. That is the power of an email list.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — Jul 2, 2020
A Theory of History and Society: Technology, Constraints and Measurement (TCM)

Nick Grossman — Jul 2, 2020
Second Chance Studios

David Gabeau — Jun 26, 2020
Augmented Reality NFTs

Categories: Blog articles

The true pathway to peace, prosperity and freedom

Beyond Money - June 21, 2020 - 1:46pm

For the past four decades E. C. Riegel has been my primary source of insight and

E,. C. Riegel

inspiration on the concepts and mechanisms of money and exchange. Writing mainly from the 1920s thru the 1940s, his is vision is acutely penetrating and his expression clear and almost poetic. For that reason I and a few others have made every effort to make his work known to a much wider audience. His most important works are freely available to be downloaded and I have listed the web links on my website under the Library menu item at https://beyondmoney.net/library/.

I realized very early in my peace and justice work, that the primary obstacle to peace, justice, and freedom, lies in the centralization of power and the concentration of wealth. Riegel and others helped me to see that the global money and banking system is the main instrument by which that is made possible. Riegel opened my eyes to the true nature of money and the fact that we the people already have in our hands the power to create true money. He pointed out that “Heretofore, economics has located the source of production at one point and the source of money at another, with the result that synchronization and balancing of issue between wealth producing power and money power were impossible.” Riegel then laid out a way to bring those two powers together, a plan which I, in all modesty, have enhanced and adapted to present conditions.

I’ve lately been in the process of preparing a document containing excerpts from Riegel’s 1944 book, Private Enterprise Money, along with my comments, much as I did years ago with my annotated précis of his book, Flight From Inflation. That may take a while to complete but I would rather not delay in sharing with my readers a little gem from pages 106 in which Riegel presciently described our present predicament. Here it is:

THE SURPRISE WEAPON Society is in the twilight of a passing day. The state now undertakes to finance the economy, and, since a free economy is manifestly impossible where the state assumes the responsibility of supplying the money circulation, the politician is compelled to choose between fascism and communism. Under either choice liberty is abolished and the people are enslaved. As the planners all over the world adopt their devices for a managed economy, and ideologists and sloganizers prepare their implements to condition the minds of men to their control plans, and the cause of human freedom seems defenseless, there falls into the hands of the people a surprise weapon that will turn the tide of battle and give the people mastery, not only over their private affairs, but over the would-be political planners. This weapon is the people’s money power as defined in the following pages. It will change the whole course of human events into the paths of liberty, prosperity and peace. #     #     #
Categories: Blog articles

Community Currencies — Questions and Answers

Beyond Money - June 18, 2020 - 3:02pm

I receive a steady stream of requests for information and advice, which I’m not able to address as fully as I might like. For the most part, the answers that people seek have already been expressed in my various writings, presentation and interviews. Still, I understand and share the desire to save time and effort by finding shortcuts to enlightenment. So I take these inquiries as opportunities to rethink and work out better ways of explaining the ideas I’ve been trying to get across for many years.

Thinking that many of my followers might benefit from my recent responses, I’ve compiled some of them to share in this document.
__________________________

Q1: What is money and what is its purpose?

A: Money is a credit instrument that facilitates the exchange of value.
That’s a simply as I can state it.

Q2: Who can or should issue a currency?

A: Any business can issue a currency (essentially an IOU) to suppliers, who are willing to accept it. But to make it credible and acceptable to them, the issuer must be ready, willing, and able to redeem it in a timely manner. They redeem it by accepting it back as payment for the goods or services they sell. That’s all there is to it. But, it’s better if a group of sellers do this together with other others rather than singly. That can be done by organizing a mutual credit clearing circle (trade exchange) as I’ve described in numerous writings and presentations, e.g., Credit Clearing – Pure and Simple.

Q3: Why do communities adopt their own currencies?

A: There are various reasons why communities adopt their own currencies and there are various ways of issuing them.

Most of the hundreds of community currencies that have been issued over the past three decades in various places around the world have had the avowed purpose of keeping money circulating locally instead of “leaking out” to the wider world. The idea is that if money can be kept circulating within the community it will enable a greater number of local business transactions leading to greater community prosperity.

Most of these currencies have been backed by conventional money. That is all well and good, and there are various conditions and procedures that can be employed to maximize the impact, as I have described in my recent article, Monetary alchemy: how to turn bad money into good.

Another reason why communities issue their own currencies is to create “home grown liquidity,” i.e., to make up for the failure of the banking system to provide adequate amounts of exchange media to local businesses, especially the small and medium sized enterprises that for the backbone of every community economy. This type of currency is not backed by conventional money, but by the goods and services that local businesses stand ready, willing and able to sell. This type of currency may sometimes be spent into circulation by a single business then accepted back as payment for the merchandise it sell, but more typically, it will take the form of “trade credits” issued within a cooperative trading circle comprised of several hundred businesses and/or individuals. Illustrative of this are the scores of commercial trade exchanges that are operating in countries around the world, and the grassroots trade networks known as LETS, Local exchange trading system. For a comparison of the effectiveness of different models of currency and exchange systems, see my article, Local Currencies—what works; what doesn’t?

Q4: Do community currencies generally exist to solve a particular problem? In the case of Tenino, WA, I know the money is going primarily to low-income residents, but I’m curious why specifically they’re being given a local currency instead of cash aid in US dollars.

A: Yes, as described above, community currencies generally exist to enable more local transactions and/or to make up for the shortage of official exchange media (dollars).

I had not heard of the Tenino currency before, but after reading the article about it in the Seattle Times I understand that it is a dollar backed voucher currency in which theTenino2020 dollars are provided as a grant from the city government to eligible recipients. The city government may have their own reasons for giving out “a local currency instead of cash aid in US dollars,” but a couple obvious advantages of the local currency are that (1) it can circulate numerous times before being redeemed for dollars, giving a boost to the local economy, and (2) restrictions can be placed on how recipients can spend it. In the Tenino case, according to the Seattle Times, the local currency cannot be used to purchase alcohol, tobacco or marijuana. Of course some clever people will likely find ways to circumvent that restriction.

There are other restrictions that I would suggest be applied to maximize the benefits that derive from such a currency. These relate to who is allowed to redeem it for dollars (e.g., only local business operators), when they are allowed to redeem it (perhaps several months or years in the future), and on what terms (maybe at a 10% discount from face value). Each of these would encourage the local currency to change hands many more times and thus provide a greater stimulus to the local economy.

Q5: Does Tenino’s model resemble any other community currencies you’re aware of? How do these currencies differ from each other, generally?

The Tenino currency resembles a great many other local currencies around the world that are all backed by conventional money and follow the ‘convertible local currency’ (CLC) model. Examples include the Bristol Pound and Brixton Pound in the UK, Toronto Dollars and Salt Spring Island Dollars in Canada, and Berkshares in the US.

Further, Salt Spring Island Dollars and Tenino currency both have appeal as collectibles and will never be redeemed for dollars, thus providing a windfall profit for the community.

Q6: Many currencies base their value on how the public perceives its value. For example, the US dollar is the world’s most accepted currencies because people know they can spend it in most places. How do you convince individuals and businesses to use it and trust it?

A: Political currencies, like the US dollar, have the support of their governments and central banks. The US dollar has the “full faith and credit” of the US government behind it and it must be accepted “for all debts, public and private.” These are the factors that cause it to be generally acceptable as payment. As the global reserve currency, the US dollar is in high demand among the banks and governments of other countries, despite the fact of rapidly rising UD government debt and the dollar’s continual loss of purchasing power.

Community currencies do not have those same advantages so they must stand on their own feet as credible credit instruments. What makes such a currency credible, sound, and acceptable in trade is its redeemability either in conventional money, or in goods and/or services that are generally desired and needed.

Q7: If a community currency wants to survive for the long-term, what does it need to do?

To survive long-term, a community currency must be issued into circulation on a sound basis or foundation; it must be usable as payment for a wide variety of essential goods and services; it must be have the support of the local business community.

Specific design and operation details are provided in my various writings and presentations, including my article, How to Bring Liquidity Into an Economy, Free of Interest, Inflation, and Boom and Bust Cycles, and my most recent book, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization.

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