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 The mission of the "Your Mark on the World Center" is to solve the world's biggest problems before 2045 by identifying and championing the work of experts who have created credible plans and programs to end them once and for all.
Crowdfunding for Social Good
Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Monthly Archives: September 2014

Crowdfunding Becomes Global Phenomenon

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Crowdfunding itself is going viral around the globe. It seems that everywhere you look, crowdfunding is popping up in a big way. This is top of mind for me as I jump on a plane to Moscow to deliver a keynote address at CrowdMap ’14.

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit with Sourabh Sharma, the CEO and Founder of Milaap, a crowdfunding site in India that is using the model created by Kiva, allowing people to invest in micro loans to the poor. Milaap focuses on lending for things that others often avoid, including toilets and education.

Earlier in the month, I had the opportunity to attend and share a few ideas at the Berkeley Symposium on Crowdfunding hosted by Richard Swart. The audience was surprisingly international and it is clear that at least with respect to investment crowdfunding the rest of the world is leading the way. Australia and the UK, with much of the rest of Western Europe following closely behind, launched investment crowdfunding legislation and practice as much as seven years ago. Most recently, I heard at the conference, that Malaysia has just legalized investment crowdfunding.

At the Berkeley Symposium, Swart said, “Since our first conference last year, we have seen an explosion in interest in crowdfunding and alternative finance from policy makers, academic experts, governments and think tanks around the world. As the leading research center in the field we have been privileged to get early access to these new tools and data sets that are shedding light on how this industry is transforming entrepreneurship, innovation and early stage capital formation globally.”

A World Bank report prepared by Jason Best, Sherwood Neiss and Swart of Crowdfund Capital Advisors (a one-time sponsor of my work in 2013) indicated that global crowdfunding would reach $95 billion annually. The more I see of crowdfunding globally, the more I think that number is unrealistically low. The Securities and Exchange Commission agrees with the industry that the moniker crowdfunding can apply to investment crowdfunding conducted under Title II of the JOBS Act as implemented under Regulation D 506©, which allows for “general solicitation” of securities offerings under the rule. According to Chris Tyrrell, CEO of OfferBoard, the tally of such deals already reaches into the tens of billions.

Gust, the angel investor platform that can be counted among the largest accredited investor equity crowdfunding sites, recently announced a partnership with El Observatorio Nacional Del Emprendedor (One). CEO David Rose said in a statement regarding the announcement, “ONE is a key driver in the creation of a successful startup ecosystem in Mexico, and we are thrilled to help contribute to the growth of the startup community and its early-stage investors. Our strategic partnership will enable any entrepreneur and venture capital firm in Mexico to connect and manage the investment relationship, from initial pitch to successful exit.” Gust already reports having 45,000 investors from over 100 countries registered on the platform.

Given my focus on social entrepreneurship, I’m most excited to see the impact of crowdfunding on the most disadvantaged in the world. A relatively new platform called KriticalMass, launched from Italy, operates with a U.S. focus, but I discovered a truly global campaign there a few months ago that I covered here at Forbes last month. Alem Mumuni, a Ghanaian paracyclist is training to compete in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio and is raising money, with the help of his British coach, Alex Main, on KriticalMass. Mumuni is a polio victim who has recently become a spokesperson for Rotary International’s efforts to eradicate polio. This brings together multiple layers of social good brought about through the global expansion of crowdfunding.

While there are a few people left in the U.S. who don’t yet recognize the word crowdfunding and haven’t even heard of Kickstarter or Indiegogo, the crowdfunding wave is truly becoming a global phenomenon.

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Off to Russia!

Well, I’m heading “Back to the U.S.S.R” or at least back to Moscow. This time, I’m fortunate to be heading to CrowdMap ‘14, a crowdfunding and crowdsourcing conference where I will be delivering a keynote address and providing a one-hour training workshop on crowdfunding.

The other presenters include a prestigious list of CEOs and other luminaries from Russia and Europe, though it appears that I will be the lone American on the agenda.

This will be a great opportunity for me to learn more about the crowdfunding scene in Russia and, more broadly, in Europe. Crowdfunding sites represented by speakers at the conference will include and CroFun (from Belgium).

Crowdsourcing platforms including and will also be represented, creating a great energy among people who are looking for collaboration and cooperation.

This will represent only my second visit to Moscow. Having visited over 30 countries, my last visit to Russia stands out in my memory. I honestly cannot think of any place on earth with more beautiful churches. Much of the Kremlin is comprised, somewhat surprisingly to me, of churches. 


These old structures certainly inspire me and I suspect that they inspire the local people, infusing them with pride and confidence in the beauty of their churches. 

I’m looking forward to getting on the airplane tomorrow morning, dressed appropriately for fall in Moscow! I’ll be sure to report on what I learn!

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Make-A-Wish Founder Launching Ripple Effect, A Platform To Help Anyone Become A Hero

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Frank Shankwitz, a former highway patrol officer, seems like an unlikely person to have launched one of the most culturally significant nonprofit organizations in the country. The Make-a-Wish Foundation grew out of Shankwitz’s effort to grant the wish of seven-year-old boy with leukemia who wanted to be a Highway Patrol Motorcycle Officer.

Shankwitz is now working on a second act, launching Ripple Effect, a crowdfunding platform, to help anyone become a hero. He notes, “As a founder of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, I’ve seen an amazing phenomenon when people rally around a worthy cause. Perhaps the best thing about Ripple Effect will be that anyone can come up with an idea to benefit an important cause: Anyone can be a hero.”

Back in 1980, Shankwitz used his motorcycle to help Chris Greicius fulfill his dream shortly before he passed away. From that simple gesture, Shankwitz built an organization to deliver wishes. Today, the Make-A-Wish Foundation reports fulfilling a wish every 38 minutes on average.

On September 29, 2014 at 4:00 Eastern, Shankwitz will join me for a live discussion about Ripple Effect and his goal to scale impact again. Tune in here then to watch the interview live.

More about Ripple Effect: is a non-profit that creates and manages event, media and online benefits for all types of charities and important individual causes.


Frank Shankwitz


Shankwitz’s bio:

In 1980, while assigned to the Arizona Highway Patrol as a motorcycle officer, Frank was one of the primary officers who helped grant the “wish” of a 7-year old boy with leukemia, who wanted to be a Highway Patrol Motorcycle Officer like his heroes Ponch and John from the television show, “CHiPS”. Chris was made an honorary Arizona Highway Patrol officer, complete with a custom made uniform, badge and motorcycle wings. Chris succumbed to his illness and passed away a few days after receiving his wish. Chris was the inspiration for Frank to start and found the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

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Collaboration Yields New Course For Social Entrepreneurs

Warning: shameless plug ahead!

At the first Social Enterprise and Crowdfunding Conference, GoodCrowd13, I had the pleasure of meeting the founder of Heroconomy, Leesa Hubbard. Our meeting proved strategic.

Shortly after the conference, we began collaboration on a course to help startup social entrepreneurs learn the basics so they can have more impact sooner in the life cycle.

Our effort required a year to produce, but the course is now live on Udemy. In fact, if you use the code “LIVE!” you’ll get over 50 percent off the regular price!

On September 29, 2014 at 2:00 Eastern, Leesa will join me to talk about her work at Heroconomy and our new course (did I mention that it is live on Udemy now?).

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

More about Heroconomy:

  • We’re on a heroic mission to take on the world’s grand challenges.
  • To be the solution (not the problem) and turn business into a force for Good.
  • To accelerate the growth of a new economy where everyone wins.
  • To inspire and reshape the conversation around the future of business and our planet.

More about our new course:

Heard about social entrepreneurship and ready to start a business that’s new, exciting and makes a real difference in the world?

Begin here with our practical guide to building a world changing business. You’ll gain access to leading tools, resources and business models for starting your own social enterprise.

Social Entrepreneurship is the fastest growing social sector movement. This course will help you discover how YOU can create social change starting today.

Get Started in Social Entrepreneurship is a MUST for anyone interested in starting their own impact-driven, social enterprise.

We provide you with a solid understanding of social entrepreneurship, and the fundamentals for creating your own purpose driven business.

This course provides an excellent introduction to Social Entrepreneurship to getting started and how individuals have a role in creating social change.

In this course, you’ll learn…

  • What Social Entrepreneurship is about (Trends & Opportunities)
  • How to Uncover your PASSION and choose your CAUSE
  • How to Build your Dream Social Enterprise from Scratch

Leesa’s bio:

As a Change Catalyst, Leesa is committed to cultivating progress, sharing the ideas, tools, and trends that are rapidly changing our world.

Leesa is on a mission to help conscious entrepreneurs and businesses to createpowerful global transformation and build a sustainable new economy.

Leesa Hubbard empowers visionary entrepreneurs who are looking to expand their impact and create positive transformation in the world. Her mission is to ‘accelerate the evolution of capitalism – growing business as a force for good’. She’s a teacher, mentor and spokesperson for entrepreneurs and companies that are actively working to solve some of our most pressing social and environmental challenges.

Leesa has particular expertise in starting and developing early stage businesses. For more than a decade, she has been a marketing and business growth strategist, consulting to entrepreneurs and organisations across North America and the Asia Pacific.

Leesa has co-founded and run 4 ventures across Canada, the US and Australia, including the Heroes Economy(a global network of impact entrepreneurs focused on solving major social & environmental challenges through business), a Digital Marketing Agency, a Renewable Energy Company (now one of North America’s industry leaders), and a Technology Start-Up she built from scratch to a 7-figure global brand.

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Polio Has a New Foe; Polio Should Be Worried

Polio is an insidious disease that paralyzes children. Many people in developed countries are under the mistaken impression that polio, like small pox, has been eradicated.

Polio remains endemic in only three countries, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. The number of cases globally has declined 99.9 percent over the last 30 years largely due to the efforts of Rotary International, the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, UNICEF and, more recently, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Despite the progress, our children are just a plane ride away from contracting the disease, so every child in the world continues to be immunized.

Read some of my past polio coverage here.

Now there is a new face in the war against polio. Susanne Rea, a retired teacher from Australia and a passionate Rotarian, has put polio in her sights and has helped raise almost $1 million over the last few years through an initiative she calls the World’s Greatest Meal.

Rotarians, and others, are encouraged to plan a meal, share the message of ending polio and donate the proceeds online at the site Susanne built in cooperation with Rotary.

Susanne always reminds donors to Rotary’s efforts that 100 percent of the money goes to the fight against polio and that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will match the donations on a $2 for $1 basis, turning a $100 donation into $300 immediately.


Susanne will join me on September 24, 2014 at 2:00 Eastern for a live discussion about the program. Tune in here to watch the interview live.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Learn more on Facebook.

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Mindfull Investors Seek Opportunities For Impact

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

More and more people are beginning to appreciate that investors can earn returns at the same time they drive social impact and solve social problems. Increasingly, people understand that solving a world problem like hunger not only presents a challenge, but also an opportunity.

Stuart Rudick is helping to lead this effort. Founder of the venture fund Mindfull Investors, he is now launching Mindfull Crowd, to bring more accredited investors into the impact investing movement.

Rudick notes, “Today, the most brilliant minds have access to innovative low cost technologies to build profitable businesses making our world a better place.”

Rudick will join me on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 4:00 Eastern for a live discussion about bringing more of the crowd into impact investing.

[At the time of the interview, I will insert a video player here. Bookmark this page and come back then to watch the interview live. Replays will be available here thereafter.]

More about Mindfull Investors:

Mindfull Investors is a venture fund investing in disruptive technologies solving our world’s greatest health challenges while providing investors top performing returns. We work with purpose driven entrepreneurs who are building technologies and companies having a positive impact on our health, our environment and our healthy lifestyles. The Mindfull team sources and funds these companies providing our investors a compelling opportunity to generate outsized returns while doing good in our world.

Stuart Rudick

Rudick’s bio:

Stuart Rudick has been a top performing investment manager for three decades, making money “making a difference.” His ability to identify emerging market trends has led Stuart to invest in first mover market leaders in their early days, reflecting past returns of 5x on investment and an IRR of 20%. He is currently founding Partner at Mindfull Investors Venture Fund, investing in the new breed of entrepreneurs creating disruptive health companies and technologies shaping our future. He is launching Mindfull Crowd, the crowdfunding platform enabling accredited investors to invest in innovative businesses providing health focused solutions to the most pressing issues in our lives.

He was most recently, the Founding Partner at Mindful Investors, LLC, a pioneering Private Equity fund focused on investments in healthy and sustainable consumer products companies including Seventh Generation and Organic Girl. Mr. Rudick’s prior investment experience includes founding in 2005 a private family office focused on investments in health and wellness. In 1993, Stuart founded, Mindful Partners, a top performing public and private market hedge fund. In the 1980’s, he served as Partner at Shearson, Lehman and Associate Director at Bear Stearns. Notable investments have included: Earthlink (IPO), Saba Software (IPO), Connor Medsystems (acquired by Johnson & Johnson $3B), Savacor Inc. (acquired by St. Jude Medical $200M)

Mr. Rudick earned a BS in Business Administration from the University of Colorado and attended the University of Lancaster, UK and MBA program at Golden Gate University.

Stuart’s sustainable industry Board involvement includes current Board Advisor to Blue Planet Network and past Chairman of Baykeeper of Northern California. He is actively involved with B Corporation, Environmental Entrepreneurs, Cradle to Cradle Institute, Global Impact Investing Network, NRDC, Greenpeace and Rainforest Action Network.

Stuart’s daily practice includes yoga, biking, Qigong and mindful living.

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Social Entrepreneurs Borrow From Tech Entrepreneurs To Accelerate Impact

Social entrepreneurs have been mimicking the tech accelerator model in recent years with great success. Invest2Innovate, a Pakistan-based accelerator for social entrepreneurs just launched its most recent class of seven entrepreneurs working in five companies.

i2i, as Invest2Innovate is known, is working to accelerate innovative products that support the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pakistan.

On Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 11:00 AM Eastern, i2i Founder Kalsoom Lakhani will join me for a live discussion about the accelerator program, the entrepreneurs it supports and the impact they are having. Tune in here then to watch the show live.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

More about Invest2Innovate:

Invest2Innovate, or i2i, supports startups and the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem in new & untapped markets, and have been operating in Pakistan since 2011. i2i selects impact entrepreneurs for the i2i Accelerator, an annual program designed to grow businesses and position them for seed investment via i2i Angels, our angel investor network. Invest2Innovate has accelerated 11 companies, with 5 additional companies in our latest class, has 35+ local mentors who are part of our network, and 15 investors who are part of our growing angel community. We aim to scale to a new country by late 2015.

Kalsoom’s bio:

Kalsoom Lakhani is the Founder/CEO of Invest2Innovate, or i2i, which supports startups and the broader entrepreneurship ecosystem in developing markets, beginning in Pakistan. She is also the co-founder of The Hero Project, a storytelling platform that celebrates and highlights everyday hidden heroes. Kalsoom has trained young entrepreneurs, changemakers, and civil society leaders in Cambodia, Ireland, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. She has been a Washington, D.C. co-ambassador for Sandbox, a global network of innovators under 30, and is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers. She was featured in Diplomatic Courier’s Top 99 Foreign Policy Leaders under 33 in 2012, and was named an Ashoka Changemakers/ American Express Emerging Innovator for 2013. Kalsoom also founded the popular blog, CHUP, or Changing Up Pakistan in January 2008, and has written for the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, Foreign Policy, NextBillion and Pakistan’s Dawn Newspaper. She has a B.A. from the University of Virginia in Foreign Affairs and Middle East Studies, and an M.A. from The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs in International Affairs/Conflict Resolution.

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Stepping Up for Peace

This is a guest post from Dawn Engle, Co-Founder and PeaceJam Executive Director

September 21st marks the 30th anniversary of International Peace Day, a day devoted to celebrating and strengthening the ideals of peace, among both individuals and nations. As co-founder of The PeaceJam Foundation, a global organization that partners youth with Nobel Peace Laureates to address the most pressing issues facing our planet, this has always been an important day.

For many, however, the idea of changing the world seems like an unattainable goal. The biggest challenge we face in today’s always-on society is simply getting people’s attention and making them understand how easy it is do something that matters. Somehow, we have created a society of no time. Everyone is “too busy.” I talk to my friends who are retired, and even they say they’re “too busy!” This is why for International Peace Day we are launching a campaign named “Peace Starts with Me!,” to give everyone a quick and simple way to join in. It is all about making the small things count. We are inviting everyone to participate by sharing a picture of themselves doing an act of peace on Facebook, Twitter, etc., and then asking their friends and family to do the same.



Dawn with husband and PeaceJam co-founder, Ivan Suvanjieff

Photo Credit: PeaceJam

We want to make it possible for people to make a genuine difference with as little as five minutes of their time. By providing people and organizations the resources to discover and track simple acts of peace, we hope people will be inspired to start small and eventually step up – and quickly learn how to become effective agents of change, and to make a real difference on the issues that are closest to their hearts.

We’re lucky enough to have Google as a Founding Partner for our “One Billion Acts of Peace” campaign, stemming from the support and encouragement of Chade-Meng Tan, a “Jolly Good Fellow” of Google and one of company’s earliest engineers. Meng’s official job description is: “to enlighten minds, open hearts, and create world peace.“ It’s hard to think of someone smarter, more fun, or more inspiring than Meng! The first time my husband and I met Meng, he told us that it was his goal is to create the conditions for world peace in his lifetime, and that he was kidnapping us and taking us to Google until we could figure out a way to join forces. Our "One Billion Acts of Peace” campaign was born, and this is our goal – to tackle the toughest issues facing humanity. As Meng always says, through this campaign, “we are making history.”

We recognize that creating one billion acts of peace by the year 2019 is an audaciously ambitious goal, but we believe that our “Peace Starts with Me!” social media push will be one giant step towards launching this movement. It’s time for average people, just like you and me, to step up and create the most powerful and effective global citizens campaign the world has ever seen! Learn more and get involved on

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Advertising Private Offerings: Oxymoron? Successful? Yes and Yes

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

The Prodigy Network, led by Rodrigo Nino, is a real estate crowdfunding site that has already raised hundreds of millions of dollars. Since Title II of the JOBS Act was implemented one year ago on September 23, 2013, much of the money the company has raised in the U.S. has been under these new rules.

Title II of the JOBS Act allows “General Solicitation,” that is advertising, of private offerings with certain restrictions, most notably that the actual sale of securities under such an offering be limited exclusively to accredited investors. The Securities and Exchange Commission rules under Regulation D, 506c limit define the conduct of a general solicitation for a private offering. Best practices in the industry are still developing.

On Thursday, September 18, 2014 at 4:00 Eastern, Nino will join me for a live discussion about the effect of the rules on private capital markets in the U.S. Tune in here to watch the interview live.

[At the time of the interview, I will insert a video player here. Bookmark this page and come back then to watch the interview live. Replays will be available here thereafter.]

More about Prodigy Network:

Founded in 2003, Prodigy Network specializes in connecting its network of accredited investors with opportunities to participate in prime commercial real estate in Manhattan. With its proven crowdfunding model and use of a third-party fund administrator, Prodigy Network has shifted real estate investment opportunities and returns – that once were solely accessible to large investors – to smaller accredited investors. As the leader of the world’s largest crowdfunded skyscraper BD Bacata, Prodigy Network has raised more than $300 million from 6,200 investors globally with a projected value of over $850 million. Prodigy Network is headquartered in New York City.

Nino’s bio:

Rodrigo Nino, CEO and founder of Prodigy Network, is revolutionizing both the real estate and crowdfunding industries by being the first to meld the two worlds.

Nino developed a crowdfunding model as a safe and innovative way of giving smaller investors access to large real estate assets. The model is known for encompassing a third party fiduciary company to ensure full disclosure and added transparency to each project. With this model, Prodigy Network has raised a total of $68 million dollars in equity from investors in 12 states and 10 countries for projects in the United States. Since inception, they have raised $300 million to date for projects in the United States and Latin America.

The first project in New York, AKA Wall Street, is a $90 million project in Manhattan under the Reg-S exemption for foreign nationals. Nino pioneered crowdfunding in the U.S. with investors from over six different countries. His second project, 17 John, was purchased for $85.3 million and raised $25 million in crowdfunded equity. The extended stay hotel in lower Manhattan, upon completion, will stand 23 stories high and will have 191 furnished units. 17John was the first crowddesigned concept hosted by the Prodigy Design Lab. A third project, closing in the fall of 2014 will be an extended stay located in the heart of Manhattan.

With Nino’s direction, Prodigy Network leads a range of impressive crowdfunding projects in Colombia worth over $250 million including BD Bacata, Bacata Express, Aeropuerto Business Hub and Bogota Art District. My Ideal City, is an initiative sponsored by the project BD Bacata in Bogotá, the first skyscraper in Colombia. My Ideal City is an urban planning model that allows people to engage in a conversation with world-class experts on the future of the city thanks to a technology platform and social networks.

With 15 years of seasoned experience in real estate, Nino is often featured in leading publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Businessweek, Forbes, The Economist, The New York Times, Fast Company and Mashable. Also a distinguished speaker, he has spoken at worldwide conferences and was a noteworthy guest at the PSFK Conference, Harvard University and the AEDES gallery in Berlin.

Nino, a Colombian native and a Manhattan resident, has created and proven Prodigy Network’s crowdfunding model to deliver international real estate opportunities to accredited investors to access returns previously unattainable by most.

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