In 1884, the folks erecting the Statue of Liberty ran out of money. Joseph Pulitzer, a big shot publisher, took to his “New York World” newspaper and encouraged Americans to donate so Lady Liberty could be completed.
Evidently, Mr. Pulitzer was persuasive. More than 125,000 people donated over $100,000 – the equivalent of $2.5 million in today’s dollars.
The donors didn’t receive a percentage of ticket sales, or an ownership stake in the statue. What they received was the feel-good sensation of supporting their fellow citizens and their country – the life-sustaining sensation of doing good.
Fast forward 100+ years. When modern-day crowdfunding came along on sites like KickStarter
, the campaigns looked similar to Lady Liberty’s: people gave money, and in return, received acknowledgement and good karma.
Gradually, the rewards shifted to include, say, tickets to the opening night of a movie they contributed to, or an early version of a digital watch they helped fund.
Then, with the advent of equity-based crowdfunding, people started investing rather than donating. They received ownership in projects – so if a start-up turned into the next Google, all the investors would profit handsomely.
Lately, however, the lines are starting to blur. Now it’s possible to both donate to a great causeand have the potential to earn a financial return.
Today we’re going to show you an “electrifying” example.
Even Bubba Likes This Thing
I was browsing early-stage companies on an equity crowdfunding platform called Fundable
. One particular company caught my eye because of this quote:
“Coolest thing ever.” — Chief Technology Officer of the United States.
I was intrigued: the CTO of America should recognize a promising early-stage technology when he sees one. I read on…
“Magic.” — CNN.
Magic? What was it? A flying car? A teleporter that can instantly beam us across the globe?
“It’s quite extraordinary.” — Former U.S. President, Bill Clinton
Check it out: even Bubba is getting in on this thing!
So I took a look. And this is what I saw:
Uh, ok. Really?
Here I was, excited to get in on the ground floor of a magical, extraordinary, early-stage company – and it turns out they make soccer balls?
The Pendulum Swings
But I kept reading – and I’m glad I did. This is no ordinary soccer ball.
Inside it is a small mechanism, like a pendulum. Basically, it traps all the energy that’s created when the ball gets kicked around. Play for 30 minutes, and enough energy is created to power a small appliance for hours.
Here’s what the ball looks like when a portable lamp is plugged into it:
Whether you’re in sub-Saharan Africa (50% of Africa is rural, with no electricity at all), or even New York City (Hurricane Sandy caused more than 8 million electricity outages last year), it’s clear that this is a “powerful” idea.
Doing Good – And Doing Good Business
It’s called the “SOCCKET” – pronounced like the socket where you’d plug in your lamp or phone. It’s the first product created by a company called Uncharted Play.
The company’s mission is to do good – they can potentially help millions of people in the developing world who have no access to clean, safe electricity. But make no mistake: they’re a for-profit enterprise, and they’re seeking for-profit investors that can help fund their attack of a big market.
Soccer is the world’s most popular sport; it’s played by 250 million people in over 200 countries. And lack of electricity is a big problem: 1.4 billion people across the globe have zero access to electricity – and another billion have only spotty access. Millions die prematurely from using solid fuels (like coal) indoors.
Imagine the life-changing potential of being able to power everything from mobile phones and fans to water sterilizers – all with a soccer ball. And imagine the business potential, as well.
There’s also a business opportunity for developed nations. For example, about 40 million Americans go camping each year. 34% of them purchase batteries to light their way or fuel their mobile phones, and 25% buy propane or liquid fuel. The SOCCKET is a less costly, less messy, less weighty alternative.
With the SOCCKET already in production, Uncharted Play is now expanding their line to include jump ropes and American footballs. In the future, they’re contemplating basketballs, punching bags, and “ski socks” that create energy based on the difference between chilly outside air and a person’s warm body temperature.
Once they’ve commercialized at least three of these products, they plan to introduce a “mini play grid” system. This will allow people to connect all of their products together, aggregate the energy, and power larger appliances.
Now that sounds like an interesting opportunity.
The False Choice
“Doing good” and “doing good business” don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Ideas like the SOCCKET prove it.
So if you’re in the mood to donate to a great cause – while keeping your options open to earn a good financial return – give ideas like this one a look.
(Please note: Crowdability has no official relationship with Fundable, and zero financial interest in Fundable or Uncharted Play.)