Last week’s ComCap16 hosted in Portland, Oregon successfully brought together a couple hundred plus entrepreneurs, state securities experts, community advocates and economists, authors, investors, Native Americans and citizens to talk local investing. ComCap, short for community capital, a new investment strategy approved by state governments now offered in over 30 states across the nation. How new are we talking? Our nation’s securities laws were developed nearly 100 years ago. This new exemption for local crowd funding brings a new investment strategy for local communities to put their dollars back into the businesses and places they call home. Igniting the life blood of our nation, statistically small business make up half of the total US economy. Diversifying investment strategies with localized capital allows investors to get a stake or share in locally grown business while keeping those dollars, their return on investment and benefits gained—in the community where the investment comes from.
Theme: Localized Economy
Many joining Portland’s ComCap16 event to share, speak or facilitate are significant players in the local community investing mix. People like community economist and lawyer Michael Shuman or writer and local economy expert Amy Cortese, speaking and publishing for years on the strategic value of community-based investing. With a regional lens on Oregon, we find a highly performing regional community network of organizations. For a sampler? Meet Lisa Dawson of the NE Oregon Economic Development District supporting business like the women owned and early stage BGoodBars. Or Amy Pearl Executive Director of Hatch inspiring local startups, to go through what was consistently recognized by peers, as a “best of breed” accelerator program emerging on the state community capital market place. Or “localpreneur” Wendy Siporen Executive Director of Thrive, where her organization and partners in the Rogue Valley focus on full suite of services, resources and training. To just mention a few here, with many more across the country blazing a new trail.
Theme: Power of Shared Conversation
Conversation and authentic connection characterized this conference. ComCap16 themes focused on the national conversation and implementation across the states applying the new state crowdfunding exemption. A range of strategies were discussed as many early adopters break new ground at the state level with a variety of “portals” in development. Some already have networks up and running to invigorate local and regional economies. Many traveled a great distance to attend ComCap like Jennifer Gatewood, advocate for Mississippi’s entrepreneurs and portal development. Youngro Lee traveled from Houston, TX where he co-founded NextSeed, growing the small business community there. Michigan based community capital expert Chris Miller generously shared insights and applications of Michigan’s adoption of the new exemption. Janice Shade made the trek to Portland from Vermont, where they’ve created a partnership with their regional credit union finding significant alignment around a mutual aim to grow and support community based capital.
Theme: Operational Readiness
Like credit unions, localizing community capital provides an essential mechanism for accountability to the community while contributing directly to the well being of that community. The process also fine tunes startups or businesses diversifying their capital to learn the ropes.Many of the Oregon based entrepreneurs I chatted with spoke about how empowering it has been to draft their first business plan, or learn how to shape a winning prospectus or map out financial requirements with the Hatch mentor network to advise them every step of the way. Community capital empowers business and its customers with a meaningful mechanism to understand securities, investments and economic vitality in an entirely new way. Many I spoke with suggested we may be bearing witness to the beginning of a community-citizen driven reform of our nation’s financial framework. A financial framework long seen as holding the public hostage to securities laws a century ago drafted around principles that fail to put local communities, regional economies, current market context or people first. For the 99% looking to gain more influence on the long term fiscal sustainability of their communities – community capital investments may enable the kinds of hopes the Occupy Wall Street movement aimed to actualize.
Theme: Intentional Inclusivity
ComCap16 kicked off with a well attended socializer at Hatch Labs Tuesday night April 26th. Followed by two full days of talks offering multiple tracks – approximately 30 talks and sessions – over the 27th and 28th. Each day attendance seemed to grow. By day three, when the event focused on state implementation, the crowd peaked. Community capital has appeal to diverse communities for obvious reason, economic equity is in all of our best interest. ComCap hosted by Hatch Innovation (with many generous partners, exhibitors and contributors) appears to be delivering in alignment on what Amy Pearl refers to as an often elusive concept: intentional inclusivity. Speakers noted at ComCap, diversity in Portland often equates to photo-ops but little meaningful and deliberate collaboration across communities of color, the LGBTQ community or First Nations. As one example how the movement in Oregon walks its talk? In a few hours on April 27th, a break out meeting with four people and a handful of funders, the new Coalition for Native American Enterprise was born. The momentum and capacity for getting things done was genuinely awe inspiring.
ComCap16 Day One & Day Two Coming Soon!
With such a palpable sense of gratitude, kindness and open dialogue in closing for now, for the record ComCap16 delivered on its promise of “can doers”—truly an event not to be missed. Keep an eye on this space, we’ll do a couple more posts reporting out on Day One with a focus on the national conversation and Day Two comparing and contrasting state implementation strategies.
Comments, ideas or thoughts welcomed from you on what you took away. Or what might have been missed, your voice is welcomed.
The above article was a guest post by Lisa Skube, who received a press pass to cover the conference.
Want to learn more? We will be continuing the conversation on community capital via our premium podcast, Locally Invested. Sign up to stay in the loop.