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Photo byBrianna R. on Unsplash

The Conrad Challenge Brings Me Understanding of Crowdfunding

I just started reading business plans in my role as a volunteer judge for the Conrad Challenge. Like Camp Bizsmart, where the entries are also from high school students, often I am amazed by what I see. I strongly recommend that anyone qualified volunteer to judge events like these.

I started judging high school level events when at a Keiretsu Forum Expo, I met a team of six high school students who present a plan on the same topic that a professional adult group had pitched me on the month before. In two weeks the five kids had a better, more fundable, more solid, more likely to succeed plan than the four adults who had been working on that same topic for almost a year.

For the Conrad Challenge, I read four business plans in the Alternative Energy space. In several cases, the customer discovery, competitive analysis, and/or search for related patents was in the top 5% of what I see when judged against adult teams seeking hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. It’s impressive.

What was more surprising to me is that for one of the companies, from what I have seen in my initial hour of reading the plan, watching the video, etc., I’d write a check. Not a big check. Not a due diligence worthy check, but a check. I think that this is what Crowd Equity Funding must be for.

Did I mention that the bios of these two high schoolers were as impressive as the typical bio for an advisor of a funded early-stage company? (Maybe instead of offering to be on their advisory board, I should ask them to be on mine)

That check isn’t so much an investment as an endorsement. As a way to be part of the story. As a way to have more of a story to tell.

Long ago, in the early days of Kickstarter and Indiegogo, I was often a first-day backer. It was not so much pre-ordering a product (though many of the products arrived and were wonderful), it was more about encouraging an idea.

This is the first time I’ve had that feeling toward investment.

Yet another new and wonderful experience was made possible by being a volunteer judge.

Today’s gratitude and baby animal picture go out to all the volunteers, mentors, coaches, and the other team members that make events like these possible.

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Written by Russell Brand

Russell has started three successful companies, one of which helped agencies of the federal government become very early adopters of open source software, long before that term was coined. His first project saved The American taxpayer 250 million dollars. In his work within federal agency, he was often called, “the arbiter of truth,” facilitating historically hostile groups and factions to effectively work together towards common goals

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