Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Jarred Maxwell Talks about the Slow Money Austin group

Where are you from originally?

I was born here in Austin and grew up out in the Leander/Cedar Park area.

What university did you go to?

Graduated from The University of Texas.

What brought you to Austin?

I was born and raised here, doubt I’ll ever call anywhere else home.

What is your group’s mission?

Slow Money is bringing people together around a shared vision about what it means to be an investor in the 21st Century, and a new conversation about money that is too fast, about finance that is disconnected from people and place, about how we can begin fixing our economy from the ground up... starting with food.

What need does it fulfill?

Current investment strategies involve investments in banks, companies and opportunities that are completely disconnected from place. With the creation of electronic trading, complex derivatives and the expansion of global markets, money – particularly investing - is no longer tied to where we live. Slow Money is changing this by starting conversations about how people can invest in where they live, the people and companies in their community and how we can begin to Bring Money Back Down to Earth.

What exactly does it bring to startups?

Slow Money provides startups the opportunity to become more connected with the community they serve. We offer a way for these startups to communicate with members of their community, along with current or future customers. They can tell their story – who they are, why they wanted to start their business, how they might impact the local community. Lending should not be a faceless transaction, like it has been for decades now. We feel that a community becomes stronger when people connect with the businesses that they rely on and that they are a valuable source of capital for those businesses. Whether it be through Community Supported Agriculture, Crowdfunding or other opportunities, we think that businesses should look to their customers and community for capital rather than a faceless, large-scale banking institution.

What type of startup would benefit from your group?

We try to focus our efforts on local, sustainable businesses that can have an impact on the community in which they are located. We are currently focusing most of our efforts on local, sustainable members of our food system; ranchers, farmers, food delivery companies, farm to table restaurants, bakers, creameries and so on. Although the Slow Money principles can apply across the board, we have decided to start with food. We think food and our food system is one of the most important parts of our economy and everyday lives, so we are starting there and we will see where it takes us.

What was the most challenging aspect of starting up the initiative?

Slow Money is a national movement that began back in 2009, when Woody Tasch wrote the book “Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing As If Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered”. After seeing what had been going on in the world of investing, he published this book based on discussions he had been having with others. It was really just a launching point and a framework for a set of questions that we are still working on the answers for. So, we started our local Slow Money Austin Chapter around the same time and have been growing since.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

One of the most important things that we try to get entrepreneurs to do is really sit down and look at their business. We ask them to look at where they are, where they want to be – in 2, 5, 10 years and on – and then look at how they want to get there. Most entrepreneurs have become accustomed to going about acquiring capital via the same avenues; venture capital, angel investors, private placements or SBA loans. We think that these are the correct route for some businesses, but that they are not for everyone. What if a company truly doesn’t want an exit? What if they don’t want to open 15 stores nationwide? What if they want to stay small,  local or maybe family owned? These are all questions that should guide them and we think they should be key when looking at raising capital. They should look at their source of capital as a partner and as someone who’s goals are in-line with theirs, not just a source of much needed cash or a large ATM.

What Austin-based resource have you found to be the most helpful and why?

We have been appreciative of the help provided by the Texas Entrepreneurs Network from an investment standpoint. It can sometimes be hard to get your message out and they have allowed us access to the investment community that we are really trying to reach. With that said, the largest resource that we have here is the community itself. We are lucky to be doing what we are doing in a city that is so supportive of the buy local initiative. We are basically just trying to take that sentiment one step further – we’re hoping to get people to consider the idea of Invest Local as well.  We are trying to strengthen our community through bringing our investment dollars back into it. We are truly lucky to be attempting this in a city that is already trying to keep itself weird.