You Too Can Now Invest in Startups! What Could Go Wrong? – JULIA GREENBERG. : 11.01.15. . 7:00 AM


You, your mom, or that random guy down your block will all soon be able to join the ranks of startup investors.

The Securities and Exchange Commission voted this past week to approve so-called equity crowdfunding rules for investors, an effort spawned by the passage of the JOBS Act way back in 2012. What that means is that startups or small businesses looking for investors can go through brokers or online platforms to find them—and those investors can now be, well, anyone.

This is a pretty big deal. It marks a shift in the kinds of capital that startups and small businesses can raise. Startups today often turn to venture capitalists, angel investors, bankers, and other accredited investors, but access can require the right connections, which are often hard to come by outside major financial hubs like New York, San Francisco, and Boston.

‘Even if you’re truly invested in investing in a startup, the odds are against you.’

Now, entrepreneurs can turn to the crowd. And if you’ve part of the crowd that’s always wanted to invest in a startup, you may soon be able to in ways that you couldn’t before. But there are some things you need to know. Since the passage of the JOBS Act, experts have worried about putting safeguards in place to protect unsophisticated investors, as well as protections for startups to minimize fraud. The SEC is hoping that its new rules will address those concerns. Here’s what you need to know.

So, You Want to Invest

In the past, only so-called accredited investors have been able to invest in startups. Here’s what that meant in a nutshell: If you made less than $200,000 a year, and you didn’t have a million bucks in assets, you couldn’t invest. Now, starting sometime next year, even if you aren’t that well off, you’ll be able to buy into companies you like.

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Congress’ No Child Left Behind overhaul needs to fix how schools are funded. – By Ulrich Boser May 14, 2015 | 9:00 a.m. EDT

Needed: A better education funding formula.

Needed: A better education funding formula.

Right now, it often seems like the national education debate is dominated by a single topic: Tests. Should parents opt-out their kids? Should teachers be evaluated on student test scores? Will the new Common Core exams be betterthan those in the past?

These questions are all important. Clearly, we must take steps to overhaul the way that children are assessed. But the testing debate often overshadows other much-needed reforms, most notably improving the nation’s education funding system. And as Congress turns its attention to reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act, we need to do more to ensure that education spending works to help all students.

School funding reform should be at the top of the national education agenda. In too many areas, there are deep fiscal inequities between the schooling haves and the schooling have-nots. In Illinois, for instance, a recent research reportby the Education Trust found that wealthy districts land over $2,500 more per student.

[SEE: Political Cartoons on the Economy]

In some areas, the problem lies with statehouses; almost half of the states have funding systems that supply fewer resources to high-poverty districts, according to the U.S. Department of Education. There are also issues within districts, with some high-wealth schools landing an additional $670,000 in funding, according to a recent analysis by my colleagues at the Center for American Progress.

Such limited fiscal support can keep schools from performing. A major federal commission argued a few years ago that inequities have helped to cripple academic outcomes. The “American education system is failing too many of its children,” the commissioners wrote. At the same time, the research base on the benefits of school funding is growing, and a 2014 analysis found that increases in education funding helped boost outcomes in Massachusetts.

Still, Congress has not taken action, even though it has been recently been looking at reforming No Child Left Behind. Most federal K-12 education dollars flow through the law, and the current version of the statute has not been reauthorized since the band Nickelback was at the top of the pop charts – and the law often seems just as tone-deaf to current educational realities.

There’s been progress in addressing a few of the law’s fiscal shortcomings. Last month, a Senate committee signed off on a bill, which included a provision that would improve fiscal reporting. That bill is supposed to reach the Senate floor soon, maybe even within the next few weeks.

But the Senate bill does not do enough to address the nation’s funding system, and my colleagues have recently developed a number of proposals to address this problem. One idea, dubbed the “Fair Funding Incentive Grants,” would use the $1 billion included in the president’s budget request to encourage more equitable school funding.

Schumer may shatter fundraising records for Democrats – By Alexander Bolton – 04/16/15 06:00 AM EDTq

Sen. Charles Schumer, who will become the Senate’s top Democrat in 2017, could become one of the greatest fundraisers of all time.

The New York Democrat has developed a reputation as a tenacious money magnet who doesn’t take no for an answer. When handed a $25,000 check, he’s been known to respond, “You can do a little better than that.”

He’s asked donors to send him contributions by courier to quash any possible excuses about a “check in the mail.”

“I would use the word ‘relentless.’ He knows every year what money is out there and how to reach it,” said Tom Quinn, a Democratic lobbyist who has known Schumer since he was elected to the House in 1980.

Schumer is constantly looking for new donors, and will even badger Republicans for cash. Sources say he has multiple cellphones, and he’s seen regularly in the Capitol with one attached to his ear.

The 64-year-old has strong ties to New York’s powerful financial services industry, as well as to titans of the tech industry and Hollywood. His fundraising network is vast, helped tremendously by twice running the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).

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The United Empire of Earth Navy caused quite a stir last November when it announced that it would be putting 200 decommissioned Javelin Destroyers up for sale. Each 1,132-foot-long spaceship has the sort of amenities that your average interstellar mercenary finds hard to resist: four primary thrusters, 12 maneuvering thrusters, a heavily armored bridge, private quarters for a captain and an executive officer, six cargo rooms, general quarters for a minimum of 23 crew members, and a hangar big enough to accommodate a gunship. There’s even a lifetime insurance policy.

The document that announced the Javelins’ impending sale took pains to stress that these warships were fixer-uppers. “They are battle-hardened and somewhat worse for wear,” it read, “and have been stripped of the weapons systems.” Thus, any would-be buyer would eventually have to shell out extra to equip the 20 gun turrets and the two torpedo launchers. The asking price for each ship: $2,500. And that wasn’t some form of fictional futuristic space bucks; it was 2,500 real dollars. Actual, real, present-day American Earth dollars.

Despite those caveats, all 200 Javelins sold out. In less than a minute.

The sale brought in half a million dollars for Cloud Imperium Games, the company behind the space-exploration and combat videogame Star Citizen. Cloud Imperium has hit upon a truly futuristic business model. There’s nothing new about inviting players to spend real money for virtual goods—a vehicle or weapon or article of clothing that can only be used inside a virtual gameworld. What’s new about Star Citizen is that most of its goods are doubly virtual—they can only be used inside the gameworld, and the gameworld doesn’t actually exist yet. In fact, its massively multiplayer universe may not be up and running for several more months. Or several more years. Or … longer.

Star Citizen began as a crowdfunding project in the fall of 2012 and has since raised an astonishing $77 million from some 770,000 backers. That’s an order of magnitude more money than the next-biggest crowdfunded videogame project. It’s several multiples more than any other crowdfunding project of any kind. It’s equivalent to the budget of a top-tier game like Watch Dogs or to Snapchat’s Series B funding round. And Star Citizen continues to bring in millions of dollars every month. Yet only a few isolated segments of the game have been released so far, and even those are in a very early, bug-ridden form.

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This T-Shirt Is Supposed to ‘Clean Itself.’ Does It? – By Adam K. Raymond March 27, 2015 3:55 p.m.`

Photo: Kennedy DeSousa/Courtesy of Silic

We spill a lot of stuff in my house. I’m the main klutz, but my 17-month-old is showing signs of surpassing me one day soon. And occasionally our dog will join in, too, by knocking over a drink while jumping onto the couch. Here’s an embarrassing fact to illustrate the point: We own a ratty, old “spill towel” that exists solely to sop up wet messes.

All of this is why I’ve asked Aamir Patel to send me one of his Silic shirts for a test run in my home laboratory. In late 2013, Patel launched a Kickstarter campaign for the “shirt that cleans itself,” and it quickly blew past the $20,000 fundraising goal he set. By the time the campaign ended, Patel received nearly $300,000 from more than 4,000 backers. Apparently, I’m not alone.

The Silic shirt relies on microscopic silica particles that are bonded to its 100 percent polyester fabric. This creates an imperceptibly thin layer of air that keeps liquids from touching the fabric and prevents absorption. Instead, liquid beads up and rolls off. In a promotional video, the shirt repels Gatorade, soda, water, and coffee.

This type of technology has long been hyped as the harbinger of a future free of laundry. But how does it stand up to the rigors of real life? I put a black one (because that’s the color Patel sent) through a series of tests to find out.

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100 finalists have been chosen for a one-way trip to Mars – By Jessica Contrera February 16 at 9:14 AM

Dutch nonprofit Mars One has named 100 people who will remain in the running for a one-way trip to Mars, expected to leave Earth in 2024. Out of more than 200,000 people who applied, 24 will be trained for the mission and four will take the first trip, if all goes according to plan.

If this is the first you’re hearing of a one-way trip to Mars, check out our story on the organization and the people who signed up to die on Mars:

[Read: On one hand, they could be the first humans to set foot on another planet. On the other, they’ll die there.]

This round of eliminations was made after Norbert Kraft, Mars One’s chief medical officer, interviewed 660 candidates who said they were ready to leave everything behind to venture to Mars. The applications were open to anyone over age 18, because the organization believes its greatest need is not to find the smartest or most-skilled people, but rather the people most dedicated to the cause.

Even the astronauts on the International Space Station switch out every couple of months and go back home to family,” Kraft said in an interview with The Post in January. “In our case, the astronauts will live together in a group for the rest of their lives.”

Of the 50 men and 50 women selected for the next cut, 38 reside in the U.S. The next-most represented countries are Canada and Australia, both with seven. Two of the candidates were 18 when they applied in 2013; the oldest, Reginald George Foulds of Toronto, was 60.

By education, the group breaks down as: 19 with no degree, two with associates, 27 bachelors, 30 masters, one law degree, four medical degrees and seven PhDs. Thirteen of the candidates are currently in school, 81 are employed and six are not working.

Of the 16 candidates who live in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, 10 were eliminated, including a married couple. Those who remain are:

  • Daniel Max Carey, 52, a data architect who lives in Annandale, Va. Here you can read about what Carey’s family thinks of him potentially leaving the planet.
  • Oscar Mathews, 32, of Suffolk, Va., a nuclear engineer and Navy reservist.
  • Michael Joseph McDonnell, 50, of Fairfax, Va.
  • Laura Maxine Smith-Velazquez, 38, a human factors and systems engineer in Owings Mills, Md.
  • Sonia Nicole Van Meter, 36, a political consultant who recently moved from Austin, Tex., to Alexandria, Va.
  • Leila Rowland Zucker, 46, an emergency room doctor at Howard University Hospital in D.C. We wrote about Zucker, her husband, Ron, and their little blue row house.

Here’s how Mars One describes what comes next for these candidates:

“The following selection rounds will focus on composing teams that can endure all the hardships of a permanent settlement on Mars. The candidates will receive their first shot at training in the copy of the Mars Outpost on Earth and will demonstrate their suitability to perform well in a team.”

To fund the estimated $6 billion trip (for just the first four people), Mars One will be televising the remainder of the competition to narrow the group down to 24. Those 24 people will be divided into six teams of four that will compete to determine which group is most prepared to leave for Mars in 2024.