Our Manifesto

We can come together by building it together.

We Can Disrupt.

Technology first enabled companies to automate, get more efficient, and grow at unprecedented levels. Now it’s driving an epic concentration of industries and economic returns. Individuals and firms with more power than many nations, possessing proprietary knowledge of technologies and in control of the platforms that power society, are exponentially furthering their own power and gains, often in ways that tear the fabric of society.

The shift to a shareholder-first ethos coincided with a rise of computers and networks. Technology enabled work to be automated, and outsourcing, cost cutting, and downsizing became commonplace. It also enabled firms to grow globally by acquiring and operating firms in distant markets.

Yet, waves of new economy, digital startups “unencumbered” by large workforces, inventory, real estate or other assets, scaled at an extraordinary pace, quickly displacing yesterday’s market leaders and becoming the largest and most profitable firms in the world.

As our world shifted from one based on physical goods to one dominated by digital flows, “old economy” firms began embracing digital business models and “digital economy” firms began moving into the physical world. This convergence has touched off a race to dominate a new omni-channel world in every single arena of the global economy.

We stand at the beginning of a radical new future, where technology can lead to fantastic innovations. But this new winner-take-all world comes with entirely new economic theories, playbooks and rules (most often, a returns-driven obsession with speed and scale combined with a culture of “move fast and break things” that too often leaves a wake of difficult consequences for society). Those who successfully leverage the new rules gain power; those who don’t, fall further behind.

Historians will look back on this moment as one that disrupted the established order in ways so enormous that society is forever altered. What that looks like is up to us. We can disrupt, but to what end? For greater concentration of power and wealth and value capture for a few? Or for a democratized future of more widespread thriving.

We Can Disrupt to Democratize.

We believe the next frontier for massively scalable solutions looks a lot different than ventures past. Yesterday the corporation was sovereign, focusing on efficiency and optimizing for profits and shareholder return. In the digital era, the network reigns and it is supercharged by technology. The rise of networks gives us the power to question everything about the way the world works and rewrite all the rules. Tomorrow’s digital solutions will eliminate old school institutions, remove no-longer-necessary middlemen, connect people directly to one another, and upend the economic and power dynamics of society. With technology, we can build an entirely different, and better, future for all of us.

Individuals can leverage technology to connect directly across borders, time zones, social class, ages, and more, faster and more efficiently than ever before. In doing so, power can be more widely distributed and less concentrated.

Networks also thrive on trust rather than hierarchy or bureaucracy, making them more adaptive and creative. Networks enable even the smallest voices to be lifted up or lift themselves up in ways never before imagined.

When we see our own agency and capacity to create, engage, work, play, then we begin to question all barriers in the way of doing so. It starts by questioning everything. Why does the world work the way it works?

What institutions do we assume have permanence but, in actuality, only exist because we choose systems and structures that give them a role? We often mistake the utility for the organizational package it comes in, giving us a false sense of institutional inevitability.

What processes do we follow because it’s “the way things have always been done?” Rather than making those things more efficient, could we step back and reimagine entirely new ways to get the job done from the ground up?

What existed yesterday that no longer serves our tomorrow? Just because it’s “what is” doesn’t mean it’s what’s best. Technology gives us a blank canvas to create something new.

We're Backers.

We back countercultural thinkers with the audacity to ask the hard questions, the vision to imagine something entirely new, and the excellence to successfully build their solutions at scale. We earn our partners an attractive return while funding positive transformation in the arenas of society and the economy most ripe for democratized solutions. This means we back early stage teams and ideas with a clear viewpoint.

We can Digitize. We can bring more of our lives and more sectors of society online in empowering ways. We can lower friction and increase immediacy of action.

We can Decentralize and Distribute. We can shift from central locations and organizations to more decentralized, accessible models. What institutions now control, the crowd can do for themselves.

We can Decouple. We can separate products and services from the utility they provide and then reconstruct those functions in new, unbundled models.

We can Deinstitutionalize. We can eliminate obsolete institutions and no-longer-necessary middlemen that used to be central. In doing so, we can directly connect people to one another in entirely new ways. We can Disrupt to Democratize nearly every arena of society.

We Can Disrupt to Democratize Nearly Every Arena of Society.

In Finance

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Concentration abounds in the finance sector. Just four banks are larger than all of the nation’s community banks combined. Three firms are the largest shareholder in 88% of all S&P 500 firms. Five metro areas account for more than 70% of all venture capital investment in the US. The insurance market is similarly concentrated as private equity firms continue to roll-up independent brokers to the detriment of both carriers and customers.

Yet, technology is completely revamping how the financial and insurance worlds operate. Banks and traditional institutions are playing an increasingly smaller role, while fintech innovations, alternative and shadow banks, neobanks, flash loans, smart contracts, subscription models, and NFT’s are proliferating. The entire playing field of the banking sector and financial markets is changing as decentralized finance (“defi”) takes hold. Friction between those seeking to access or invest their own money or tap into funding for ventures is decreasing and the once locked gates are beginning to crack open for all. We’ve barely begun to see the magnitude of innovation to come or the ways it might lead to a more democratic society.

In Civil Society

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Alexis de Tocqueville famously observed the instinct of everyday Americans was to organize around the things that mattered to them. For centuries, those individual efforts to help one another were known as “charity.” Since his famous 1830’s visit, our “uniting together” has taken on industrial-era constructs with institutions, not individuals, becoming the central organizing thesis. Today we call it “the nonprofit sector” and 1.5 million organizations have 54 million paid professional staff and $2.2 trillion in operating expenditures to do the work that once was a shared obligation. This delegation of our neighborly obligations to institutions has quietly reduced our sense of agency to affect change at all. While we are urged to get out to vote as a mechanism for change, we also see how outside, well-funded interests can easily outweigh the influence individual voters have over politicians. The way we elect our public officials, and the organizing constructs for how we govern ourselves, are the epitome of institutional power.

Yet, the digital era allows us to imagine a different way. Individuals, empowered by technology and working in networks, can be easily mobilized to march, advocate for a cause or express outrage on social media. Now, the bigger, world changing opportunity is to harness and productively channel that hunger to shape the future. Technology enables us to put individuals, rather than institutions, at the heart. From charity, philanthropy and community engagement, to politics and even how we govern, every single aspect of civil society could be stripped down to its core, rediscovered and reimagined with citizens at the center.

In Education

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Over 150 years, the US increasingly embraced an educational system that mirrored institutional era theories. Enormous school districts, bigger and bigger classes, exorbitant costs and an emphasis on mass standardization all aimed at filtering students to an increasingly expensive college experience that can financially burden the very students whom higher education is supposed to lift up. And, like other sectors of society, technology has mostly been aimed at increasing efficiency of the institution rather than radically rethinking how to deliver the utility it was supposed to provide.

While COVID exposed just how far behind the technological times many of our nations’ schools are, it also accelerated the disruption of education as kids and young adults have been forced to learn from home. At the same time, TikTok has become one of the largest learning platforms in a world of short-form content and Roblox hosts more students every month than all school-going children in the U.S., U.K., and Canada combined. These (and many other) games, apps and platforms merely foreshadow what education might look like when we reimagine it through a direct-to-students lens. And, as we think about the skills that will be in demand in the digital future, one must question the utility of higher education as a means for achieving economic mobility and thriving. When we remove the institutions traditionally at the center of education, we can begin to conceive entirely new ways for education to be enlightening, uplifting and life-changing.

In Healthcare

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The United States has one of the most complex healthcare systems in the world. It mirrors industrial era models with big health systems, big hospitals and escalating costs. And, here as well, COVID has had a dramatic impact. Beyond overwhelming doctors, nurses, emergency rooms and ICUs, it also dramatically accelerated engagement with digital technologies and virtual/remote models of care.

Where we once couldn’t imagine telemedicine en masse, we now find ourselves imagining the possibilities of decentralized healthcare, not just for routine visits but for much of our care. Smart devices and radical advances in medical equipment, alongside economic shifts that make healthcare systems more accountable, will push more and more healthcare to the home and other (non-healthcare) locations. And, as this shifts healthcare further away from entrenched institutions, it is opening an incredible array of opportunity for innovation—not just for new tools and technologies but for entirely new decentralized models and providers of care.

In Food + Agriculture

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Industrialization changed the way we grow and purchase our food, moving continually in the direction of greater concentration. While we produce more food than ever before and pay less for it, America’s agricultural monopoly problem permeates every aspect of the supply chain. Beyond shifting production from individual and family farmers to industrial farms, everything from seeds to dairy and meat production to the retail shops where most of us buy our food are owned and controlled by a handful of multi-billion dollar companies. This leaves many of us without access to affordable, healthy food options, and is directly contributing to the global obesity and climate crises. It also (as we saw with COVID) leaves us exposed to critical supply chain breakdowns.

If ever an industry was ripe for digital transformation in ways that decentralize, agriculture is surely it. So far, technologies such as satellite data and remote sensing technologies have been aimed primarily at increasing production and bringing efficiencies to the existing system. The bigger opportunity for innovation comes in developing entirely new agricultural models outside the monopolistic system. Networks of individual farmers could band together and act like a giant conglomerate. People living in food deserts could easily coordinate with local farmers or even grow their own food. Cities or states could have their own local Instacarts or DoorDashes, reinvesting the platform fees in their communities. The sky's the limit if we allow ourselves to take a blank sheet of paper and imagine entirely new ways to produce, distribute and access the healthy food we all need in a more sustainable (and often more profitable way) without assuming that an existing institution sits at the center.

In Small Businesses + Startups

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Entrepreneurship is crucial for a dynamic economy. America’s small businesses employ nearly half the nation’s employees. And highly scalable ventures are critical for job creation, especially now, as old economy companies and jobs are disappearing and communities are desperate to create new ones. In the last decade, more than 50% of the two million new businesses started in the U.S. were founded by minorities, creating more than 4.7 million jobs. Yet many struggle to survive or languish below their growth potential. At the same time, more companies are turning from full-time employees to gig workers than ever before, pushing more people into being micro-entrepreneurs.

Where once personal networks and capital were core to starting, funding, advertising, staffing and growing a business, the digital era has ushered in tools and pathways that can knock these barriers down. Websites can be built without technical know-how. Payments can be accepted without investment in infrastructure. Customers can be reached through platforms that already aggregate users. Legal documents can be completed without lawyers. Anyone with creative talent could burst onto the global stage (and monetize their ideas or influence) nearly overnight. Technology has barely just begun to morph the ways we define entrepreneurship and how we think about, launch and build businesses. As we continue to reduce the friction and capital necessary for startups, and connect with one another on a global scale, the economic engine can begin churning in earnest (in entirely new ways) in communities across the country.

We’re Also Builders.

The future will only truly be democratic if more of us are participating in it and sharing in the immense potential of it. Today, too many of us, in a lot of places, are being left behind. This isn’t (just) about job skills and workforce training. This is about everyone being able to see the possibilities the digital economy is presenting, feeling like they have the power to take action, and having the tools to be an active part of creating the future. We call that Buildership™ and we aim to share it with as many people, in as many places as possible.

We can all look around us and see problems we wish someone would solve. With the right lens, though, we instead could see the possibilities for a better future and our role in creating it. We are at a historic moment to grasp three world-changing opportunities.

First, we can see “the digital era” as more than smartphones, apps and job-displacing automation and grasp the power it gives us. The power to connect directly with one another, in networks, across all historic or geographic boundaries. The power to organize without organizations or intermediaries, to mobilize quickly, and to communicate, collaborate, solve problems or take advantage of opportunities. Networks unlock the latent gifts, talents and connections of the entire community, rather than only those in a designated position of power in a hierarchy. Anyone can have an idea, and networks can help those ideas reach scale. If more of us grasped the potential this holds for solving the problems we care about and reimagining society in ways where more of us prosper, it would be an unstoppable force.

Second, we can all use proven entrepreneurial problem solving methods and tools to tackle enormous challenges of our time that can often feel overwhelming. With a few simple tools we could see a clear path forward to action. Breaking down a problem. Ideating. Then running quick, simple, experiments to see what works. Natural-born builders do this instinctively but others can develop it. We teach it to entrepreneurs everyday but everyone, everywhere can also learn it and put it to use. It isn’t just a tool for launching new ventures. It is the key to solving the problems we most care about. Especially in this digital era where all things have the potential to be reimagined.

Finally, we can shift our thinking. In an era of scale, it can be easy to forget that every big idea has to start somewhere, and our startup myopia makes us think that the only way we can express entrepreneurial action is by starting a company. This keeps many of us from taking action. The reality is, we can think big but start small. We can just pick up a pebble. Whether that’s volunteering, learning about a problem you care about, brainstorming some ideas, supporting someone tackling it, or just trying something out. There are problems everywhere crying out for solutions. Every single one of us is needed.

Invest With Us

Our national partners help spread our programs from coast to coast, in urban and rural communities alike.