40billion.com seeks to democratize the venture capital process by giving members an easy and cost-effective way to create and distribute a business plan, raise capital through contributions and loans or invest in a start-up. It’s a novel idea. Sure, sites such as Prosper.com democratize the lending process by facilitating loans not from banks to borrowers but by turning anyone into a lender. By checking credit reports and assigning an evaluative number, posting payment history and reason for the funds, Prosper has simplified a complex process. But 40billion.com seeks to do much more than that.Investing money in a business is a much more unwieldy process, and that’s true during good times much less bad.Most small businesses in this country are funded by an entrepreneur’s wages from a full time job, credit cards, or small loans from family and friends. While 40billion.com does not overlook family and friends (in fact this personal network is where it suggests an entrepreneur start first), it seeks to broaden the appeal of investing in a start-up by providing resources investors can utilize. And it’s not only for entrepreneurs either; members can post and seek jobs or look to invest in businesses. In the end though I feel 40billion.com comes up short. For one, business plans are all over the internet and it does not provide a tried and true approach to writing a winning plan. Also, treating every business in any industry the same when it comes to start-up financing may also not be a good idea.
Inevitably, some businesses are going to have a unique path that if not followed may hinder their future options. Businesses that are high tech high touch (requiring person to person interaction) come to mind. Those types of businesses require experienced and educated staff, and will ultimately prove more capital intensive. In addition, it seems a bit pedestrian to embrace their service for the main purpose of shilling your company to your “friends and family.”