Crowdfunding in Raleigh

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced today that they will be proposing new crowdfunding rules. This is a topic that has gotten a fair amount of press lately. The Kickstarter model has been has been duplicated and modified to fit different sectors and industries from philanthropy to individual loansMatch Capital Ventures, a North Carolina based startup, is a company that is ready to take full advantage of new rules the SEC and Congress write to open up micro-investors for startups. It was only a matter of time before innovative citizens addressed the public sector’s need for crowdfunding.

This summer, the Kansas City’s Mayor turned to his constituents for help raising money for much needed streetcar line. Using the talent and innovation of his residents, Neighbor.ly was created as a civic version of Kickstarter. At a time when state and federal aid is increasingly limited and taxpayers are feeling stretched already, Neighbor.ly is one a way for residents to support projects while reducing city spending and fueling the local economy.

But sometimes the need is much, much smaller than that. A small project can get lost in the city shuffling and a community can wait a long time for a simple quality of life project. Why can’t neighbors work together to save the city time and taxpayer money for smaller projects? That’s exactly the question Reid Serozi asked when he was turned away from the city with a check for a bike rack in his neighborhood.

Reid and others, including myself, brought the question to the attendees at CityCampNC who had all come together to find solutions to everyday gov/tech issues through out-of-the-box thinking and a culture of open government. The question was: How can we open up city government so that a group of neighbors working together can get a small project installed without a lot of red tape, but also address the long-term maintenance needs and the equity challenges of the neighborhoods?

After some discussion, Nathan Spencer, a recent transplant from Boston, offered to take the brainstorming and write up some legislation. By the time people were presenting their projects that had started as vague ideas the day before and now were working prototypes of apps and solutions, Nathan had completed the legislation, presented it to the CityCampNC audience and, with the help of City Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin, it went before the City Council’s Law & Public Safety Committee in June. You can read Nathan’s account and read the legislation here.

In time when government is so divided and partisan issues are replacing the needs of the many, crowdfunding has the potential to make us a more efficient and stronger city. It is important that we move carefully as we navigate this new territory. I look forward to seeing how crowdfunding can positively impact our communities in the coming years.

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