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Money for what?

Have you ever heard about social capital?

The idea is that contacts, social environment and relationships can be as important as, or even more important than money in the moment of launching a new business.

The Pinboard Investment Co-Prosperity Cloud [1] calls itself a startup self-incubator, which provides venture business with is social capital instead of tons of money. Giving only US$ 37 for six new business ideas, the company intends to help them to be successful with publicity, contacts in the computerland and helping them to attract an initial pool of customers.

“The project aims to draw attention to the fact that if you have access to technical labor, the startup and operating costs for an online project in 2013 are negligible. The biggest obstacle to creating something useful is finding the time to build it and attracting an initial pool of paying customers”, explains its founder Mr. Maciej Cegłowski [2], in the website.

Masaaki Hasegawa, student of Visual and Media Communication Program of IE, interviewed Mr. Cegłowski. He was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1975, but immigrated to the United States when he was a child.









M: Please, tell us more about how did you get this outstanding unique idea, The Pinboard Investment Co-Prosperity Cloud.

MC: The idea started as a joke. I wanted to highlight my belief that many good projects do not require any outside investment, if the founder has access to free technical labor.


M: Why $37(or $222 for 6 business)? Is that your favorite number or it is based on calculation from the viewpoint of investment?

MC: There’s no deep significance to the figure.  It’s a small amount of money, but enough to buy useful services (like hosting or a domain name registration).


M. You have mentioned that you would like to invest in interesting ideas. Do you have specific fields, areas, or industries in which you would like to invest?

MC.  I am very interested in areas where computers can make people’s lives easier, but where people are still doing things in the hard way. These tend to be in industries and professions that are not well known to technical people.  For that reason, I have tried to avoid projects that target programmers, designers, and startups, since the tech industry is already full of useful tools that people build for one another.    I also prefer to focus on small, specific projects rather than very ambitious ideas.  I like people who bite off one the corner of a specific problem, rather than trying to solve it in the abstract.


M. Would you look for other investment destinations in the future?

MC.  If this initial “investment” round goes well, definitely!


M: What do you think about the current venture capital situation?

MC.  I think there is too much money right now, chasing too few good ideas.  This kind of overheated investment climate encourages people to chase investment money and rapid growth rather than build useful things. That means a lot of time has been wasted, running after investors that would be better spent programming.  I also think that many people who got rich in the most recent bubble (companies like Twitter and Facebook) are now trying their hand at investing, making the problem worse.


M. You would like to change the current venture capital trend that putting huge amount of money into start-up companies and that aims for publishing stock to sell? 

MC.  I don’t want to change it, I just want for there to be alternatives.  For every million-dollar idea, there are thousands of hundred-dollar ideas.  Not everything has to grow to be successful, and I would like for people to feel good about pursuing side projects and small businesses, without feeling pressure to find “bigger” ideas just so they can be taken seriously.


M: Would you like to be a business associate of interesting business rather than an investor? Is that why you are using “Co-Prosperity” as your fund’s name?

MC:  I like the idea of mutual aid.  People who run small online businesses have a lot of advice and help they can offer one another, as well as simple encouragement.  The more of us there are, the less stressful it becomes to do what I do.


M. You say, “The Co-Prosperity Cloud is an experiment in distributing just that sort of social capital ”. Do you think that your business is actually creating an innovative meaning of value measurement in the economy, instead of the traditional concept of money?

MC.  Not at all.  I’m just trying to draw attention to the fact that for many business ideas, startup costs are approaching zero.  This is an exciting new development.  In these circumstances, the most helpful thing you can offer someone is often not money, but help in finding customers and making connections.


M: What is the definition of social capital for you?

MC: The ability to get strangers to pay attention to what you are doing.


M. If you can success in this experiment, social capital would be proved to play an important role in the current society, mainly in the sense of value generating. Do you think it would potentially be an important keyword in next years?

MC. I think people recognize that connections have always been important.  The only thing that is changed now is that money is becoming less important, which means there will be more of a focus on social capital.


M. It seems that your business has a sophisticated philosophy. Please tell me more about your philosophy and its effects in your business. 

MC.  I really just make up the philosophy as I go.  People seem to want to talk about it, so I keep adding new bits!