For the past year or so I’ve been advising a startup called MISSION. Its goal is to tell stories about projects philanthropies and non-profits are working on around the world, and build a community that promotes, supports and facilitates travel by volunteers that want to dedicate their time and skills to them.
MISSION’s founder is Amy Schrier who I first met — and worked for — in the late-nineties when she founded BLUE Magazine, an award winning adventure lifestyle title that ran from 1997 to 2003.
In the Q&A below, Amy and I talk about what it’s like to be back in publishing, her thoughts on female entrepreneurialism in the tech and media space, and how and why she has chosen Crowdfunder, a startup in its own right, as her starting point for raising MISSION’s first round of founds. (If interested, you can see/vote for MISSION here.) — Michael
Michael: What’s MISSION’s origin story? How did the idea come about?
Amy: MISSION grows out the growing awareness of social action, and desire among people to tie their awareness of these issues to actions they can take, to make the world a better place. This can take the form of watching a video and donating to the related nonprofit, or getting involved with a cause and taking a volunteer trip, to help build homes in Haiti, work in an orphanage in Kenya, or teach in a Mississippi school. Personally, it grows out of my own experiences volunteering in Africa and Bangladesh.
Michael: After publishing BLUE Magazine you took a break to raise your kids. Now that you’re back, what changes surprise you about the current media and publishing environment?
Nothing surprises me. Just kidding, social media and the power to interact with your audience in instananeous real time make starting a business a clearer proposition.
Michael: What media changes inspire you?
Amy: Most of all this: When we had BLUE magazine, we would regularly cover humanitarian issues… infanticide in India, land mines in Cambodia, Amputees in Sierra Leone… each time we would publish a sidebar of info to connect readers with organizations making a difference in these areas. But we never knew who contacted them? Or how many did?
The prospect of having real-time information about users’ desire for info on issues and being able to track this is amazing.
Michael: Much is made about how women are received in technology and venture capital circles. As you begin raising money — and moving through these circles — what has your experience been?
Amy: There needs to be more collaboration among women — in terms of helping young female-driven start-ups raise capital — at the earliest stages. There is lots of work being done by Golden Seeds, ASTIA and Springboard once companies have reached a certain level of revenues, and there are opportunities to be funded further, but very little for start-ups.
We were invited to present at ASTIA, which we did. After they declined on funding us they said, you have a great business model, great team, you are just too early. They said, every person in the room you presented too invests $100,000 or more in each deal. I wondered why there was not a room alongside, where early stage start-ups could present, and each of those investors might put 10% into the earlier stage companies.
Michael: MISSION’s a startup and you’ve chosen start your funding push through Crowdfunder, another startup. What’s the rationale and benefit for doing so?
Amy: Equity crowdfunding is an amazing opportunity for early stage start-ups, investors, and just about everybody. Currently, finding early stage capital can sometimes feel like an inefficient system of cold calling angels, VC firms and high net worth individuals. The idea that start-ups will be able to tap into the public interest, test their business concept and appeal to public investors at the same time, is a wonderful thing. It will surely promote entrepreneurship overall in the long term.
Michael: Finally, you have some 30+ people volunteering their time and energy into turning MISSION into a reality. What’s your secret for getting people involved? Or is it some inherent Jedi mind trick you’ve mastered from raising your kids?
In an alternative life I’ve been working on a startup called MISSION.tv. It’s a community and publication focusing on global philanthropic and volunteer activity. And, happily, its soft launch is today.
MISSION was founded by Amy Schrier who also happened to be my first publisher for a magazine she launched in the 90s called Blue.
My very first publisher announced the launch of a new venture today. Called MISSION, it plans to explore global philanthropy and “volunteer” travel (ie., where the likes of you and I go to a region in need to work on specific projects for discrete time periods).
It’s timed to launch this fall and for the digitally savvy, MISSION is looking for editors, multimedia producers, strategists, business development folk, interns, and everyone else needed to get a project like this off the ground.