Why We Need To Angel “Invest” in Individuals
We’ve fallen in love with funding “Public Goods.” Now it’s time for us to also reap the rewards of funding “Public Greats” (with NO strings attached).
Web3 is revolutionizing the way we approach funding public goods.
Within the regen web3 scene, a powerful ethos has emerged:
Those who benefit from robust, open-source, free-to-use web3 infrastructure should actively contribute to its funding.
Platforms like Gitcoin and Giveth have played a crucial role in this cultural shift, funneling tens of millions of dollars into public goods-focused projects in recent years.
I’m deeply grateful to these platforms for seeding and propagating this "fund what matters" mindset within the web3 community.
However, funding projects is just the beginning.
To truly harness the potential of web3 and its impact on society, we need to broaden our horizons and start funding PEOPLE.
It's time to expand this culture of financing public goods and embrace the concept of funding "Public Greats."
These outstanding individuals, often overlooked and underfunded, drive the success of countless projects and ecosystems.
By investing in Public Greats, we can empower the changemakers who, in turn, will strengthen the projects and people they support.
Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and countless other historical Public Greats simply would not have been able to do what they did without “Angels” who believed in them before others did and funded them as individuals.
Especially in light of this historical precedent (which we'll explore later in this article), we should commit to coming together as a community and evolving our approach to funding to ensure that we're not only supporting innovative projects, but also the incredible individuals who make those projects possible.
By doing so, we'll create a brighter future for everyone in the web3 space and beyond.
What are “Public Greats”? 🦸🏽♀️
"Public Greats" are the powerhouses behind the scenes, driving the success of countless ecosystems. These exceptional individuals often go unnoticed and underfunded, despite the far-reaching positive impact they generate.
These remarkable individuals invigorate a portfolio of:
Public Greats are the embodiment of force multipliers.
Their unique set of skills, knowledge, leadership, and influence amplifies the effectiveness and impact of the projects and people they support. They are the master connectors, consistently bringing together individuals who can create a ripple effect of change.
Public Greats supercharge the people around them.
I give five examples of Public Greats I personally know in my recent piece on “In-Betweeners.”
Despite the immense value they provide, Public Greats often find themselves under-compensated by the projects and people they support.
This unfortunate reality stems from several factors, such as early-stage projects lacking funds or the individuals they support being in a similar financial predicament.
As a result, Public Greats frequently face burnout and financial stress, as they struggle to find ways to fund their own well-being and growth outside of the projects they champion.
You might wonder, "What about foundations like the Ford Foundation?" Well, the truth is, applying for grants from charitable foundations can be a soul-crushing experience.
Navigating the grant application process is a grueling endeavor that often leaves applicants feeling devalued and demoralized.
Let me explain.
Why Applying For Grants Can Feel So Bad 😣
Applying for grants SUCKS (except on RARE occasions).
Grants are almost always for PROJECTS, not people, and they are very hard to get.
And when the grants are for people, they are almost always for FOUNDERS, which overlooks the valuable contributions of " In-Betweeners"—who are like the mycelium of change networks, working tirelessly behind the scenes to introduce change-makers and accelerate progress at the ecosystem level.
By the way, even if you are lucky enough to secure grant funding, the strings attached can make you feel like an indentured servant to the funder.
Here is—from my experience—why applying for grants can feel dehumanizing:
📑 The Energy-Draining Bureaucratic Quagmire: In the grant application swamp, one must wade through mountains of paperwork, stringent guidelines, and inflexible deadlines. This exhausting process strips away the unique qualities of applicants, reducing them to mere numbers and criteria. As the grant cycle drags on, the flame that once fueled their passion and purpose flickers and fades.
🏆 The Darwinian Struggle for Scarce Resources: The grant application arena is a brutal battleground where many contenders fight for a share of limited funding. In this ruthless competition, desperation and stress abound, leaving applicants questioning their worth and straining their relationships with fellow seekers.
🎭 The Unending Pursuit of Validation: The constant quest for grant approval feels like an ongoing audition, where one's self-worth is always on the line. This emotionally draining process creates a power imbalance between applicants and grant-makers, leaving the former feeling disempowered and beholden to the whims of those who control the purse strings.
🎨 The Stranglehold on Creativity and Autonomy: When grant funding is finally secured, it often comes with a catch – specific requirements and expectations set by the grantor. This constraint can suffocate applicants' creative freedom and force them to abandon their own interests and passions in favor of fulfilling the grantor's demands.
💰 The Financial Insecurity Trap: Relying on grant funding for sustenance can lead to a precarious existence. Trapped in a never-ending cycle of seeking and maintaining funding, individuals may feel like indentured servants, their lives dictated by the relentless pursuit of the next grant opportunity.
Given the often hellish nature of applying for grants to sustain oneself, Public Greats ought to ask themselves: Is the prize of grant funding worth the sacrifices they must make along the way?
How Do We Fund Public Greats A Better Way? 🤔
It's time to explore alternative ways of supporting Public Greats, freeing them from the dehumanizing processes and constant reliance on foundations for project funding.
Let's get creative in nurturing individual Public Greats, enabling them to thrive and follow their dharmic path towards making a meaningful difference in the world.
Introducing the idea of Angel Investors for People – these compassionate supporters:
Provide ongoing funding to Public Greats (donations)
Celebrate their impact milestones (akin to acquiring a share in the Public Great)
Sustain their support as Public Greats evolve their project portfolios
Angel Investing in Public Greats is about unconditional funding that empowers them to dedicate themselves fully to their highest potential impact.
When you support a Public Great, trust them to use the funds wisely based on their proven track record or your belief in their future potential.
By offering financial support without strings attached, you empower Public Greats to exercise their judgment and unleash their innate drive to boost the impact of others.
Invest in the person, not just their current projects or affiliations. Continue to back them as they grow and shift focus, providing the reassurance that comes from unwavering support.
Experience the joy of alleviating the burden on Public Greats, liberating them from the constraints of conventional jobs and grant applications that divert them from their dharmic purpose.
A dharmic purpose is a life mission aligned with universal moral principles and personal values. It involves discovering one's unique talents, passions, and responsibilities and using them to make a positive contribution to society, the environment, and the greater good.
When you know in your heart that a certain path is yours to follow, deviating from it can be soul-crushing. By investing in Public Greats, you're helping them stay true to their calling.
Angel Investors Of Public Greats Are History's Unsung Heroes
A timeless practice, the funding of Public Greats has gifted history with some of its most iconic changemakers.
Thanks to their Angel Investors, these luminaries were able to create a lasting legacy we will never forget:
🇿🇦 Nelson Mandela & Walter Sisulu: Mandela, the fearless anti-apartheid revolutionary, was backed by his stalwart ally, Walter Sisulu. Together, they fought against injustice, with Sisulu providing the indispensable financial and logistical support that kept Mandela going during his perilous years in hiding.
🇮🇳 Mahatma Gandhi & Jamnalal Bajaj: Gandhi, the visionary Indian independence leader, found a steadfast friend in wealthy industrialist Jamnalal Bajaj. Bajaj's financial support and camaraderie empowered Gandhi to champion his nonviolent movement for freedom.
🗳️ Susan B. Anthony & George Francis Train: Anthony, the trailblazing women's rights activist, joined forces with George Francis Train, a wealthy businessman and political advocate. With Train's financial support, Anthony was able to launch impactful campaigns and lectures to advance women's suffrage.
🌾 Cesar Chavez & His Unwavering Supporters: Chavez, the valiant Mexican-American labor leader, drew strength from the unwavering support of his wife, Helen, and the Catholic Church. Together, they championed the rights of migrant farm workers and improved their working conditions.
🎓 Booker T. Washington & His Enlightened Mentors: Washington, the pioneering educator, was guided by Samuel Armstrong, the founder of the Hampton Institute. Armstrong's mentorship and financial backing, along with the generosity of Andrew Carnegie and Julius Rosenwald, helped Washington establish the renowned Tuskegee Institute.
🇺🇸 Martin Luther King Jr. & Harry Belafonte: King, the tireless civil rights activist, was bolstered by the support of the multi-talented Harry Belafonte. Belafonte's financial backing and celebrity influence allowed King's message of equality to reach the masses, forging essential connections to change the course of history.
In the footsteps of the great Walter Sisulus, who will champion the next Nelson Mandelas of the world, empowering them to reshape the course of history?
How We Empower Public Greats? Recurring Donations and Mintable Milestones 💸
While recurring donations are a valuable way for Public Greats to receive regular financial support, they can also benefit from additional resources. One such method involves making their impact "Milestones" mintable.
Public Greats can learn from fictional superheroes and become more relatable, accessible, and marketable.
To achieve this, Public Greats should:
Clarify their unique humanity. Showcase their "superpowers" and personality, as discussed in my Impact Influencers article.
Identify the villains they're fighting. These can be broken systems or complex root causes, not necessarily individuals.
Make it easy for supporters to fund them. Clear pathways for financial help are essential.
Minting Milestones offers a new avenue of support for Public Greats.
These Milestones represent significant moments in a Public Great's journey. Here's an example of how this can work. Lets say your name is Jane.
Step 1: Document your dharmic path and call it "Jane 2.0."
Step 2: Chronicle the meaningful impact made during "Jane 1.0."
Step 3: Create a digital zine highlighting your 1.0 impact and outlining your 2.0 path.
Step 4: Release the zine as a mintable NFT with a set price and availability window.
Step 5: Enable Milestone Minters to directly engage with you by streaming donations and joining a dedicated support group.
Mintable Milestones offer benefits for both Public Greats and their supporters:
Public Greats receive additional funding.
Supporters experience the satisfaction of funding a do-gooder and the opportunity to associate with their impact and meet the Public Great (if also streaming recurring funding).
Mintable Milestones harness market dynamics that incentivize early investment in Public Greats.
Imagine the growing financial value of:
An Impact Athlete trading card of a young Barack Obama
A Milestone from Nelson Mandela at 32
A Greta Thunberg Milestone from her first climate strike
Mintable Milestones tap into the human urge to collect, invest, and support "Impact Artists."
Public Greats are "Impact Artists," with their "art" being the relationships, communities, and movements they catalyze. Angels can act as "Art Collectors," displaying their Minted Milestones like prized art collections.
The market failure in funding Public Greats isn't due to a lack of potential funders, but the absence of a market for minting their Milestones.
Establishing this market could inspire more people to follow their dharmic paths.
Conclusion: Fund Public Greats—It Just Makes Sense 💡
The web3 revolution has brought about a new culture of funding public goods, but to truly harness its potential, we must expand our focus and begin funding the "Public Greats"–the exceptional individuals driving the success of countless projects and ecosystems.
By investing in Public Greats, we empower the changemakers who, in turn, will strengthen the projects and people they support.
To overcome the dehumanizing nature of traditional grant applications, we need to explore alternative methods of supporting Public Greats.
By introducing the concept of Angel Investors for People and Mintable Milestones, we can provide ongoing funding, celebrate their impact, and sustain our support as they evolve their portfolios.
This approach will not only alleviate the financial burdens on Public Greats but also allow them to fully dedicate themselves to their highest potential impact.
By following the examples of history's unsung heroes and investing in Public Greats, we can create a brighter future for everyone in the web3 space and beyond.
Until next time.
America 2.0 (by Gary Sheng) is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber—which helps me walk my own dharmic path!
Excellent, and I appreciate thinkers who take seriously pricing, funding, etc. problems. Really great work, and you might enjoy the work done by Anthony over at Intrinsic Macro, though no pressure of course. His piece, "Economic Productivity in Digital Media," is great:
"Intrinsic Value Thesis for Digital Media" is also great:
Looking forward to exploring your Substack, as well as your YouTube channel. A lot of the conversations look utterly fascinating. Well done!
Gary, I first became aware of you in the video of your meeting with John Vervaeke. And I followed your time at CU. Now this. Your journey continues... Keep going.