Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Long Term Happy Investments during Sad Economy

When the economy suffers, there are few that can claim they made good investments that did not depreciate. There is however a currency which has not depreciated as did the rest of the market. This type of currency is not money; it is in fact, our own capabilities.
The question is, what are we, as individuals, choose to do with that currency? This question should be asked at any given moment in life, but even more important now in light of the current sadness of the economy.

Generally speaking, I agree that time is money, and an individual’s time should have a price and one should be compensated for time invested. In a startup situation, it is my conviction that time invested by saying the founders have to be compensated as if they are investors in the company using equity, debt or salary.

Sometimes, however, as entrepreneurs at the concept stage, we find ourselves investing mostly free time (i.e. with low alternative cost) without an instant reward in something we believe in and passionate about. This type of investment, seems to me, to encapsulate a much smaller investment risk with high upside potential, than investing your hard earned money in the stock market.

I often look at other entrepreneurs and programmers, who decide to invest time, in essence, put their personal currency to work, in ideas they believe will create opportunities as the economy recovers or the project takes off. Sometimes the investment starts small as a free time project, then momentum is built and it becomes a part-time job, then investors come in (or maybe you are lucky to not need them) and eventually, this becomes your paid day job. Sometimes it doesn’t and you gain experience and knowledge for the next one, but even then there is almost always some sort of direct or indirect long term “tax-free” gain.

Personally, I invest my time in making sure the company I work for, Phone.com, is doing its best while I try to use my free time to gel new ideas into convincing power point presentations. To make even better use of that time I often do this process with my kids, just in the same way my father has done with me since I was a kid (and still does today), where we drive a creative process of sifting through project ideas and problem-solving, as a part of our quality time. I run my ideas with my kids who often contribute, and we work together to develop their own ideas, programs, and presentations. I am sure that directly or indirectly those time investments may one day become assets. I see this process as my kids’ backup plan, kind of a boot camp preparation and a way of building arsenal for whatever life will throw at them or at me. Plus it’s a fun way to use quality time.

So, here s one for you, if you are a creative software developer with entrepreneurial aspiration look at my blog post about doing business with linked-in written by Ronen Mizrahi and myself, as an example for such a project idea. The fact is that we composed and patented the concept in hope that we can shape our own future by creating a tool that helps entrepreneurs meet funding solutions and partners, faster than usual.

We believe that once implemented, this linked-in project is poised to succeed. If you are a capable software developer who values your free time and wants to be part of a free time embryonic low key entrepreneurial process, here is what we look for: We need you to understand social networks, the open social API and how to apply that knowledge to develop a Linked-In application. If you are open to the idea of investing your free time and fancy the project we want you to become part of the process and its potential success. Invest some of your free time to develop the application based on our patent and help all of us do better business, find investors, or just develop our own capabilities and experience to the next level.

Happy Holidays,
Alon Cohen