Category: Uncategorized

Crowdfunding – Free Market Solutions for Social Causes

crowdfundingpicIf you’re like me, you’ve probably contributed to a couple of crowdfunding campaigns before. I love the idea of crowdfunding. It feels great to direct your support to projects in which you are interested, and to be able to contribute an amount that works for you. It’s like a more visible and interactive way of fundraising and donating. Crowdfunding started out mainly as a platform used for deliverable content like films and music but recently, it has expanded to include personal and cause-oriented projects such as helping victims of natural disasters or supporting the adoption of a child. Essentially, crowdfunding has become a free market solution for social causes.

GoFundMe seems to be the premier platform for cause-oriented crowdfunding, but IndieGoGo can still claim it’s place as the first personal and non-profit funding platform. IndieGoGo recently decided to make a move for GoFundMe’s crown by building

FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestRedditShare

A New Era for Birdmen

drone1As a child, I loved remote-control toys with complex mechanics. If the toy happened to fly, so much the better. Unlike most kids, I wasn’t too concerned with commandeering them for a role in my latest GI Joe reenactment. I took them apart and attempted to put them back together again, often finding myself in a Humpty-Dumpty situation…“all the king’s horses and all the king’s men….”

Although my RC car days are long gone, the rapidly growing drone market has peaked my interest, as it has with many other people. Drones – long used in warfare for their stealth, maneuverability and often undetectable nature – have become increasingly popular with the masses (looking to be the most popular Christmas gift of 2015). Current drone prices range from under $100 to upwards of $2,000. The majority of drones on the market offer the advantage of aerial pictures and 360° video capability. While these consumer drones are hardly military grade, it seems they pose a challenge for air traffic controllers and a safety hazard for aircraft. Air traffic controllers state that the minimum safe distance for any object to be near an aircraft is 1,000 feet plus.

Tech Trifecta

Investing_moneyThe first question one must ask when looking to invest some money is, where to put it? This is true whether you are hoping to make a lot of money, to do something valuable with the money you have in savings while you’re not using it, or looking to support a business you believe in. It turns out that there may be a way to fulfill each of those three desires simultaneously: a tech trifecta, if you like. Investing in the tech industry might be just the thing for you. There are certainly lots of great technological ideas worth getting behind purely to support, but it’s also common knowledge that there is a lot of money to be made in the industry as well.

Last year, Facebook bought Oculus Rift for $2 billion. Oculus Rift famously raised over $2 million in crowdfunding through a Kickstarter campaign. The tech startup was not a publicly traded company so when they were bought by Facebook,

A Path to Riches or an Alluring Trap?

image

 

I vividly remember a house in the neighborhood where I grew up as a kid. My friend Tony lived there. It was a massive structure, likely over 5,000 square feet, dwarfing all others in the area. This residence boasted a huge swimming pool (rare in Columbus, Ohio), a fish tank that took up an entire wall, and a foyer staircase that rivaled that of the von Trapp family mansion in the movie ‘Sound of Music’.

Because the property’s stature and opulence seemed an oddity for a lower middle class African-American community, I asked another neighborhood friend what Tony’s parents did for a living. “Oh“, came the response, “they’re involved in something called Multi-Level Marketing. I hear you can become quite rich in that business.”

So What the Heck is Multi-Level Marketing?

Just the other day, I mentioned to a friend of mine, who happens to be a millennial, that I was writing an article on Multi-Level Marketing. “What’s that? Never heard of it,” she retorted.

As a boomer, my awareness of MLMs is quite extensive. Back when I was young and impressionable, it seemed like profiteers in this industry were seeking me out on a regular basis. I was told that they were attracted to my gregarious personality and vast network of professional connections. Yet to this day, my understanding as to how it really works is shrouded in mystery.

Here is my own simple definition of MLM. Having signed up for the MLM of a certain product yourself, you then contact everyone you know – starting with family and friends – to persuade them also to sign up for the same MLM product (with you as the referring representative, of course), in the hope that they will sell enough product for you to be able to sit on your couch and watch tv while you reap the rewards of all their referral commissions.

I know, I know… .my definition is a bit warped. But consider it an honest portrayal of my experience with this over time.

My first direct exposure to MLM, a.k.a network marketing, was back in 1995 while I was living in Chicago. I got invited to one of those infamous events that was clouded in secrecy where what you’ve gotten yourself into isn’t revealed until you are seated with coffee and donut in hand. It was a cheesy print publication, a subscription report that featured randomly aggregated research information on society and the world. Surprisingly, tons of unsuspecting folks bought into it with the hope of accelerating their knowledge to become better informed citizens. Me? I attended a couple of meetings and had an uneasy feeling about what was about to go down. On my third visit, I was greeted by a sea of dour faces; they had all been taken financially by the founder.

My brief dalliance with this particular MLM company is not intended as a broad indictment of the entire industry. In fact, I’ve been involved with a wide spectrum of other MLM companies – primarily in the wellness products realm – that had a modicum of integrity and transparency. Some folks I know who were involved with these companies even saw success. But in my estimation, this success scenario was quite rare.

Good Intentions or Taking Advantage of Others?

An acquaintance of mine works with a very profitable MLM company called Vemma Nutrition. She’s a person with integrity who has worked hard to achieve success within the company. Sadly, the Federal Trade Commission just put a temporary strangle-hold on the company’s operations for operating what they deemed to be an illegal pyramid scheme. Company assets were temporary seized by an Arizona federal court. The primary charge against them hinged on their promising college students untold financial returns while selling nutritional drinks. According to the FTC, Vemma earned $200 million in 2013 and 2014. And the students? Well, they were not so lucky, as most were unable to even recover their initial investment in the company.

My Take on MLM Investment Opportunities

In short, if you are considering joining a MLM, I encourage you to tread slowly and keep your wits about you. Have some people seen a ROI in building a profitable business clientele? Certainly, there are some examples. But is it a path to riches? Personally, I believe that’s likely to happen less than 1% of the time. “

Anthem Blanchard Opens for Gary Johnson at Liberty Fest Oct 9-11th

liberty_fest_anthem_garyjohnsonHave you heard of the liberty-loving event that is taking place next weekend in Brooklyn, NY? For six years now, some of the top thinkers and activists have been meeting in New York City to discuss informally the latest government rulings that are oppressing citizens and to seek the best way to combat – or exit entirely – the government-centric life.

I had the pleasure of attending Liberty Fest a couple of years ago when I was promoting the film Silver Circle. I can attest that this event is set apart from most due to the accessibility to headline speakers, the parties and also the chance to network without too much pressure. This is a great place to learn about what’s happening with top activists, how you can get involved, and it is also a great place to meet new friends.

This year’s event is taking place at Warsaw Concert Hall in Brooklyn, NY. The venue is close to both major airports, and it boasts a healthy range of affordable hotels as well as some great boutique options, plusAirbnb.com for those who support the sharing economy. It takes place from Oct. 10-11th. Be sure to especiallymark down the evening of October 10th as a must-see event. Anthem Hayek Blanchard, CEO of Anthem Vault and a recognized global expert on precious metals, will be the opening speaker for Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson!

Tickets are only $30 for the entire weekend, with some a la carte options that include VIP dinners and seating.

Anthem Vault will be offering FREE silver all weekend to lucky raffle winners. It’s free to get involved with the raffle, so visit the booth and sign up as soon as you get there!

We’re All Going Loony

For most of us, access to the internet has become old hat. We can check emails on our cell phones while skyping on an iPad, and simultaneously stream instant video to our laptop. Our ability to function and perform daily tasks relies heavily on the availability of an internet connection. But what about the two-thirds of the world that has little or no access to the internet?

In 2013, a small Google initiative was started and dubbed Project Loon or simply, Loon. The stated goal of Loon is to provide global internet access, using balloons sent up into the stratosphere. Thirty balloons were launched in 2013 from New Zealand, and Google hasn’t looked back since. Up in the stratosphere (higher than aircraft fly or weather systems occur), the balloons network together using the popular LTE telecommunications system. This networking of balloons aims to fill coverage gaps, bringing the internet community to the remotest parts of the world, while also serving to bring people back online after a disaster.

How Does It Work?

Upon reaching the stratosphere, the launched balloons are caught in the stratified wind currents that are present at those particular heights. The winds travel in different directions and at varying speeds; this posed a problem of controlling where and how these balloons would navigate. An algorithm was therefore created, controlled by a computer at project headquarters, which determines where each balloon is in relation to the earth, and where it is in relation to its member balloons. For example, as one balloon is slowly whisked away from providing coverage to Indonesia, another balloon takes its place and assures that there will be consistent LTE network availability. Each balloon provides networking within a 25-mile diameter circle, relaying communications from LTE-capable cell phones to the global internet. Every 100 days, the balloons have to be switched out (a vast improvement on their original 2-day life). This ensures that each balloon is always working at optimal capacity and safety.

The Balloon

A fully inflated balloon measures approximately 15 meters by 12 meters, and is made of polyethylene plastic which can resist the temperatures and wind currents of the stratosphere. They last for about 100 days and then descend to earth in a controlled fashion. If a balloon begins descending too rapidly, it deploys a parachute to prevent a devastating crash. Hanging below the balloon is a box containing the electronics, radio communications system, plus two angled solar panels which run the electronics and charge up the lithium ion batteries so that usage can continue during the night. A big selling point for Loon is its ability to operate on a completely renewable energy source.

Goals Of Loon

It’s clear that the primary goal of Loon is to provide internet access for people everywhere in the world. While Netflix, YouTube and other entertainment media consume a large portion of internet activity, Loon has loftier goals, aiming to bring people closer into the global community and also provide services that improve quality of life. It’s estimated that one in three global citizens have no access to secondary education. With Loon, secondary education can come to them. Farmers can check weather patterns to ensure a healthy crop and to make sure their animals are staying dry and warm. Medical access is limited in a large portion of the world, so with the LTE internet that Loon provides, people can interact with doctors from around the globe. Google hopes that one day soon we can say that everyone is ‘on the internet’.

Wrapping It Up

All in all, Loon is an amazing project, and so far it has brought internet to a small portion of New Zealand. Conceptually, Loon does work, and it will eventually provide internet to all ends of the earth. However, there is still the challenge of getting the LTE-capable devices into the hands of people in the remotest (poorest) parts of the globe. Not only would they need the devices, but they would have to have some viable option for paying Google for the internet service. Thankfully, this is the only significant issue I see with Loon. Let’s give credit where it’s due and applaud Google for yet another brilliant contribution…. in the hope that, our global community will be a reality one day soon.