THE BILLION DOLLAR VISIONARY FUND
This is a counter-intuitive article. What I mean is this: what I’ve encountered with T&T’s leadership class- especially amongst politicians- is a profound distrust of ‘People’. A benign to malign refusal to empower ‘People’. They always have a million reasons to shower the ignorant with welfare- but a billion arguments why not to grant Genius even minimum wage. It’s a genetic refusal of Trinidadian leaders to resource the Visionary Citizen. It’s the single genetic strand holding us back from greatness and the ability to transform our lives beyond the sad mud we’ve made of this glorious place.
Which is why revisiting the idea of this fund makes no sense. The Billion Dollar Visionary Fund calls for the opposite impulse. It’s about granting license to Dreamers- releasing the Visionary Citizen. I am saying there’s something called the Visionary Citizen. I am saying that it’s the perennial sabotage of the Visionary Citizen by hundreds of acts of petty spite throughout national life that has destroyed our Republic. I am saying this is sanctioned by the most massive acts of spite by our leadership who continually refuse to resource the work of Visionary Citizens at the centre. The country looks at this and takes pattern. The armies of the mediocre cheer and take heart at the destruction of Genius that ensures they’re never shown up as incompetent or average.
This Fund is about the destruction of that crap country and its replacement by a Renaissance Republic.
So: I’m saying a local Venture Capital Fund needs to be set up with $3 Billion whose sole purpose is to fund brilliant ideas and business start-ups. It’s for people who are inventors, artists, scientists, businessmen, and innovators. The purpose is to help brilliant people make ideas real- and to rip T&T away from its mono-crop moorings into a brave new future… This Fund’s purpose is to kick-start next generation T&T enterprise, culture and innovation. Only an intervention like this can radically re-transform the industrial and entrepreneurial DNA of the nation.
Government is refusing to spend enough to risk and kick-start non-oil industries. For instance, government’s subvention for the Film Industry is $6 Million. For an entire industry!!! That’s barely the catering budget on a small Hollywood film! And T&T has Oscar winners! $25 million should be the starter for the Film Company… What needs to happen nationally requires more than pennies. Government has to believe in these industries. Really Believe!!!
Government needs to kick-start the creative. This is fundamentally the spirit of risk. Our present financial institutions are very conservative. They have frustrated local visionary enterprises that wanted to emerge. The 300 Trini-style Carnivals started by Visionary Citizens are now worth $15 Billion annually, but stagnated because visionaries were strangled of seed capital to consolidate gains and industrialise processes. Most are now dead.
Visionary venture capital created the modern information-technology economy by risking money on internet start-ups. From 1995 to 2001 millions of dollars were made available to thousands of start-up internet companies called dot.coms. Technological and creative innovation soared in America fundamentally transforming her industries, making numerous millionaires- changing the DNA of the world.
Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were funded by venture capital when literally just nerds in garages experimenting with computers. If no one had risked money on them the world would be a very different place. The downside- of course- is risk. Many dot.coms failed… When the internet bubble burst it took a lot of businesses with it. At the same time the gains geometrically outstripped the losses.
Trinidad has Venture Capital companies- but they perform like traditional banks. They’re risk-averse-unwilling to let visionary ideas play. This remains America’s strength: despite its shortcomings, capital finds its way to those with ideas. We openly punish people with ideas…
This is a call to government to set up the Visionary Fund- managed by the nation’s (and world’s) best risk managers. Outsider watchdogs must be brought in to oversee operations to prevent corruption. Why? Because corruption breeds mediocrity. Mediocrity is the enemy of us all. People must fail and succeed on merit. Make money available to all comers. No prejudice. No pre-suppositions. Let anybody come off the street with ideas.
Let there be tiers to the fund. One may be to help some present ideas properly. Another to build proto-types. Another to help mass produce. Another to help young businesses jump the next level. Another to help established businesses jump to global competitor status!!! Films, farms, computer programmes, pan factories, new inventions, new food-products, new genetic breeds- all will be the fruits of this fund. The beauty is we don’t know what beauty will emerge!!!
The fund may give grants from $10,000. to $100 Million. Let’s make the billions we have work for us. There’ll be about a 55% failure rate- but the 45% that succeed will re-engineer this country for the better. Forever. This Fund will transform communities and the very possibilities of the Trinbagonian. Let’s fund Genius and show we understand development is about People and Ideas- not buildings and things.