Venture-backed startups are waiting longer and longer to go public. This means that much of their growth is inaccessible to retail investors (regular people buying stocks), and it’s been a common refrain that this dynamic is a major issue of economic equality. Periodically I come across an interesting startup that I believe in, and want to bet on, but I have no way to do it. Actually, there’s one way I can do it: by working there. But this is not an ideal way to invest. It’s hard to diversify, and not everyone has the skills that these companies need.
It’s instructive to compare this dynamic to “cultural capital”. You find a new band, or a blogger, and you think they’re great and likely to make their own small dent on the world. 5 years later, it turns out you’re right. What did you gain from this successful prediction? Maybe the respect of people around you; but not much else. I often want some way to say “this little thing will become influential,” and to have skin in the game on that prediction.
Fine art is one of the few places where this does work – you can buy pieces from a young artist and, if they get big, you cash in. But for most areas of cultural value this doesn’t apply.
Startup founders talk about how investors with even a very small stake in their company can be immensely helpful in their journey. I want to replicate that dynamic somehow in the culture space, in the realm of human influence. The difficulty is obvious: influence or success is very hard to measure.
A prediction market would be a good place to start doing this, but it might not be the perfect venue.