Every year, bright tech graduates leave engineering school to launch their savvy ideas in Silicon Valley and San Francisco—to the tune of billions of dollars. Venture capitalists put up the funds (about $30 billion last year) figuring that for every five bad ideas, a good one will return on their losses.
Fair enough—but what about the little guy? A small-scale entrepreneur like a cheesemaker or farmer has dreams just as big, if not bigger. But paradoxically, it can be even more difficult to raise the relatively small amount of capital necessary to start such ventures.
The organization Slow Money aims to change that. Founded by Woody Tasch, former chairman of Investors’ Circle, the group hosts local and national gatherings that not only reconfirm investors’ commitment and knowledge of values of economic and ecological diversity, but also provide an opportunity for entrepreneurs who share these values to pitch ideas for potential funding.
The range of start-ups and established businesses that receive funding at such gatherings includes a company that supplies local grains to Bay area bakers, a food processing and distribution hub for Kentucky farmers, and numerous small farms and value-add food processors. Taken together, these relatively small investments have generated a big impact: Since 2010, the network has invested more than $49 million in 519 small-food enterprises in the US, Canada, and in France.
What all these projects have in common is that they reflect the six core principles that Tasch and his colleagues have articulated as the meaning behind the phrase “slow money.” Aimed primarily at investors—anyone with the means to put some cash on the table to fund such ventures—these principles are intended to directly counteract the profit-driven, growth-at-any-cost philosophy familiar under modern capitalism. Instead, they “affirm a vision of healthy local food systems and a healthy economy.”
In other words, these individuals are investing not only their money, but also in their local communities and economies; they’re interested not only in the diversity of their holdings, but the biodiversity of small farms and other small-scale, slow-food businesses.
“Wall Street and Silicon Valley have us believe that everything in the world is about acceleration,” explains Tasch, “as if there’s no such thing as money that is too fast, securities that are too complex, or companies that are too big. Slowing a little of our money down, investing it in small food enterprises near where we live, yields so many benefits: more healthy organic food, less chemicals in the environment, more water in our aquifers, more carbon in our soil, and more resilient communities.”