There’s a lot of buzz this week surrounding Facebook’s Initial Public Offering, and for good reason. Facebook has become another in a growing list of companies that are making millionaires out of every day people who happened to be there in the beginning. Pay attention because there are more doors opening daily. You just have to know where to look.
I’ve spent years helping start-ups, not only with web design, but with planning and consulting. Over the years, I’ve learned several ways to get in early on start-ups like Facebook and I have ownership in a lot of companies. Below is some of what I’ve put into practice.
Earn Shares Socially
One of the really easy ways to get in on the ground floor is to earn shares in a company by way of social media promotion. My busy schedule and lack of time has kept me from making one of my ideas a reality, but thankfully, someone else has done it instead. The idea was to create a site that brings new start-ups together with social marketers to generate buzz for the start-up in exchange for stake in the company that the social marketers would split. Wahooly is trying to do just that. This week, they opened up in beta to 20,000 users and 4 start-ups, promising to pair them up in the relationship I envisioned. This will be one to watch for sure.
Zurker offers what I wish Facebook or Twitter had in the early years. Basically, they’re doing for themselves what Wahooly offers to do, just without the middle man. Zurker is a start-up social network that aims to compete directly with Facebook for your updates and daily loyalty. In an effort to grow their user base virally, they’re offering vShares for referrals. Unlike actual stock shares or options, vShares are a virtual representation of your right to equity in the company if they ever get big enough. You have to have a little faith here, but the payout may be worth it.
Become An Owner In A Product
When you go offline and walk into a store, have you ever wondered who invented the product you just bought? One of my favorite new companies in recent years is Quirky. It’s a platform for inventors, thinkers, and designers to see their ideas and designs come to life in the form of real-world products. Quirky guides the invention process all the way through to a completed product that they then get on the shelves of big box stores like Target and Bed Bath & Beyond. Right now, those stores and others have products on the shelves that I’m getting checks for about every month. If you are creative, check it out but like other ways to earn, be ready to wait a while for that first notable check.
Other Ways To Earn
If you’re in a position to do it, consider taking shares instead of (or as part of) payment for goods and services. Web developers, printers, artists, and anyone who can help growing (and sometimes broke) start-ups save a few bucks can often walk away with shares that have the potential for millions of dollars down the road.
This is better when you really believe in the company and its future, but can be a good idea even if you don’t. A great example is David Choe, the graffiti artist who could be worth $200 million when Facebooks IPO hits. In 2005, when Facebook was still limited to students and relatively a small player, Choe came in to create art and opted for a small stake in the company rather than payment. Even though he reportedly didn’t think much of the Facebook concept, he’s going to reap substantial rewards from its success.
Many companies will pay (in options, often) for your expertise as well. If you can call yourself an expert in anything, leverage your unique experience and knowledge and offer to consult for a related company in exchange for shares or options. The more you help, the more your shares may be worth in the end and everyone wins.
The Waiting Game
Taking ownership in a product or start-up will not make anyone rich over night. David Choe, mentioned above, was once homeless between his work for Facebook and the great position he’s in today. Employees of Google spent years working hard before becoming IPO millionaires. If you need the money now, do things that will earn you money, but if you opt for shares in a company, be prepared to wait for years before your ship comes in.
Even the busiest of people end up with free time spent chatting or playing games on Facebook. If you had an free hour every day (after work and family, of course), would you give it up for a small chance that it could turn into a large profit one day? If so, try some of the things above and report back in a few years.
Are you doing any of this already or is there anything I missed? I’d love to hear your input in the comments below.