HOW TO INDUCE INNOVATION & MAKE MONEY
Some of the world’s greatest inventions and ideas have been the result of competitions: a tool frequently used in public relations campaigns to bring out the best in people.
In fact, cash prizes awarded in competitions have revolutionized chemical engineering, energy efficiency, personal space flight and aviation, among other areas. Perhaps the most famous example is the $25,000 prize offered in 1919 by Raymond Orteig for the first nonstop aircraft flight between New York and Paris—which inspired Charles Lindbergh’s precedent-shattering cross-Atlantic flight.
So it was enlightening to hear about Prize Capital at “BusinessClimate 2010," an environmental conference created by my friend Andrew McKeon, a leading environmentalist.
What’s Prize Capital? It’s an environmental/energy focused venture financing firm, which combines prize competitions with companion investment funds to deliver capital that will incentivize radical technological breakthroughs.
“Prize Capital believes only innovation will solve the environmental challenges we face,” its website points out. “Recognition prizes (such as the Nobel Prizes) look backward, rewarding past achievements. Inducement prizes look forward, directing effort at a desired outcome. They cross borders…and attract a wider range of participants, from traditional researchers to maverick thinkers…”
Prize Capital focuses on environmental innovators from developing countries or very early stage inventors, who otherwise would not be heard from—which traditional funding mechanisms are not designed to do. The prize is not paid until the desired result is achieved. This approach, along with a unique option equity strategy, mitigates risk, the major culprit in motivating “the world’s best minds to tackle pressing problems.”