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Online Community Helps Dot.Com Entrepreneurs a Web-based resource

By Jim Bray

If you’ve think you’ve invented a better mousetrap, but haven’t the slightest idea how to get the world beating a path to your door, there’s an online community designed to help you make your dreams come to pass.

It’s called, a “virtual cauldron” started by a couple of entrepreneurs with the vision of combining ideas and expertise into an online country kitchen that can cook up a whole range of new cyber companies.

Designed to be kind of an online cooperative and corporate incubator at the same time,’s members log on to exchange ideas, sweat, and/or expertise. So if you need marketing know-how, legal advice, seed money, or whatever, to get your mousetrap company onto the ‘Net, you can pick the collected brains of the Equityengine community to find the help you need.

It’s more than that, too. is also meant to be a way in which traditional businesses can make the move to the Internet world, bringing their expertise at whatever they may do to startup dot.coms.

The service isn’t free, of course but, as its name suggests, the “dreamer on a shoestring budget” doesn’t have to hire a whole bunch of people to get the company up and running. Instead, members of the equityengine community get sweat equity in your company, and everyone works together to make it see the light of day.

There are three types of Equityengine programs: Visionary, Resource, and Investor.

The Visionary is for the aforementioned “mousetrap mentor” who’s starting from scratch and needs a couple of legs up just about everywhere. This could be someone who’s completely new to business, but whose idea is just too good to let fall by the wayside.

These “Visionaries” submit a 250 word description of their idea to, where it’s pored over by their members. If they give it their blessing,’s “Business Development staff” gets it ready to go into the incubator. They then contact interested parties and “Resource members” who have the appropriate skills and give them a chance to accept assignments – and become shareholders – in the startup.

For having the idea, the virtual dreamer gets a ten per cent stake in the virtual venture. This may not sound like a lot, but if the visionary does more, more shares can be assigned. This means, for example, that if the “idea person” also knows accounting, marketing, or whatever, that’s worth a bigger slice of the corporate pie.

Those who have skills, but no ideas (ouch, that may not be fair!) – marketers, accountants, et al – can register as “Resources” and offer their services in return for shares.

Or, if you have a fund of money burning a hole in your pocket and you’d like to put it online, you can provide cash in return for shares.

Traditional “brick and mortar” companies can also use to make the transition into cyberspace. These businesses can submit ideas of their own, or they can become resource partners using their staff’s smarts in exchange for equity in the startup. They can also invest in the startups in return for shares. also has room for existing online companies that need an extra push toward profitability. This class of entrepreneur keeps the lion’s share of the shares, giving up only enough equity to make it worthwhile for Equityengine’s members to get involved.

Everything is coordinated and managed via’s online workspace. Members log on to the web site to judge ideas, get assignments, communicate, or exchange files.’s staff monitors the new company’s progress, does project management, member support, system administration, and even some corporate marketing.

The end result is supposed to be a fully operational e-business, complete with a business plan, market research data, a functioning web site and a management team that’s ready, willing, and able to ensure that path gets beaten to your online door.

The nice thing about doing all this via an online community is that is gives you access to brainpower from all over the world, as well as ensuring that your new business has instant global reach. currently has offices in San Jose, California, and Toronto, Ontario, and the company’s goal is to have 50,000 members on board by year’s end. That’s a lot of potential partners for your fledgling

Maybe there really is strength in numbers.

Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.


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January 31, 2006