Monday, January 09, 2006

The Human Stock Exchange

I’ve had this thought swirling in my head for nearly a week. It refuses to vacate my head until I give it expression. I’ve tried burying it, ignoring it and killing it. But it just refuses to go away. Looks like, the only honorable way out is to share it with you people. Since I have very little time on my hands, I have chosen to write a small concept note to explain it. Go through this note. And feel free to build the Human Stock Exchange (HSE) if you have the capital.

What is the Human Stock Exchange?
An offspring of venture capitalism and investment banking, HSE is a global stock exchange where you can invest in individuals based on their plans, ambitions, track record and potential. The Human Stock Exchange will be a paperless electronic exchange where one can buy and sell: overheated stocks like Shahrukh Khan, Vishwanathan Anand, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Roger Federer, Steve Jobs; under appreciated stocks like Jonathan Ive, Pullela Gopichand, Jesuraj, Arshad Warsi; and unknown stocks like you and me.

How will it work?
Any person above 5, with a passport and an international bank account can decide to raise capital by listing in HSE. To list in HSE, one must pay an upfront fee of say 100 dollars. And then using a HSE format one must first declare all the relevant information required for a public issue including who are you, where are you from, what is your educational background or skill you possess, where do you work, what is your financial status, what do you wish to do, how much do you need to achieve your goal, what is the issue price you have in mind, how many shares are up for grabs etc. HSE shall authenticate these details. And once it’s sure you’ve stated the truth you can get listed and go for an issue. Any investor sitting anywhere in the world can become a stakeholder via the Internet. After your stock is listed, daily trading can take place. The price will surely be a function of your potential and performance. Declaring dividends is the prerogative of the individual who went in for an IPO. The stakeholders can make their money by trading the shares.

What’s so great about it?
Currently, if an individual needs money for a project he needs to tap banks, venture capitalists or moneylenders at exorbitant rates. And this process can be quite painful. The kinda people who get capital are usually extremely well qualified people or well connected folks. The average Joe gets the cold shoulder. Human Stock Exchange solves this anomaly. It lets the individual make one pitch to the world via the Internet on why he needs the money. If people are sold on it, they will park their funds. The beauty of HSE is creative, motivated, passionate, well deserving people can access funds from the world by cutting out the middlemen (read banks, mutual funds, venture capitalists, merchant bankers etc.). To illustrate this with an example, let us say Kamal Hassan wants to make a project called Marudhunayakam. He needn’t beg big studios for money. Or he needn’t contact shady film producers for capital. All he has to do is to list himself in HSE. He will have to state the project cost. And make a pitch on why he believes, the project will work. Once he raises money, he has to give daily updates (via a blog) on the status of the project. If the project is a success, he will share the profits with the stakeholders. If the project is a failure, it will mar his future chances of raising any money.

What are the risks involved?
The risk is more than that of a company or commodity stock. Because if the individual dies, falls ill or has an accident, the capital invested is gone. Whereas in the case of a company, if one CEO dies, you can hire someone else and the capital will still be intact. Another risk is embezzlement of funds for personal use. But this issue can be resolved if a regulatory body is created to keep a hawk eye on the persons invested.

What about returns?
Returns are huge if you invest early in dark horses and potential talents. Imagine if you had spotted Sachin Tendulkar’s talent early and had helped his father float the Sachin Tendulkar stock... the thing about HSE is it rewards fans, cheerleaders and supporters of talented people.

Who will benefit from HSE?
Indie filmmakers, painters, doctors, scientists, thinkers, small entrepreneurs, inventors, farmers, traders, sportsmen, musicians, child prodigies…basically a whole lot of people who’ve remained untouched by banks and stock markets.

What are the checks and balances?
The Human Stock Exchange will use the power of the Internet to offer transparency. Every listed individual has to have a blog where one can get full information on the person in question. The blog will also serve as an interaction point between the investors and the person who wants funds. Daily updates from the individual will give the investors a clue about where the project is headed. If the individual lies, the bloggers will get to know sooner or later. Since HSE is all about faith and trust, the moment you lose it, the market will discount your stock value and you will have a tarnished track record, all your life. An annual audit statement on the deployment of the capital may help cement this faith.

How will the HSE make money?
HSE’s two key revenue sources will be the listing fee and the brokerage on daily transactions.

Can the HSE as a concept work?
In concept, I think this is sound. The execution may be a logistical nightmare. But thanks to breakthroughs like blogs, broadband connections and BPOs, this is very much feasible today.

What will be the effect of a Human Stock Exchange?
The biggest effect will be - the deserving will be able to access capital at the click of a button.


Blogger essetchwhyaem said...

Novel. Would you care answering a question.
What do you propose in a situ, where middle-men start showing their dirty faces around in this too , in the form of Mutual Funds ( counterpart i.e) , which will group some people , and sell it as a Fund-Issue? In this case , some Funds may make such a big name for themselves, that people will start queuing up to put in themselves as a prospective investment.

7:06 PM  
Blogger anantha said...

For every system created, there will always be system beaters. At the end of the day, if it's upto the investing public.

9:18 PM  
Blogger obiewan said...

spoken like Calvin to his dad! That said, it's a good one - u hv my vote.

9:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant idea! But I suspect most of the stocks will be junk bonds.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Thinks Heyz said...

damn! i had this idea independedntly. came up with it for college application, the question was - an invention the world truly needs. i even named it the same thing, cos it was bloody obvious. I thot, I'l google it just in case, i didn't want the college people think i stole an idea. and damn! damn! damn! u have written it very well. cool job! a few points i had apart from all this is how the insurance industry and personal security industries would boom, how accountable individuals wud get towards themselves, the rule that u cannot issue more than 51 percent stock, and so on. lol

7:56 PM  

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