Years ago my son asked me to buy him a copy of The Unincorporated Man. It’s a science fiction book about the future, economics, and sentient AI systems. It’s the first part of a series of four, and I’ve enjoyed reading them all. I highly recommend them if you like science fiction.
In any case, I was reminded of the series when I saw this article from the New Yorker about selling shares in yourself. It’s part of the premise behind the Unincorporated Man, where every person is their own corporation and sells shares of themselves to finance their careers. You could sell shares in your future earnings to finance education or some other investment in your future. In return, you have to pay back that value through dividends.
I don’t know if this is a good idea, and it goes a bit sideways in the books as your “shareholders” can hold sway over which jobs you take and when. They do this to maximize their return on investment, putting their interests over your desires.
While selling yourself in your early education or career is one thing, what about doing after you have had some success? The article linked above talks about this, where some entrepreneurs who have had some success decided to put all their assets and debts into a kind of fund and sell that on the stock market. They are doing this as individuals, not as a company. Essentially, you invest in their careers and their potential.
They, and others, want to bring this to others, essentially bringing venture capital to people who are early in their careers. This allows others to speculate and invest in artists, athletes, and other professionals. This might allow people who aren’t rich to absorb the risk of pursuing their career goals.
It’s an interesting idea, but I do worry about the influence investors might have over their investments. It’s one thing to invest in a hands-off manner and hope things improve. It’s quite another to attempt to manage the investment because of the number of shares you hold. Plenty of companies have learned that investors are not always willing to trust in existing management. What happens when that management is you?
I loved the book, but I don’t think I’d want to follow this model. Instead, I like the Kickstarter and Indiegogo models where someone can produce a product or work of art, and others can choose to invest or not for that one project. To me, that’s a better way of allowing investors to support those that want to change their lives through by pursuing their craft. Pursue some endeavor, selling shares to fund your efforts with future dividends or perhaps access to the end result.