When I was eleven, I played Oliver in a production of the Lionel Bart musical. The line I struggled with most was ‘Please, Sir, I want some more.’ It’s a ridiculous line. No one would say that. They’d say, ‘Excuse me, Sir, if there’s still some gruel in the pot, maybe just some burnt bits at the bottom, and you don’t have plans to make something lovely from it, for tomorrow, perhaps, given how thrifty you are, do you think we could share it out among the boys, if we’re very careful?’ That’s what I’d say.
If Oliver were an entrepreneur, he’d probably do quite well. I admire people who can ask for things, especially money, often because they seem to have gathered a lot of it. It took me two years of running a business to learn how to chase down an unpaid invoice. And I still feel awkward when we ask customers to pay for books before we dispatch them, even though we’ve learned again and again that it’s the only way to get paid. So when I decided recently that we had to borrow money to finish our new trc.me project, it took me a week and a telling off from Michelle to start making it happen.
The way we borrow money at EBW – we’ve done this before with great success – is to invite debentures: interest-bearing loans for a particular project. While inviting them feels unseemly to me – and perhaps because of that feeling – we have a solid record of taking and repaying debentures with interest and producing great products as a result. (I explain more about this in my letter inviting the debentures.)
The debentures are good for us because we don’t give away equity, have to field input from investors that can distract us, or have to spend hours of valuable time on detailed pitches. We’re certain of what we’re building, and we want to get it shipped. Each debenture is small enough that we can afford to pay it back at short notice if asked. And while we offer an interest rate much better than you’d get from any low-risk deposit account, for us it’s cheaper than borrowing from the bank.
If we do get trc.me shipped in the next month as we plan, it’ll be because a small bunch of awesome people believed in us, again.
(working screen, design in development)
Tag anything. And if you see a tag in the wild, flag it. See your tags and flags mapped on trc.me.
- Running a business? Tag your products to see where they go.
- Tag a book before you lend it out or give it away, and watch where it goes.
- Tag your backpack before a trip, and raise a flag at each stop to record your journey.
- Tag things you might lose – your diary, laptop, gym bag, jacket. Your children’s stuff too.
- Got a garden gnome hungry for travel? Tag him and put him on a train!
Tagging something takes seconds on trc.me. Put your tag’s unique URL on the thing you’ve tagged. Then visit trc.me to see where it gets flagged.
As you tag things and raise flags, you earn points and badges. You can also win real-world rewards by flagging a company’s tagged products.