They fund two ideas each week. They choose one, we/you choose the other.
Grand Rapids is not a place that people associate with excitement. In complimenting the city's (incredible) local coffee roaster, MadCap, GQ managed to slip in this zinger, "Grand Rapids, Michigan, [was] a town once commonly referred to as 'Bland Rapids,' as if the official nickname, 'the Furniture City,' didn't convey a sufficient sense of white-breaditude."
And yet, today, there we were standing in the brand-new offices of StartGarden, a local seed fund with the wildest model I've ever heard of. Every two weeks, the $15 million fund gives $5,000 to two new ideas. Here's the crazy part: while the StartGarden team picks one idea, you, that is to say, the community, pick the other one.
They've already funded dozens of companies and several outfits have received additional funding from the StartGarden coffer. To keep everyone honest, StartGarden seeds a little reputation capital, too, making the recipients of funds come back a few months later to present a public progress update. As of just a few days ago, those presentations take place in the fund's new downtown headquarters--a high-ceilinged corner gallery with exposed brick archways framing huge, street-level windows.