“Invest in the places you love” is the tagline for a start-up, launched by MIT urban studies alumnus Jase Wilson MCP ’08, that introduces a crowdfunding approach to the $3+ trillion municipal bond market.
How does the company, Neighborly, work? Its website offers this example: “Your local school district needs $10 million to build a new school. Investors like you loan the district money for the five years the construction will take. Every year, you earn interest on the loan, and after five years, the district pays back your investment. “
Last summer, following the start-up’s first experiment with $500 microbonds supporting upgrades to a California school, the idea gained traction in the media—prompting articles headlined “Can This Tech Startup Change the Way Schools Get Financed?”; “Putting the Public Back in Public Finance”; and “Want a Bike Path? Pay for It Yourself”. Wilson told Bloomberg that he hopes Neighborly “will help rekindle local involvement in the municipal market, which once created such projects as the Golden Gate Bridge.” Last fall, the company announced a $5.5 million round of funding from Joe Lonsdale’s Formation 8 and Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures.
What’s happened since? The company’s focus on the education sector has continued. In February, Neighborly launched a set of tools to help public finance professionals raise capital for public projects quickly and efficiently, based on the reasoning that “every minute a professional spends struggling to find data or do simple analysis costs you and your community money.” Beta-testing has begun in San Francisco Bay Area school districts, with plans to expand throughout the state.
Visit Neighborly’s blog for the full update on the company’s progress.