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Pelham Media Ltd.
Paris – London – San Francisco
www.pelhammedia.com – @pelhammedia
THE HUMAN STOCK EXCHANGE
A TedxAix tal...
Pelham Media Ltd.
Paris – London – San Francisco
www.pelhammedia.com – @pelhammedia
A survey by MFS Investments found that...
Pelham Media Ltd.
Paris – London – San Francisco
www.pelhammedia.com – @pelhammedia
For example, one study by pfhaler and ...
Pelham Media Ltd.
Paris – London – San Francisco
www.pelhammedia.com – @pelhammedia
His main ideas:
 Any person over 5, w...
Pelham Media Ltd.
Paris – London – San Francisco
www.pelhammedia.com – @pelhammedia
But one of his peers hit the market on...
Pelham Media Ltd.
Paris – London – San Francisco
www.pelhammedia.com – @pelhammedia
Who will protect your minority shareho...
Pelham Media Ltd.
Paris – London – San Francisco
www.pelhammedia.com – @pelhammedia
The last question I want to tackle and...
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The Human Stock Exchange

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Read the transcript of Laetitia Puyfaucher's talk at this year's TedxAix event.

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The Human Stock Exchange

  1. 1. Pelham Media Ltd. Paris – London – San Francisco www.pelhammedia.com – @pelhammedia THE HUMAN STOCK EXCHANGE A TedxAix talk by Laetitia Puyfaucher May 9, 2014 • Aix-en-Provence Hi everybody. My name is Laetitia. I run a communications agency specialized in producing online content for big companies worldwide. In October 2011, a client called me. He was worried because the average age of his shareholders was steadily increasing. He wanted me to develop an equity story that would act as a fountain of youth to reverse the aging of the average stockholder in his 100 year old company. It was not the first time someone had come to me with such a request. Back in the early 2000s, I had to work on similar assignments and to great success. But in October 2011, I started to have second thoughts about what I was being asked to do. All signs were pointing to a dead end. Create an equity story for this big company that would appeal to Millenials, make their eyes sparkle? Yeah, right. Young people would never buy it no matter how hard I hunted for the winning idea. Why? Because at a time where you can support your friends’ projects on kickstarter, when you become a patron of the arts on Patreon, where you earn money and meet globetrotters by renting your flat on Airbnb… With all of these technologies, you are center stage, the hero of the adventure. Tell me, by which miracle would you be interested to buy shares in a highly impersonal corporate giant with over 10 sectors of activity? Will anyone even notice your investment? Of course, how people invest their money is said to be a matter of the mind. Call my crazy, but, if you ask me, it’s also a matter of desire. Are my intuitions correct? As a matter of fact, yes. PELHAM MEDIA Paris London San Francisco
  2. 2. Pelham Media Ltd. Paris – London – San Francisco www.pelhammedia.com – @pelhammedia A survey by MFS Investments found that 45% of Millenials find that investment products are designed to be overly complex in order to confuse the average investor. In February 2012, 33% of them declared, “I will never feel comfortable investing in the stock market.” And in november 2013, they are up to 46% saying so. Ok. This is what they say. But what do they do. I asked a friend of mine who heads a data crunching company, Facta Media, to do a little investigation. Here’s what he came up with:  First, only 13.7% of people under 35 hold shares.  And second, share aversion is sharply growing since 2001 – that we can understand given the .com bubble and then the global recession, the apparent rigging of markets. Damn. I was right. While being right is usually good news, as a business woman who sells communications services to companies, I was not at all happy to learn that my intuitions had been right. If history has taught us anything, it’s that young people set the trends of today that become the rules of tomorrow. Does this mean that without the moral and financial support of today’s youth, are companies destined to die? Starved to death of capital?? Is it the end of the corporation as we know it? Will my clients all have to shut down? This thought has been tormenting me for nearly two years. I’ve tried burying it, ignoring it and killing it. But it just refuses to go away. From where I stand, the only honorable way out is to bite the bullet. I started by doing a bit of academic research. If I wanted to figure out if firms were really an endangered species, I first had to understand why firms exist in the first place. One nobel laureate, Ronald Coase, thought that companies exist as islands of conscious power amidst the ocean of unconscious cooperation because ….they reduce transactions cost.” But nowadays, transactions cost are being reduced all the time – the internet, connectivity, flexible working – who needs a corporation to organise and exercise conscious power?
  3. 3. Pelham Media Ltd. Paris – London – San Francisco www.pelhammedia.com – @pelhammedia For example, one study by pfhaler and grebe shows that banking costs can be reduced by 89% using online banking. And as a result, let’s look at the number of commercial banks in Germany from 1980-2001. Pretty sharp right! Here’s another striking example you may already know about. The photography company Kodak once employed more than 145,000 people (1988) and was worth $28 billion. They even invented the first digital camera. But in 2012 Kodak filed for bankruptcy and the same year Instagram was sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012. And it employed only thirteen people. So, here’s what we know:  Young people do not want to invest in companies  And companies are an endangered species. So what will the young generations do? For me, that’s pretty obvious. They will want to invest in one another. They will want to invest in Human beings. They do not go to a hotel anymore but to a friend’s bedroom when they travel. When they will want to invest in an idea they believe in and hope to profit, they will invest in a crowdfunding project. and when they want to focus their investment as narrowly as possible, they will invest in the Human Stock Exchange. Human Stock Exchange!!! Whoaaaa. That’s some scary sci-fi stuff, isn’t it??? When I typed in these three keywords into Google, a big red eye jumped out at me. This was the face of Felix Fox, brainchild of Xavier Dorison, a French comic book writer. The first part of Xavier’s Human Stock Exchange was released in 2011 and the second one is due out on May 22. I went to meet him and he painted quite the picture. He told me how he imagined the worldwide elite (at first, and then more and more people) will soon be on the stock exchange with sensors monitoring their BMI (Body Mass Index) and of course the income they are expected to earn. Apart from the French comic book, there are two other mentions of the « Human stock exchange » on the internet. And they come from India. Anantha Narayan wrote a blog post in 2006 called the Human Stock Exchange. Anantha lives in Tamil Nadu and has roughly my age and does the same job.
  4. 4. Pelham Media Ltd. Paris – London – San Francisco www.pelhammedia.com – @pelhammedia His main ideas:  Any person over 5, with a passport and an international bank account can decide to raise capital by listing his or herself on the HSE.  People can access funds from around the world by cutting out the middlemen (read banks, mutual funds, venture capitalists, etc.)  Who will benefit from HSE?  Indie filmmakers, painters, doctors, scientists, thinkers, small entrepreneurs…basically a wealth of people who’ve remained untouched by banks. The other example to come out of India is from a 16-year-old girl in New Delhi who made a slideshow in which she argues in favor of a Human Stock Exchange run by the State and NGOs in order to guarantee better access to capital for India’s youth. Why not. It is true that humans tend to be more and more analyzable. Any auditor in the room knows exactly what I’m talking about. We’re not in a 1984-esque world, I’m not talking about a Big Brother’s unwanted gaze. We’re in a « Hey, Big Brother, look at me! » world. Just think about at all the gadgets and apps that guru Nicholas Felton uses to monitor his every move. There are more and more ways to keep track of people, for good and for ill, but the good news is that an investor can keep better track of their investment – a human – than ever before. Take the company Payscale for example. Payscale raised 100 million dollars this mid- april to expand its compensation database, which has more than 40 million salary profiles. Artists have paved the way. Celebrities have been on the market since 1997. It all started with $55 million David Bowie bond deal. Subsequently, similar bonds backed by the royalties of musicians have also appeared. Musicians are not the only ones to back the idea that humans are worthy investments, photographers like Annie Leibovitz have also put themselves on this kind of market. And it is booming again. In late October 2013, Arian Foster’s fans were told they would soon be able to buy stocks based on the market value of this 27 year old American football player. Unfortunately, shortly after this big announcement, he injured his back and the IPO has been postponed.
  5. 5. Pelham Media Ltd. Paris – London – San Francisco www.pelhammedia.com – @pelhammedia But one of his peers hit the market on April 28. Vernon Davis is an American football tight end for the San Francisco 49ers. He’s up 15% at 11.5 USD per share since his IPO. Way to go Vernon! Ready or not, people are already lining up to ring the Human Stock Exchange bell. This would be of no surprise to Milton Friedman. In 1954, Milton Friedman described a system where individuals would sell “stock” in themselves—i.e., a share of their future earnings—to investors who would finance their education and training. The phenomenon is steadily gaining momentum. It is no longer restricted to a very selective class of assets: musicians, superstars, footballers. Let’s take a company called Pave as an example. Pave was founded in late 2012 and it’s a crowdfunding marketplace where people looking to start a business, say, or pursue a degree, can raise cash from investors. In exchange, they pay back their investors some of what they earn over the next five or ten years. This amount is determined by how much you want to raise and by the Pave algorithm’s assessment of your earnings potential. Here Pave’s key selling arguments:  Pave is relief from debt.  Because the payments are based on your personal situation, funds are inherently affordable, always. This means that you have the financial flexibility to take risks and make the best decisions for your career.  Your backers are invested in you and your success. It’s in their best interest to provide you guidance. And what is the press saying about all this? Magazines like Forbes have published stories titles like: 7 tips to succeed your self IPO. Of course, these people exchanges still sits on shaky foundations. Let’s say you decide you invest in our friend Vernon. I doubt that the main risk would be his health no matter how risky is job is, but the financial stability of Fantex or the companies like Fantex that are actually orchestrating his IPO and the liquidity of his shares. Here’s another thought: how can you be so sure your shareholder agreement will be enforceable? And, more importantly, how will you be able to control that your “People” really declare all his revenue? Only states can do so nowadays. Maybe Vernon has a Swiss bank account he’s not telling you about.
  6. 6. Pelham Media Ltd. Paris – London – San Francisco www.pelhammedia.com – @pelhammedia Who will protect your minority shareholding? Of course there will be lots and lots of details to work out. But the idea is here to stay. As long as governments provide just enough, but not too much, regulation. And this part is under way. On April 9, Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Tom Petri introduced legislation that could broaden the use of such investment vehicles by formally defining their terms. The bill specifies details such as the maximum length a contract can last (30 years) and the cap on income a fund seeker can owe (15 percent). Is this a form of modern indentured servitude? Indentured servitude was a system in the 18th century whereby young people (mostly British and German) paid for their free passage to the New World by working for an employer for a certain number of years. I don’t think so. I think it would be better for people to fund themselves using something that looks like Equity. It would be a more attractive alternative to taking on debt, which has to be paid back on a harsh schedule, with bad consequences for people who default or even on those who do not default. Debt seems less than moral, even. Different religions back me up. The Catholic Church forbade interest for hundreds of years, right up until a few centuries ago. I think it is fair to say that through most of history, debt was far more controversial than it is now where we are debt junkies. Straight debt, with little risk to the lender, and big risks and burdens on the borrower, is something generally frowned on by Islam. The risk in Equity, on the contrary, is born by both sides -- the person seeking money and the person providing it. So, my conclusions are:  One. Be prepared to see more and more projects enabling people to sell shares in their future incomes,  Two. The technology is here and will handle many of enforcement and verification problems that were "unworkable" in Milton Friedman's day.  Three. The need to find a healthier alternative to debt is going to grow and grow.  Four. And ethically it is incredibly difficult to argue that the current system is better that this new one.
  7. 7. Pelham Media Ltd. Paris – London – San Francisco www.pelhammedia.com – @pelhammedia The last question I want to tackle and the most important for me is: What for? Apart for the student problem (which could be solved differently by massively regulating education fees), does these kind of financial innovation add value? Will it help money to be better allocated in the world and will it help us build the better future we’re striving towards? Yes. I believe so.

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