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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Some great questioning from a great friend

Here is a great Email I received from a great Friend who took the time to ask questions as he really wanted to learn more… I thought I would share it to clear up some question that might be out there.


I know you put a lot of thought and insight into this and that you’re going through a lot right now. I respect how you channel your energy into your blog & other various projects that take balls and brains to accomplish (i.e. building a computer).

I realize there is quite a bit of “shock value” in planning your space mission and that you’ve put yourself “out there”. I love whacky stuff and the going for broke attitude. Without entrepreneurs and producers we have a boring world, and you my friend are far from boring.

I have 2 criticisms which you may have already addressed, and you know me well enough to realize this is raised with the intent of being constructive:

1) The reality you’re obviously facing here is that other people’s money comes into the equation. In theory, raising $200k is a piece of cake, but you’ve possibly simplified this a bit too much. Are you sure that Virgin Galactic is going to cost $200k in 5 years? (i.e. what if it costs less – are you re-imbursing a percentage to all of these fundraisers?) Have you done the appropriate research? What is the backup plan? It doesn’t exactly sound like space travel is a slam dunk, even for the company that is planning to offer it. They “plan” to provide sub-orbital spaceflights, but what is Jim Moss’s “plan” if in fact this mission is delayed or Virgin cancels the program altogether? I know you don’t have all the answers, but there is a feeling of shady that you’ll have to battle through and you will be accountable to all of these investors out there.

Virgin Galactic is a company within Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group which plans to provide sub-orbital spaceflights to the paying public, along with suborbital space science missions and orbital launches of small satellites. Further in the future Virgin Galactic hopes to offer orbital human spaceflights as well.

2) I’ve never started a non-profit, but my feeling is that you need to clean up the mission statement.

“to generate 2 million USD in corporate funding to create a non profit that provides tools and support to others, of all ages and demographics, to achieve their dreams.”

“Achieve their dreams?” Sorry buddy, but I just don’t know what this means. What dreams? What goals? Are you giving money to kids to start their own business? Go to the Super Bowl? If I’m in charge of a Fortune 500 company’s philanthropy efforts or if I’m on the board of a Venture Capital firm that reviews hundreds of grant applications a week, I’m reading this and asking much deeper questions. Is this a competitor to Make-A-Wish Foundation? Big Brothers & Big Sisters? What are the tools you’re talking about?

I want to look people in the eye and say my buddy is not a whack-o, and he needs your support, but I need more details from you in order to accomplish that…

Talk to me!

Your pal,

I responded….

You my friend are an excellent individual and I really cannot say how much I appreciate that you took the time to write down these thoughts, but also to put the time into the thinking involved. This is why I love ya buddy and I take it all entirely as constructive.

So here are some quick responses.

First of all the let me say that this is a very organic and so I am not pretending to have all of the answers to begin with, instead I am working away and filling in the blanks and firming things up over these first few months. Questioning like this is integral to that process. I am expecting that this will build momentum considerably over time and so it allows me to be a little loose now and firm things up over the next 90 days. The verbal - whacky up front commitment is a tool to do exactly that –be committed.

• Mission Statement at heading is not the completed mission statement just a quick overview of the project – act as a draw to get people deeper in looking for answers.
o That said – the Nonprofit project mission statement is firming up to be more… – support through the providing of resources, coaching, mentoring, networking, and financial support for likeminded individuals, looking to pursue their goals and dreams that will leave a positive mark on the world and its inhabitants. Projects to be reviewed and accepted by a panel of board members. But will also include resources and counseling available online to everyone to access and use in effort to better their own goal pursuits. We will pick some projects to put our weight behind and launch in a big way.
• As per cost of project…
o The Cost will be the cost at the time of purchase – I have spoken to them and the cost reduces as well as the amount of deposit depending on the flight priority that you are looking for. If you pay the full amount up front you take priority in the launch order.
o If the cost were to come down there will be fine print that the donations received would automatically kick in to the Non Profit to fund the ultimate project goal. I have a lawyer out of Denver working with me on the fine print, project legal etc.
o There will also be declarations that I will be accepting the donations as income and will personally pay the income taxes on the entire project out of my own funds until the non-profit is started.
o There are also three other companies working on doing this same project –so there may be some potential back up options if Virgin were to take a crap – a big part of the whole plan is that the pursuit of your dreams definitely requires adaptability as a key characteristic.
o So even though I might not get to fly for 5 years 7 years etc… I will have paid much sooner than that. The amount will likely not fluctuate within the first 5 years they have said and I expect to be completed within that time, but there will be fine print as I stated to touch on those potentialities
• As per people’s money being in question….
o I have spent a good deal of time with that. The Idea is that we accept micro donations. $1 $2 etc and that seriously diminishes the amount of commitment any 1 person makes.
 Additionally this is designed to reach out to even more people to get the word out and start the discussion about the importance of having dreams and holding on to them.
 I will be asking kids as well to donate a buck at the sacrifice of what a buck can do in their life – in order to make it happen – in exchange for some inspiration hopefully
o I will be setting up an escrow account where the monies will be kept in and managed by a lawyer and will be audited and reported on a regular basis.
 There will be a more formalized form to fill out when we progress enough to have our own shopping cart, where there will be check boxes for this stuff on the front end ie… If Jim dies beforehand I wish to have my dollar go to the A) red cross b ) united way c) sharks foundation
 There will also be a clause that allows me to transfer the flight into someone else at my choosing. Hint
 This paper work will be all kept and filled formally to be referenced if needed, including privacy agreements and all the legal stuff that is obviously very important.
• AS for looking your people in the eye and telling them I’m not whacky, please don’t, The trick to this thing is that it is a little whacky but…. Very important….. that it is all backed up and airtight. That is what will allow me to be whacky going forward, that I have learned the importance of the back end (ha insert jokes where suited…back end!)
• Also I do like your use of the Word investor in place of donator – I can use that – ask for investments in place of donations. I love that.
• There will be a whole other project surfacing that involves the Nonprofit aspect. This front end is just my personal project of going to space with the promise that that is where I am headed. That is a personal project that will be dependent upon my integrity. As we get some momentum the Nonprofit will become the priority as it will also serve as my place of employment. It will clear up more at that time as I pull together a board and team and volunteers, offices etc.

So major principles of the project – for your talking points when you are selling me to people who think I’m a whack job.
Pursuing our goals = making us happier = making us healthier
Based on the premise that life is too short and that we need to take responsibility for our own happiness and not leave it entirely to chance – Our life is our bus, we need to drive it, actively take the wheel, or we cannot complain where it goes.
I am taking the trip to space and raising the money etc as project #1 to prove I can and be an inspiration
My accomplishing my primary project should act as inspiration and create the clout needed to have the discussions about the nonprofit –
but I need to put my money where my mouth is first –
get my project really going and then use it as the catalyst to do the other and have everything buttoned up before then.

So this is your whacky friend who is really pumped that you took the time to ask the questions and I hope this helps you feel like the backside is getting buttoned up. I know you are only asking cause you care, and I know that you are also asking because you know it has some teeth!

Love ya buddy,

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