Superpowers for Good
Superpowers for Good: Leadership Lessons From—And For—the World's Great Changemakers
Local Crowdfunding's Elder Statesman Argues for Collaboration

Local Crowdfunding's Elder Statesman Argues for Collaboration

Main Street Journal Publisher Michael Shuman Also Suggests Developing 'Intellectual Shpilke'


Devin: What is your superpower?

Michael: I have what we might say in Yiddish is intellectual shpilke. I have difficulty focusing on one issue. I like to think across boundaries.

Michael Shuman, one of the real OGs of crowdfunding, has managed to elude an invitation to be a guest on my show for the past decade, but today we remedy that situation.

He is an economist, attorney, author and entrepreneur who focuses on local community investing via crowdfunding. He publishes the Main Street Journal, which is also here on Substack.

He noted a fundamental principle that guides his work—and mine—in the local investing community: “We're too few in number to be competitive. We've got to be as collaborative as possible.”

Michael has a fascinating superpower, evidenced immediately in a one-sentence bio. He describes it as “intellectual shpilke” using a Yiddish term some describe as ants-in-your-pants. His education and practice include law, economics and entrepreneurship.

AI Podcast Summary

  • Michael H. Shuman is an economist, attorney, author, and entrepreneur focused on community economics.

  • He played a significant role in the creation of the 2012 Jobs Act and various state laws on crowdfunding.

  • His passion for local investing stems from his own experience of struggling to raise capital for his businesses.

  • Michael believes that local businesses are crucial for economic development, job creation, and community success.

  • He emphasizes the need for a massive organizing movement to shift the investment ecosystem towards supporting local businesses.

  • Some strategies he suggests include creating groups that bring businesses and investors together, providing information on local businesses seeking capital, and promoting the use of funds for local investment.

  • Michael publishes the Main Street Journal, which highlights news and innovations in local investment.

  • His superpower is the ability to integrate various subjects and perspectives to explore bottom-line truths.

  • Michael encourages reading across boundaries, subscribing to different publications, and engaging in civil conversations with those who have different viewpoints.

  • To connect with Michael and learn more about his work, visit the Main Street Journal website, his personal blog, or his Twitter account.

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How to Develop Intellectual Shpilke As a Superpower

Michael shared a story to illustrate his superpower:’

So there is a storyline that I developed during the conversation about creating the Jobs Act that I think was very effective with skeptics. 

In securities laws, you have securities lawyers who are like twins because they speak to one another all the time early in their childhood. Their speech gets stunted, and they don't even realize it. And one of the things that securities lawyers babble to one another all the time is that we don't want Grandma to buy swampland in Florida, which is a totally reasonable argument. You don't want people to get defrauded. And that's why we have all of these securities laws, strictures to protect grandma from buying swamp land in Florida. 

What I started to point out to people, and this is back in the late 2000s when my mother was still alive, is that my mother being a grandmother living in Saint Louis, I don't want her to buy swamp land in Florida. But what did she do with her money and her time? She would go to one of a dozen casinos in Saint Louis.

And when she entered the casino, she. Would she get a question? “Excuse me, Mrs. Shuman, but can you prove that you are an accredited gambler?” That never happened. And when she sat down to play blackjack, would they say, “Listen, before you enter this risky enterprise, will you please read this thick booklet of all of the risks of playing blackjack and sign?” And that never happened, either. 

So I pointed out to people that we have two risky activities going on in the US economy. One called gambling, where you could lose everything and probably will–independent of your income. And another called local investing and saving your community, where we're not going to let you play unless you pay a lawyer $25,000. 

Every human being except a seasoned securities lawyer can understand the logic of that. So, you know, you get people to laugh a little bit. And my mother was sort of amused by the story. But I feel like it's through laughter and through just poking holes with sort of folksy logic that you can move mountains.

What a great example! His intellectual ants-in-the-pants helped him cross-pollinate ideas to create a compelling metaphor for legal change. With it, he helped to change federal securities laws.

Michael has some simple advice to help you develop your intellectual shpilke, “To help, one of the things that I have my students do to develop a little bit of this is I have them do something that they never do anymore—most people our age would find this shocking—which is to subscribe to a newspaper or a magazine.”

By following Michael’s example and his advice, you can increase the intellectual ants in your pants to help you cross-pollinate ideas and potentially create a new superpower that enables you to do more good in the world.

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Guest-Provided Profile

Michael H. Shuman (he/him):

Publisher, Main Street Journal

About Main Street Journal: The Main Street Journal, with sponsorship of the National Coalition for Community Capital (NC3) and funding from the Heron Foundation, is the world’s hub for local investing news and events. This newsletter, published every other Thursday, aims to expand the audience, reach, and power of the emerging local investment movement worldwide. For the United States, we believe that shifting even a small fraction of the tens of trillions of dollars Americans have invested in Wall Street, to local businesses, projects, and people on Main Street, can have a huge impact on community prosperity, environmental sustainability, and social justice. For the world, local investing offers the best chance available for solving intractable problems of climate disruption, homelessness, food deserts, economic stagnation, and just about everything else that worries us.

The Main Street Journal aims to unify, enlarge, and empower an emerging local investment movement. Every other Thursday, look for a roundup of news, voices from our partners, and a list of key events providing you an easy-to-use entry point into the field. We will also share other content about local investments you might have missed and tools for finding fellow travelers (we call them “Main Street Champions”) in your own community. We don’t want you to just read. We want you to be inspired. And to act!


Twitter Handle: @smallmart

Biographical Information: Michael H. Shuman is an economist, attorney, author, and entrepreneur, and a leading visionary on community economics. He is an Adjunct Professor at Bard Business School in New York City. He is also a Senior Researcher for Council Fire, where he performs economic development analyses for states, local governments, and businesses around North America. He is credited with being one of the architects of the 2012 JOBS Act and dozens of state laws overhauling securities regulation of crowdfunding. He has authored, coauthored, or edited ten books. His two most recent books are Put Your Money Where Your Life Is:  How to Invest Locally Using Solo 401ks and Self-Directed IRAs and The Local Economy Solution:  How Innovative, Self-Financing Pollinator Enterprises Can Grow Jobs and Prosperity. One of his previous books, The Small Mart Revolution: How Local Businesses Are Beating the Global Competition (Berrett-Koehler, 2006), received as bronze prize from the Independent Publishers Association for best business book of 2006. A prolific speaker, Shuman has given an average of more than one invited talk per week, mostly to local governments and universities, for the past 30 years in nearly every U.S. state and more than a dozen countries.  

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