Venture capitalist turned “nurture capitalist” Woody Tasch (Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered) spoke to Jim Fleming, host of PRI’s To the Best of Our Knowledge, about slowing down our money as an antidote to the destructive fast-money approach of Wall Street firms and financial institutions that helped land the US in a great big financial crisis.
Don’t get the wrong idea—”slow money” isn’t anti-profit. Rather, it’s about responsibly investing in small startups that are sustainable and contribute to the local community and economy by giving them a chance to grow—expecting a 5% rate of return on your investment rather than 20%—and allowing them to stay an “appropriate size.”
Tasch: What we’re talking about is a proactive way of using money that would direct it intentionally to local food communities and local economies. And the concept of “slow” is becoming easier for people to understand simply against the excesses of “fast,” and if you just think of what’s happened in the credit markets as being a consequence of money that is too fast and disconnected from places, you can intuitively begin to get an idea of what we mean by “slow.”
Fleming: It’s the creating the capital market for slow money that I think is going to startle a lot of people. Those are not words that go together. “Venture capital.” “Slow.”
Tasch: You’re absolutely right. We’re turning on its head the idea that to be a venture capitalist, to support an early-stage company, you have to have a mindset that says “I will only provide you the capital if I can make a 20% rate of return,” or some very high rate of return, and I would suggest a phrase for people as we approach this that’s useful, and that’s “nurture capital,” which, when I first used it, I was using it somewhat playfully as a kind of a direction, and I’ve noticed that it really is sticking with people. That venture capitalism is about high-tech, high growth—very important: this is not against venture capital, it’s very important to say that. For certain kinds of technology, that’s what you need to do. But for the thousands of small, local-first, independent businesses that we want to support and allow to stay appropriate-scale and stay rooted in their communities, we need to think differently, and that’s—that paradigm we can call “nurture capital” and it’ll start leading us in the right direction.