Re-posted comment I wrote on this post by Daniel.
The obvious answer, and what the people I see talking about a lifestyle biz the most often (37 Signals) would be to do it with your own money, that you don’t need investment money to build something.
The more interesting answer of course is that for people who don’t always have the resources to work on something for free for a while and/or who can’t do the whole thing themselves and possibly don’t have the partners, there seems to be a space for something new.
It reminds me something Hugh and I have spoken of a number of times, some kind of structure where it’s possible to find “free” or cheap help on small projects where people are able to devote work hours they are payed for in more than potential small shares of something that probably won’t make that much money.
A 100K of money available for cool projects, where you can simply (as in quick proposal / process) get under 10K or even under 5K to supplement the building of something would help launch A LOT of things which currently linger in the “a few hours at night when I have the time” zone for months or years.
The Saje Montréal has the STA program where you can get 11K (one year at minimum salary) to basically start something that helps you create your own job. You fill in a project form, it goes through a “filter” of acceptation, then you present to 2-3-4 people, they say yay or nay and bam, the money starts coming (ok, you have to follow classes too).
This “fund” would hand out money to either build something that benefits the general “webtech ecosystem”, locally or internationnaly, and/or helps someone create their job / lifestyle company. In the first type, Hugh could have gotten cash for Librivox, we might have gotten something for Station C (although we’re probably too meat space based for this), Heri could get something for his new version of MTW. In the second type, things like Timmy on time or … all the things we are discussing and haven’t completed yet could get a kick start.
The angle wouldn’t be to make money or even to have it returned, it would be to act as a bunsen burner to heat up our local petry dish. The people deciding wouldn’t be bureaucrats but rather people who get it and could even redirect some projects towards angel funds if the projects looks like it can be something big money wise (and would kick out people trying to get a free website out of it). A kind of STA for internet stuff.
Programmers, designers, UX people, etc. could associate with the fund and offer a preferential rate for projects funded that way, to make the 5 or 10K go further. Some kind of monthly meetup / Camp could be setup so everyone can support each other with something similar to the help Y Combinator gives it’s fundees.
Considering the millions spent on Capazoo and some other dubious investments, 100-150K specifically meant to foster small scale innovation that nourishes the whole field sounds like a good investment to me, if you don’t only invest in money return.
[Update] I cover other things and keep going and going in my comments.