Below is an article by The New York Times entitled "A Bet on the Environment"
A Bet on the Environment
By: Diane Cardwell, The New York Times
September 2, 2013
Just after his sophomore year at Yale in 2002, Billy Parish stood before a rapidly retreating glacier in India that feeds the Ganges River, convinced that he had come face to face with climate change and that he had to do something about it.
It did not take long. Back in the United States, he started a youth coalition that, within a few years, had mobilized thousands of people with similar environmental concerns. He never made it to his junior year at Yale.
In the years since, Mr. Parish has come to another conclusion: that capitalism is a powerful force that can be harnessed to combat global warming. Now 31, he is well into making that his next mission, building an online solar energy investment platform that could turn ordinary Americans into mini-financiers.
Called Mosaic, the company functions like a virtual renewable energy bank, soliciting investments for solar projects and making loans to be paid back, typically, over about 10 years. Mosaic collects a fee on every loan. It is similar to the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, a Web site that matches creative ventures with financial supporters. In the case of Mosaic, with a minimum of $25, investors can earn a return.
“Our goal is to build the No. 1 investment platform for clean energy,” Mr. Parish said. Mosaic, he added, allows investors “to not just be passive consumers but to be creators, to be owners, to collaborate to make things happen.”
The company is still in its infancy. About 2,000 clients in 44 states have put in more than $4 million in project financing since it began soliciting money in January, and it is open nationwide to accredited investors — a category that includes certain institutions and high-net-worth individuals — and, so far, to the general public in New York and California.
Whether Mosaic can execute its vision is an open question. But it is poised to grow, with deals in the works that would allow investors to use money from retirement accounts like 401(k)’s and I.R.A.’s.
That, along with new financial regulations that permit broader marketing of investment projects, promises to vastly expand the potential sources of money for solar projects as well as other types of renewable energy the company plans to develop.
Although it is among the first crowdfunding platforms to focus on energy, Mosaic borrowed inspiration from earlier online ventures that gave consumers more direct access to products and services. Financing clean-tech projects and start-up companies is ripe for such an approach, adherents say, because only a small coterie of investors has been able to participate, making financing harder to obtain and more expensive.
“All these platforms are called marketplaces because they bring populations together, whether it be males and females on Match.com or banks and borrowers on Lending Tree,” said Judd Hollas, the founder of EquityNet, which allows direct investment in start-up companies as a sort of venture capital platform for the masses. “It was logical to assume that the same thing could happen and should happen in private equity.”