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Throughout my life, I have worked to merge business, public finance, policy activism, and mass eduction to produce simple, profitable solutions for protecting and restoring ecosystems, ending pollution and waste, creating pedestrian and bicycle friendly cities, and growing the vegan and plant-based economy. This website is my latest chapter in this pursuit.

Recent Work

In 2018, I founded a company named Vegan Launch to serve vegan business founders and investors. Given the terrible environmental impacts of animal agriculture, and having gone vegan myself two years before, I felt that serving vegan business leaders and investors was the best way to advance all the causes I care about, especially ecology, human health, and animal rights.

Vegan Launch pioneered two unique value propositions:

  1. Leadership and capital mentoring for any type of vegan-led business, from one-off food trucks to global enterprises.
  2. The Grassroots Vegan Fund, a publicly-traded business development company allowing larger vegan-led businesses to deliver ethical liquidity exits to early investors and staff directly from the $3 trillion vegan retail investor market instead of going public or selling out to giant conglomerates.

I am carrying these efforts forward here on as follows:

  • I'm providing leadership and capital mentoring to all mission-driven leaders (not just vegans) in fields that matter to me and to the larger $30 trillion ethical retail investor market.
  • The Grassroots Vegan Fund is now one of several fascinating projects under development within this expanded scope. New projects will be posted as soon as the project leaders are ready to announce them publicly.

In 2015, before I adopted a vegan lifestyle, I was building a company called Urban Ultralight dedicated to expanding the use of bicycles as transit by combining retail product sales, public finance, and politics.

After I went vegan, I shifted my focus to Vegan Launch. Urban Ultralight still sells the world's lightest, most compact wallet (vegan) which I originally designed in 2007.

Now, I'm contacting leaders advocating pedestrian and bicycle friendly cities to help them learn my approaches for speeding progress in this field.

How I Got Here

I became an environmentalist with the first Earth Day in 1970 at age 10. In 1978 at age 18, I started searching for public investment products (stocks) that matched my values. I could only find a few solar energy companies, mainly penny stocks, and quickly lost what little savings I had by investing in them.

In the 1990's, I began to understand how conventional angel and venture capital financing approaches destroy ethical movements as they enter the mainstream economy. By that time, organic consumer packaged goods (CPG) were clearly exploding, yet none of the companies I supported as a customer allowed me share in their growth as a shareholder.

Today, almost all of the original organic food CPG companies are owned by the same giant food conglomerates that have been destroying lives and ecosystems for decades with their business practices and political influence. These conglomerates pushed through the awful USDA Organic standards in the 1990's so that they could effortlessly profit from the decades of prior organic business development while simultaneously attacking the ethical foundation the entire organic industry.

Instead of organic becoming the standard for all commercial agriculture, the result of the financial and regulatory capture of organic agriculture is that organic food and body care products remain a trivial and stagnant part of the global economy more than 30 years after the original Whole Foods Market opened in 1980.

The intentional and successful derailment of the organic food industry by huge conglomerates was made possible by organic industry founders using incorrect financial and political strategies to protect their most valuable asset, the meaning of the word organic. This assured that incumbents could continue to dominate the business and political landscape while doing nothing to end their destructive main business operations. The exact same tragedy is now unfolding in the vegan and plant-based CPG and materials industries.

Vegan Launch provided a complete alternative playbook for the vegan economy aligned with the interests of the $3 trillion vegan retail investor market and the $15 trillion of vegan investment opportunities that the company identified.

Vegan Launch was built on my 7 years operating an energy and water conservation business, 10-years as a successful forest ecosystem policy activist and NGO founder in Washington, DC, and nine more years focused on creating public investment products for the emerging ecological economy.

After over five years assisting only vegan-led businesses, in 2023, I decided to expand my scope to include leaders who might not be vegan yet, but are still working the full range of goals that I've cared about my whole life.

The Root Cause of the Ethical Business Funding Crisis

As I predicted, my forest protection work in Washington DC and similar work by my associates in aquatic ecosystems during the 1990's helped grow the emerging and now multi-billion dollar ecosystem restoration industry. My intuitive understanding that movements create markets was born out in the real economy.

By 2001, I committed to mastering the field of finance so that the movements I cared about most would be able to enter the mainstream economy and continue to grow to their full potential instead of being purposefully derailed and suppressed like the organic food industry. With these goals in mind, I formed a company eventually called EcoSector to design, market, and manage public retail investment products for this objective.

I envisioned millions of environmentally-concerned retail investors working together as ecologically and economically motivated grassroots policy advocates to undo the trillions in annual government subsidies to industries that today are destroying the future of life on earth.

My goal was to create the first publicly-traded ecological investment fund to fund ecologically-motivated businesses handling everything from plant-based wastewater treatment to terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem restoration projects. The investment fund concept required me to go from zero understanding of public finance to raising the $100 million minimum fund required to trade on the NASDAQ. Learning how to do this took longer than I imagined. After 9 years, I ran out of money and energy before I could fulfill the vision.

While I was working toward that goal, the CleanTech fiasco of the 2000's was unfolding. Similar to the organic food movement, the notion of CleanTech was destroyed by the pursuit of incorrect financial strategies by movement leaders. They naively believed that Silicon Valley venture capital firms would come on board, and all that was needed was an environmental equivalent to Google to trigger the gold rush.

I fruitlessly urged to the leaders to instead focus on creating a public finance company that would allow them to move billions of dollars into the field directly from retail investors. That finance company could have been their Google.

Financial entrepreneurship is the key to solving large-scale challenges, but when movements move into markets, leaders rarely consider the optimal way to fund the businesses that can deliver on the movements' goals. This is why movements tend to fizzle out once they start entering the mainstream economy. I have been making this point for. over 20 years, and I don't intend to stop now.

Despite the unfortunate demise of the CleanTech concept, thanks to their efforts I was able to peruse deal libraries containing of 1000's of great businesses in ecology, and pollution abatement. Sadly, few of these companies ever grew due to the false perception of capital scarcity resulting from the CleanTech leaders chasing conventional angels and venture capital funds instead of creating their own funding strategy tailored to the needs of their unique and emerging industry.

During this time, I discovered the exact root cause of this false sense of capital scarcity. Depression-era financial laws from the 1930's and 1940's ended free speech with respect to raising capital and creating investment funds. By the 2000's the legal fees required to comply with these laws were so exorbitant that a business seeking to raise $50,000 in risk capital would have to pay $50,000 in legal fees to do that!

I believe that the reason so many people despise capitalism today is that after the enactment of these laws, capital formation could only be easily accomplished by the already-wealthy who could afford to hire costly securities attorneys and build private networks of accredited investors via their natural social circles. In my opinion, the lack of access to risk-tolerant capital for the vast majority of business founders resulting from these laws has directly led to the largest wealth gap ever in modern history.

The venture capital fund business model was designed specifically to do two things:

  • Minimize compliance with the new financial laws
  • Create incredible wealth for fund managers at the expense of every business founder who can't afford to safely navigate the financial laws.

The Depression-era finance laws of the 1930's and 1940's created a complex legal moat around the practice of capitalism. Those who can swim across this moat today control almost the entire direction of the economy. This is the exact opposite of the original purpose of capitalism, which was invented to more broadly distribute the absolute economic control previously held by kings and feudal lords.

In my case, in the 2000's, I discovered that it would cost $2.5 million in legal fees simply to structure the kind of public investment fund I was seeking to build. And, it was illegal to make any public announcement regarding raising the capital needed to pay those fees, much less raise the additional $2.5 million that would be needed to market the fund to environmentally-minded public investors, a multi-trillion dollar ethical investment market even back then.

After 9 years of attempting to overcome these abusive and outdated anti-free speech financial laws, I was tired and broke. I decided to drop the project and focus on making money doing consulting and web development so that I could stay home and raise my two sons.

The Rise of Grassroots Capitalism

Out of the corner of my eye, I was watching something take place that I never imagined would happen. A growing finance law liberalization movement was unfolding around the world with the understanding that the anti-free speech finance laws of the 1930's and 1940's were destroying entrepreneurship everywhere except in hot spots like Silicon Valley and New York City. China was clearly racing ahead in the startup funding game.

Despite all the media hype around entrepreneurship, raising capital legally in the US has been so difficult that overall entrepreneurship has been declining for decades. These finance law reform leaders, including a former chair of the NASDAQ, realized that to compete and refresh the US economy, the draconian laws of the last century needed to be liberalized.

The reintroduction of free speech into US financial law was part of much larger global finance law liberalization movement which has transformed capitalization policies everywhere from Southeast Asia, to Africa, Europe, and Latin America in addition to all the English speaking countries.

The first US finance law liberalization rules went into effect in May 2016, four years after the passage of the JOBS Act of 2012 authorizing creation of the new rules.

On September 1, 2016, I committed to a vegan lifestyle primarily for my health. This shift allowed me to truly face the fact that animal agriculture is the main cause of all the ecological and health challenges that have mattered to me my whole life. Finally realizing that animal products are not part of a healthy diet freed me up to revisit and pursue my original goals from the 2000's.

With my newfound health and mental clarity, I began considering how I could use these new financial rules to serve all vegan business founders and investors, not just the less than 1% of founders and investors currently served by angel groups and venture capital funds. In April 2018, I launched Vegan Launch. By December, the company was generating revenue.

In 2021, the original financial liberalization rules were expanded to the point where any project of any size can now be funded via direct public investments into private companies.

While venture capital funds typically seek 10,000% or greater returns in five years, most retail investors are happy to earn 40% during the same period. This huge divergence in investment goals combined with direct to investor financing allows for the creation of new investment products and strategies that are fine tuned to the long term success of mission-driven businesses rather than the short term growth demands of angel investors and venture capital fund managers.

At long last, mission-driven founders seeking to build any type of businesses, of any size, anywhere in the world, have a direct path to raising capital from like-minded retail investors everywhere who wish to support their goals.

Movements Are Still Falling Behind

Despite so much progress on the reform of the world's finance laws, emerging economic movements seem to have almost no understand of how to use these new laws to their advantage.

Tech leaders in Silicon Valley are getting on board with the new laws, and optimizing their capitalization strategies by leveraging public finance while still keeping one foot in the old venture capital world.

Meanwhile, most movements across the spectrum of mission-driven projects continue to advocate chasing angels and venture capital fund and other nearly-hopeless funding approaches with success rates as low as 1 in 100 firms or less.

This result of not picking up and running with the financial gift that has been handed to us on a silver platter by the financial liberalization movement is that the financing ethically-motivated businesses still seems nearly impossible.

I am here to tell you that almost any purpose-driven company from idea stage to growth can raise capital if they follow the simple steps I've developed since 2001.

The Grassroots Vegan Fund

In 2022, one year after the latest updated rules were issued, Vegan Launch began raising the Grassroots Vegan Fund. The first step, testing the market, has been underway since then and has demonstrated enough success to suggest that raising the entire $100 million required to take the fund public is indeed possible. To learn more, see the Projects page.

Recruiting investors from the general public to test the market for a public investment fund has not been legal since the early 1930's. We are truly in a new era of financial freedom to create solutions for everything vegans and other mission-driven founders and investors wish to accomplish.

The Grassroots Vegan Fund provides a real-life, functioning example of how to raise any amount of money for any type of project without chasing after VC firms, and with no upfront expense other than the cost to feed and shelter the people raising capital.

I even offer business founders a simple way to pay themselves while they raise the money needed to carry out their projects!

By opening up my teachings and strategies to a broader range of mission-driven leaders, I aim to help advance more projects than might be possible by only serving vegan leaders as I've done since 2018. Instead of excluding non-vegan leaders, I will do my best to demonstrate by example that the vegan lifestyle is the most beneficial for everyone, including leaders in every field.

Mark Winstein