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The Commerce of Creativity: Ron Thompson on Social Change for the Creative Good

Learn how one renegade adman, invests in public good ventures, ultimately creating a paradigm shift in the creative community and leading the charge for innovation, social good and...


What happens when the worlds of advertising, venture capital, and philanthropy collide? Just ask Ron Thompson, the Managing Partner and co-founder of Dallas-based Invest Creative, a venture fund capitalized by creatives and invested in creatives.

Dubbed as a ‘renegade’ by industry observers, Thompson is passionate in his belief that creativity is a fundamental and critical resource to individual, community, and economic life. This belief led him to develop a hybrid of social good ventures centered on enhancing opportunity for small creative-led businesses.

Learn how one renegade adman, invests in public good ventures, ultimately creating a paradigm shift in the creative community and leading the charge for innovation, social good and entrepreneurship one partnership at a time.

 

Company: Invest Creative
Founder(s): Ron Thompson and Lauren Hammonds
Location: Dallas, TX
Industry: Venture Capital; Advertising
Startup Year: 2010
Startup Costs: $0 — a laptop, a coffee shop and brilliant creatives

How I Got Started:

I began my journey as an ‘adventure capitalist’ in 1998 when I organized the decade-long movement Design America that helped launch millions of dollars in donated creative and media services to nonprofit organizations across the country.

In 2010, I co-founded Invest Creative, a venture fund capitalized by creatives invested in creatives. Invest Creative organizes and manages Harry & Oak, a network of private label advertising design firms, to capitalize the Invest Creative adventure fund. Organized as a cooperative, each firm is managed by a network of the most experienced chief creative officers, art directors, photographers, writers, cinematographers, animators, project managers, and designers from local small-office studios.

Individual Harry & Oak teams have a specific purpose and finite lifespan. By coming together in design studios, ad agencies, arts facilities, restaurants, coffee shops, cocktail lounges, libraries, hotels, nonprofit organizations, and community centers, each team is able to increase its collective resources, creativity, and productivity while driving down hard costs associated with infrastructure.

This introduces more lucrative opportunities for small creative-led business and better, more cost-efficient outcomes for the companies that hire them. The economic activity sparked by Harry & Oak teams invigorates the new business intake and professional connections of local creatives.

Collectively, profit earned is then reinvested back in the creative community to fund public good projects through Invest Creative. This dual-purpose approach to business development and fund development multiplies the opportunities for independent creatives to simultaneously be entrepreneurs, investors, and philanthropists without adding new budgets or adjusting their daily routine.

Best Success Story:

Every endeavor is a unique success story as each is its own kind of business. However, one of my favorite come-together moments was when a real estate professional came to me seeking solutions for a capital campaign intended for a local landmark.

We were able to establish our first sponsored Harry & Oak, develop a business plan around his business and the campaign, launch the campaign, witness a 300% return to his company on the sponsorship in six months. This was a perfect example of creatives simultaneously holding the roles of entrepreneurs, investors and philanthropists.

Biggest Startup Challenge:

Finding our own voice. Yes, we develop advertising design projects; no, we’re not a design firm. Yes, we recruit primarily from self-employed creatives; no, we’re not a staffing firm. Yes, we capitalize a venture fund; no, we don’t solicit investors. Yes, our investments are for public good projects; no, we’re not a nonprofit.

#1 Tip for Entrepreneurs:

Seek out people who understand your passion. I spent far too much time trying to make people understand a business model when I should have helped them understand a vision.

 

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