Re: DSM: Startup funding (was: Almost Democracy

From: Christopher Weeks (
Date: Tue Nov 06 2001 - 10:15:20 EST

Mike Sadofsky wrote:

> Christopher,
> I must have missed a lot in the founding years at Sudbury Valley when
> your " independently wealthy sponsors" were there to make the school a
> reality. Let me assure you, there weren't any!

Well, since you were there, it was probably me that missed something. But you know, if
I've misunderstood some of my reading, you could just correct me without the defensive
posturing. I was in no way attempting to play down the huge sacrifices that were made
in order to make the school blossom forth from nothing but an idea. I have the
greatest admiration for you folks. Really! I apologize if my earlier note sounded
like I was dismissing the overall contribution.

On the other hand, my apparent misinterpretation arises from page 46 of _Announcing a
New School_ in which Daniel Greenberg writes:

"As for the cash cash seed money, it required $24,000 in down payment...and...something
like another $16, cover the initial repairs and modifications... This meant a
total of something over forty thousand dollars in cash that we put up personally."

That kind of spare cash sounds like independent wealth to me -- even today, much less
in 1968 dollars. So did that not happen, or do we have different understandings of

To be fair, he also writes that the contribution of staff time equaled something like
$100,000 and notes that the school couldn't have happened without that generosity. I
think the school wouldn't have happened (at least the way it did) without either of
those two ingredients.

> SVS was established when a substantial group of founders agreed to
> make it happen. Yes, someone had enough assets to obtain a personal
> mortgage on the property, and as soon as we could find a lending
> source that would cooperate, this was converted to a group guarantee.

I don't understand how this works. Is this reference to the $56,000 mortgage or to a
larger figure that accounted for the bulk of startup and operating expenses?

I've read _Starting a Sudbury School_ and I've reread the money stuff, but it's all
pretty vague. Maybe that's just the nature of it -- that you can't give hard and fast
ideas on how to gather money. If I pursue an SVS startup, I'm prepared to work three
weekdays each week for free as long as it takes. I assume that I can find others who
would also be willing. But every time I visit the matter of acquiring a physical
plant, I just don't see the money for a down payment. It sounds like the SVS property
was ~$80K, but what would it be worth now? Half a million? How would you go about
getting that?

I keep going back to the fact that I need to become wealthy first and then go about
such a project. Which is weird since funding such a project (and others) is more
important to me than the normal reasons for gaining wealth.

And really, if anyone else has been through the very early stages of startup thinking
and has addressed the money issue successfully, I'd like to hear their experiences.
And what contingency plans were there for SVS if money hadn't worked out as it did?

Christopher Weeks


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