“I am the worst employee anyone can find,” says a nonchalant Dirk Ahlborn, sitting out of his makeshift office at WeWork, a co-share working space in the heart of Los Angeles. For a good part of his career, the German-born now American entrepreneur preferred to work on his own. After migrating to Italy at the age of 19, he turned entrepreneur when he founded his first company. “As an employee, I may not have done well, but being determined has helped me as an entrepreneur,” says the 39-year-old, who dabbled in the alternative energy space before his love interest brought him eventually to the US where he ended up with a non-profit incubator, the Girvan Institute of Technology. Funded by NASA, Girvan’s goal was to commercialise technologies developed by government labs. It was at Girvan that the idea of using crowdsourcing was born. “When I joined the incubator it was struggling a bit with over $1 billion of investments. The co-founder and president was 83…it wasn’t an easy time. I loved working with entrepreneurs and knew I had to do what I liked,” says Ahlborn, who founded JumpStartFund in 2013 based on the crowdsourcing model, but with a difference.
The idea behind the platform was to identify and groom entrepreneurs from the ideation stage. A wannabe entrepreneur with an idea or an existing patent can list for as low as $10. The site would then use its community network to create a team around the idea or patent. “In most startups, it’s like two buddies meet up at a bar and decide to form a company. Six months down they realise that what they thought was a problem was never the case to begin with. In most cases, start-ups fail because of lack of experience and insight. But one can build a better company by bringing people together, by working with the best talent across geographies. That’s what JumpStartFund does,” mentions the father of two.
Incidentally, the year his platform went live, maverick entrepreneur Elon Musk put out a white paper aimed at revolutionising the transportation space by using Hyperloop technology. Musk’s proposal entailed transporting people through aluminum pods that can travel up to 760 miles an hour (1,223 kmh) inside air pressure-contr