The Color of Money

The Color of Money

Money has a color (and it's not racist).

"There's some money you never want to take.”

I was told this by a well-seasoned investment banker who's done everything from coal mine deals in Africa to New York stock exchange maneuvers.

It stuck with me. Since then, I've looked at the different personalities of financiers—the unique ways of funding—and realized that money has a color.

Keep this in mind when you take a grant, get an investment, or even bill it out.

Blue Money. It's emotional. It's the kind of money that will leave you because of one bad move. A friend of ours got big, blue money for a start up in a metropolitan city. He made a few, bold, unorthodox moves, and the investor completely flipped out and wants to change the terms.

Red Money. This is blood money. It's the type of funding or earning you get where there are no rules. No fundamental truths. Just returns. No matter what, this type of money demands returns above integrity. As myth would have it, sharks smell blood from hundreds of miles away. This type of money does too.

Green Money. The best type of money. It desires to grow things. People with green money want to see production, life and community building. It's sustainable, reasonable, and cares about morals, the environment and the future generations. This is the money to get. Find investors who work with green money.

Yellow Money. When times get tough…they run. This kind of money wants a quick exit when the future looks shaky and it's got yellow, yield signs on its agreements. Whichever way works best for itself, that's how this money sets the deal. It’s very self-serving cash.

Clear Money. It seems harmless, but it's void color. Many aspects of foreign aid or donor funding are clear—there's no substance. It doesn't leave a mark. It's here one day and gone the next, and the tides of change shift agendas, focus areas and personalities. It has limited accountability and looks for credit. It's a client who loves you, but the next day goes after the lowest bidder. Africa is doused in clear money—no one knows where it all goes, but we have some pretty good ideas.

If you're looking to build something that lasts, go after the Green Money. Don't settle for the money that will entangle you in groves of mess.

Green is go.


(photo via tom waterhouse)