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[liberationtech] Spend Consciously: Pay With Peace of Mind

Yosem Companys companys at
Tue Jul 3 20:47:33 PDT 2012

From: Alex Brant-Zawadzki <alex at>

*My company, Spend Consciously, is currently experimenting with
crowd-funding. So far we’re on PeerBackers <>,
which is much more suited for starting up startups. Kickstarter only
supports specific, individual projects – writing a book, funding a film,
making a game etc.

We’re a bit more than a project ;-)

Mitt Romney said, “Corporations are people, my friend.” If that’s true,
then Spend Consciously is basically a morality matchmaker. We’re connecting
people with the companies they like. Each user creates a profile in which
they indicate their interests, their beliefs and their priorities. We use
these profiles to tell users how they feel about different companies. Like
an OKCupid for commerce.

OKMercury, as it were.

We’re developing an app that will allow consumers to scan a product  with
their phone at point-of-purchase to determine whether buying that product
is in accordance with their values. We’ll be using a ridiculous amount of
variables to calibrate matches, but a bare-bones example is the Tea Partier
who doesn’t want to buy any products from a company that donates heavily to
MoveOn, and the Occupier who doesn’t want to buy Dixie cups because that
indirectly supports the Koch brothers.
Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard recently predicted to<>that
within a few years,
“a customer will be able to go into a department store and they can zap the
barcode with their little electronic gizmo, whatever it is in a few years.
And it'll give a grade on how the labor practices were in making that pair
of jeans, and all the environmental impacts, and there will be a grade. So
the customer will be able to say, 'Oh this is a two, this is a 10. I'm
going to buy the 10.”

What’s more, Washington State Congressional Candidate Darcy Burner gave a
keynote speech at Netroots Nation on exactly this sort of consumer spending
aid.  It’s a real barnstormer and it’s worth watching when you have a

Here’s the clip that’s directly relevant to us (2 min):
Here’s the whole thing. (17 min)

As a journalist and online researcher, what I’m most excited about is the
sort of relational database necessary to maintain all the interconnected
data you need to really follow the money. It will be a truly unprecedented
research tool that would literally usher in a new era of corporate and
political transparency. changing how consumers spend and how companies
respond to consumers. Existent databases can be incredibly helpful – if
you’re only interested in one topic. Campaign finance, environmental
records and minority hiring are prime examples. At present, there is no way
for a user to see enough aspects of a company to make a properly informed
decision – not without bouncing from database to database, website to
website – not to mention figuring out how to use each different search
tool, and in some cases how to interpret raw data.

I would greatly appreciate your assistance in three areas:

1) I hope that you’ll visit our PeerBackers
page<>and consider chipping in $5, $25,
$50, $100, $1000 or anything else you
can. Even a buck would be appreciated; the more backers, the better.
2) I ask that you take a moment to send this on to any potentially
interested parties through any appropriate medium.  We really just need to
get the word out. The only way to win at crowdfunding is to build support
for your project through social media - facebook, twitter, tumblr,
stumbleupon, YouTube, personal contacts, impersonal contacts, etc. etc.
3) I would appreciate your advice and counsel.  Does anyone have any tips
on crowdfunding - success stories, horror stories, words to the wise?

The sites that seem most pertinent to our company sites I came across were
PeerBackers and StartSomeGood, but more are cropping up all the time. The
Economist put out a great, if somewhat rudely titled, article on
crowdfunding, “The Thundering Herd” <>,
and I wrote a slightly-less-great-but-better-titled piece in HuffPost, “Money
for Nothing, Checks for
(I know, not particularly original, but cute and rather apropos)

Anyway, you're smart, so you get the idea. Anything you can do, even if
it's just crossing your fingers and thinking supportive thoughts, would be
infinitely appreciated.
And, of course, if you find what we are doing particularly exciting and
want to be a part of our team, just let me know because our organization is

Thanks for your time.*

Alex Brant-Zawadzki

Spend Consciously

One Research Court, 2nd Floor

Rockville, MD 20850

949-230-2664 - Mobile

Alex at

Alex at

*“It is truly enough said, that a corporation has no conscience; but a
corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience.” *

*     -- Henry David Thoreau*
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