In 2018, Marshall Mayer and other investors started a project to crowdfund money to buy the “world’s first crowdfunded private island.” A year later, they had raised more than $250,000 through their website “Let’s Buy an Island,” CNN reported.
Just before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, in December of 2019, Mayer and his group raised enough money through their crowdfunding strategy to buy Coffee Caye, a one-acre island near the coast of Belize in Central America.
Crowdfunding is when large groups of people donate money for particular business ideas and startups, according to Investopedia. With an increasingly online world, crowdfunding has found success in starting successful businesses and even making movies and award-winning TV series like “The Chosen.”
But as far as buying an entire island completely through crowdfunding, Mayer and his group of investors made history as the first.
“In 2018 we began to accept investors with the understanding that once we hit a minimum number we would buy an island regardless,” the website states on its homepage. “The golden number was hit quickly! We have since purchased Coffee Island in Belize, becoming the first group to successfully crowd source buying an island” (emphasis original).
Mayer had the idea for a while – 15 years to be exact according to CNN – but his idea for a crowdfunded island got a new spark when he met Gareth Johnson, co-founder and CEO of “Let’s Buy an Island.”
Johnson had also been interested in crowdfunding for a private island. He approached Mayer with the idea in 2018 when he saw an island in the Philippines for sale.
”When Gareth first put the idea to me, I thought God no, this will never become a reality,” Mayer said, “But he began to explain how much an island might cost, and we realized that actually, there are parts of the world where buying an island was much more realistic.”
Their website claims Coffee Island has 103 investors, and anyone can become an investor with a donation of at least $5,495. Investors get to help make decisions about the island and become part owners of the tropical paradise.
Islandia isn’t just some crowdfunded getaway – it’s also somewhat of a social experiment. The investors consider their island a “micronation experiment” that aims to “forward [their] ideals of democracy.” They even named their micronation the “Principality of Islandia.”
According to Islandia’s website, “The Principality of Islandia is a micronation experiment within the greater IBG project. We plan to use our island paradise to forward our own ideals of democracy, inclusion and sustainability. We will do this in a manner that is in keeping with, and enhances the laws of our host nation.”
While the crowdfunded island isn’t recognized as a nation by the international community, some investors consider it pretty close to a real country. “We are as close to a nation as you can get, without getting an army and a navy,” Johnson told CNN.
The website allows for anyone to become a citizen of Islandia for “a very small donation.” “Citizenship is a great way to support the project, and get insider deals as we begin offering the island for rent,” the website states. “You’ll get deals on other great products too, plus you’ll always stay on top of everything else we’re up to.”
A crowdfunded micronation might not be as successful as other crowdfunding experiments, but for now, the island investors are happy with what they’ve accomplished. “It was a crazy leap of faith to take,” said Mayer. “But our initial goal of buying an island, we’ve done it.”
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