Who Would Give This Guy Millions to Build His Own Utopia?

When he took the stage at a conference for “start-up societies” in Amsterdam in October, 27-year-old Dryden Brown cut a rumpled figure, moving stiffly in a gray hoodie with a T-shirt poking out at the bottom.

He was there to tout his company, Praxis, which has an ambitious goal: to create a new city on the Mediterranean.

The Santa Barbara native had never built a house before, let alone a city. A New York University dropout, he had been fired from his last job, at a hedge fund. He isn’t a charismatic speaker or an accomplished businessman. He’s big on promises and light on specifics, such as where on the 28,600-mile Mediterranean coast his city will be.

Nevertheless, he has raised $19.2 million for his project: a paltry amount in the worlds of venture capital and urban development — Hudson Yards, for example, cost $25 billion — but still a lot to fork over to a young man with no track record.

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