Crowdfunding is a newer way to invest, having emerged onto the scene just within the last few years. Most people have heard of sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, and a very similar concept exists for real estate. Developers are always looking to raise capital to fund their projects. Through the various online platforms, investors have access to these projects and can choose to invest in both residential and commercial properties. See the List of My Favorite Crowdfunding Sites.
At some point in every value chain, value has to be created by a real human. No argument there. However, who says that a human has to deliver that value? Some very smart humans put in the work to create Google, but for the most part, they don’t have to do any work to deliver value to you, whether it’s search results or GMail or Maps. Your landlord put in a lot of work to afford the apartment you live in, to remodel it, and even to find you as a tenant. But now, he doesn’t have to do any work to deliver value to you: you wake up every morning in the apartment whether or not he works.
If you have specialized knowledge in a certain topic, you can put together an online course to teach others. For example, if you have experience in real estate investing, you can create an online course “Real Estate Investing 101”. The benefit of an online course is that once you create the course material, you can sell it to as many people as you want.