The Internet is broken. Investor-owned digital platforms are monopolising key economic sectors, controlling our data, and distributing profits to the few. This needs to fundamentally change according to Co-operatives UK and Stir to Action.
As part of an effort to make the ‘digital economy our own’, these organisations have today joined forces to launch a new pilot accelerator UnFound to support ‘platform co-operatives’, digital platforms that are democratically owned by their members or users.
UnFound will give these early-stage platforms the opportunity to access the UK’s first structured programme of support. Teams can apply for the accelerator programme at www.unfound.coop between now and 31st March.
Successful applicants will benefit from a team of six mentors and a series of masterclasses to support and develop the business planning and co-operative governance of their platform. Support is being made available through The Hive, a business support programme for co-operatives from Co-operatives UK and The Co-operative Bank. The accelerator culminates with live crowdfunding session, where the teams will pitch for financial support from 400 delegates at Co-operatives UK’s Co-op Congress event in London on 23rd June.
Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, says:
“We are seeing more and more sectors of the economy disrupted by online platforms, from Deliveroo to Uber. They are revolutionising so many aspects of our workplaces and lives. But what is not changing are the patterns of ownership, where a relatively small number benefit from the success of the platform.”
“Imagine, though, if the platforms we used every day were owned by the workers and the users themselves. UnFound is a great opportunity to kickstart platform co-operatives with some extremely valuable support.”
Nathan Schneider, co-organiser of the Platform Cooperativism conference, also sees the significance of this new pilot accelerator.
“Accelerators like UnFound make it easier for entrepreneurs trying to make their idea real in the world to do it with democracy. For too long, the startup ecosystem has been a game of trying to sell our best ideas to investors looking for exponential profits. Now, startups are starting to have better options. They can truly build their startups for their communities.”
What are Platform co-ops?
A platform co-operative is a democratically-run member- or user-owned online platform or mobile app. They are start-ups from communities of people – such as workers or users – to meet their needs or solve a problem by networking people and assets.
There are successful examples of Platform Co-operatives in North America and Europe, but they are still in early-stage development in the UK. Even though the likes of London-based TaxiApp represent an exciting new wave of co-operatively run platforms emerging here.
UnFound is open for applications from today (1st March) and closes midnight on 31st March 2018.
The accelerator is one strand of the National Co-operative Development Strategy – an ambitious strategy to create a more participative economy. Launched in 2017 by Co-operatives UK, it calls for more support for “platform co-operatives using new technology for shared ownership services.”
Jonny Gordon-Farleigh, Stir to Action, says:
“We’ve got experienced teams of facilitators and mentors who will be supporting the co-operatives through the accelerator. We’ll also be joined by the inspiring co-founders of Stocksy and Fairmondo who will be introducing new ideas for business development, digital governance, and crowd finance.”
For more information about UnFound visit www.unfound.coop
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About Co-operatives UK
The network for Britain’s thousands of co-operative businesses, Co-operatives UK works to promote, develop and unite member-owned business worth £36 billion to the British economy.
Stir to Action
Stir to Action publishes STIR, a quarterly magazine on the new economy, runs workshop programmes, and supports Community Economic Development.