UnFound is for tech founders and start-ups looking for a different way to set-up and run platform businesses. It brings together platforms that would like to go about their business in a more collaborative and inclusive way.
UnFound is championing a specific type of platform business – platform co-operatives.
A platform co-op is any business that operates on or through a digital platform and offers democratic ownership and governance. There are specifics to this, which are covered in the how it works section.
Why platform co-operatives?
- Digital companies are monopolising key economic sectors.
- Labour platforms are encouraging precarious employment practices.
- Co-operatives can expand their presence in the digital economy.
- There is a demand for user and worker-owned digital platforms.
- Co-operative models can be more competitive than investor-owned models.
- Crowdfunding can challenge investor capital.
A recent report published by Nesta and Co-operatives UK highlights the opportunity platform co-operatives offer to the UK economy, making four key recommendations:
- A call for the establishment of a platform co-op fund – an initial £1m patient seed fund, informed by the community shares model.
- The development of accelerator activities for tailored support and advice to emerging platform co-ops to accompany any funding offer.
- A dedicated campaign to raise awareness of the platform co-op model, focused on the tech sector.
- Further investigation into how such capital models would interface with existing mission-oriented, purpose-driven tech businesses that may consider adopting a co-operative structure.
The UnFound programme will be supporting these recommendations through:
- The UnFound roadshow of events taking place at tech and innovation hubs across the UK in 2019 to raise awareness of the platform co-op model and the support available.
- Creating online materials and videos to increase awareness, understanding and the opportunity that the platform co-ops offer.
To be kept informed about UnFound and opportunities for platform co‑operatives, please sign-up to the UnFound mailing list.
The following platform co‑operatives already exist:
- Resonate – a music streaming platform.
- Equal Care Co-operative (UK) – a new care and support co-operative.
- Stocksy (Canada – global operations) – a stock photo and video footage co-operative.
- Up & Go (New York) – a worker‑owned cleaning service.
- Taxi App (UK).
Background to UnFound
UnFound is delivered by Co-operatives UK – the UK’s trade body for the co‑operative sector – and Stir to Action – which champions the new economy through STIR magazine, a programme of workshops and supporting community economic development.
The National Co-operative Development Strategy, launched in summer 2017, identified platform co‑ops as a sector that requires significant focus and investment.
Over the last few years, pilot programmes have tested different ways to support prospective platform co‑ops, through DigiDen and UnFound. These pilots have highlighted the need for further thinking and a much more intensive programme of support and investment for emerging platforms.
Events such as Platform Cooperativism (from 2015) and Open Coop (from 2017) have been involved in building the ‘platform’ community in North America, Europe and UK.