New pilot ‘accelerator’ launched for UK platform co-operatives

Co-operatives UK and Stir to Action team up to launch UnFound, which will support emerging democratic platforms

Democratically owned digital platforms are getting a boost in the UK from a pilot scheme to support platform co-operatives.

UnFound is a pilot accelerator launched by Co-operatives UK and Stir to Action, which aims to challenge the way investor-owned digital platforms monopolise key economic sectors, control data and distribute profits to the few.

The accelerator will give emerging platforms the opportunity to access the UK’s first structured programme of support for this type of organisation, including mentoring and masterclasses on business planning and co-operative governance.

Nathan Schneider, co-organiser of the Platform Cooperativism conference, believes the pilot could make a crucial difference.

“Accelerators like UnFound make it easier for entrepreneurs trying to make their idea real in the world to do it with democracy,” he said. “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.”

Teams can apply for the accelerator programme online until the end of March 2018. The accelerator leads to a live crowdfunding session where teams will pitch for financial support from 400 delegates at Co-operatives UK’s Co-op Congress event in London on 23 June.

There, facilitators and mentors will be joined by the co-founders of Stocksy and Fairmondo, who will introduce new ideas for business development, digital governance, and crowd finance.

Supported by the Hive, the accelerator is one strand of the National Co-operative Development Strategy, launched by Co-operatives UK in 2017.

“We are seeing more and more sectors of the economy disrupted by online platforms, from Deliveroo to Uber,” said Ed Mayo, secretary general of Co-operatives UK.

“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.”

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