After a successful first edition, the UnFound Accelerator has opened for applications for a new cohort of inspiring entrepreneurs who want to develop their digital business in a more collaborative and equitable way by setting up platform co-ops.
The rise of the platform economy over the last decade promised to boost flexible employment, extra income, and collaborative consumption. Instead, the ‘disruption’ of the digital economy has exploited regulations, increased precariousness of work, and created the conditions for digital giants to dominate markets.
Platform co-ops offer a valid alternative: democratically owned and controlled business they are built on co-operative principles and values which ensure the platform business:
- Truly responds to the needs of its community
- Embeds equity and social purpose from day one
- Has a growth model that does not involve giving up control to external profit-driven investors.
The UnFound Accelerator is an ambitious business support programme – delivered by Co‑operatives UK and Stir to Action, supported by The Co‑operative Bank – set up to help launch a new wave of fairer, ethical and co-operatively owned tech platforms.
Teams access practical workshops – from co-operative governance to product development, business planning and strategy, and branding and marketing. The sessions, delivered by industry experts, offer the teams the best possible chance to launch their co-operative start-up platforms.
The second edition of the UnFound Accelerator aims to take on up to eight more teams. Applications open today (1 July) and close midnight 28 July. The accelerator ends with a pitch event (1 December) offering teams the chance to win part of a £10,000 prize funded by The Co-operative Bank.
The first edition has involved six teams working with UnFound since May – including an ambitious food delivery platform for the London market, an abortion support app and an online language school. The pitch event for this Accelerator takes place on Wednesday 21 July, 5.30-7pm. The event is online, free to attend and open to all. Attendees will help to choose how the prize fund is distributed.
Co-operatives UK CEO, Rose Marley, said:
“The future of co-operation is focused on solving complex new problems and to provide business solutions for new and existing co-operatives. The desire to create and operate fair and equitable tech platforms has increased in direct response to the pandemic with notable examples emerging in the sectors such as care, food and logistics. Good examples are Equal Care Co-op, a social care platform that puts care givers and receivers in control, and Open Food Network, an open source platform that enables new, ethical food supply chains.”
“Thanks to the support of The Co-operative Bank this pioneering programme is designed to accelerate the development of platform co-ops offering opportunities for an emerging new wave of tech entrepreneurs united in their passion to create positive change."
Catherine Douglas, Director of SME Banking, The Co-operative Bank said:
“We are committed to supporting co-operative businesses and helping them have a positive impact on the economy, society and their communities. We’re therefore delighted to support the UnFound Accelerator programme, which will provide invaluable guidance and support to new platform co-operatives, and will bring together entrepreneurs that want to develop their digital business in a more collaborative and equitable way.”
Jonny Gordon-Farleigh, Director, Stir to Action said:
“The digital economy does not have to be the new shorthand for low wages and insecure work. The relaunch of the UnFound accelerator this year is another opportunity to ensure the future of business is not just doing ‘good’, but democratic.”
Dates for UnFound Accelerator #2
- Applications are open from 1-28 July
- Find out more about the UnFound Accelerator at a webinar on 15 July, 12-1pm.
- The second edition begins on Wednesday 15 September 2021, concluding on 24 November 2021. The pitch event is 5-7pm, 1 December 2021.