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In partnership with Stir to Action, supported by The Co‑operative Bank

Pioneering business support programme aims to create new ethical tech businesses

News item

Published
22nd March 2021
Last updated
24th March 2021
Topic
Business planning
Image
UnFound Accelerator – for platform co-ops

The UnFound Accelerator has opened for applications, aiming to launch a new wave of fairer, ethical and co-operatively owned tech platforms before the end of the year. 

We’re all just one click away from ordering a taxi, downloading a song or having a takeaway delivered to our doors – but how ethical are the technology platforms we all use? How fairly are workers and consumers who use these popular apps treated? And how, in a post pandemic world, can we keep the convenience of online but still be ethical?

The ambitious UnFound Accelerator programme will run twice in 2021 and will give two lots of eight teams of entrepreneurs the chance to take part in 10 weeks of practical workshops. Led by industry experts, the teams will receive the support they need get their platform business to work co-operatively as well as to develop their product, business planning and strategy, and branding and marketing.

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    Today's modern co-operative movement sits at the centre of a spectrum of dynamic new developments. Collaborative tech sits front and central to this and Co-operatives UK has been at the forefront of supporting game-changing platform co-ops for a number of years.
    – Rose Marley, CEO, Co-operatives UK

    Each accelerator will end with a pitch event offering teams the chance to win part of a £10,000 prize funded by The Co-operative Bank. Furthermore, teams will access expert support and funding opportunities as they prepare to launch their emerging platform businesses. The first pitch event takes place on 21 July (date TBC), with the second cohort taking the stage towards the end of the year.

    Co-operatives UK, is leading the programme in partnership with Stir to Action and The Co-operative Bank.

    Co-operatives UK's CEO, Rose Marley, said: 

    “Today's modern co-operative movement sits at the centre of a spectrum of dynamic new developments. Collaborative tech sits front and central to this and Co-operatives UK has been at the forefront of supporting game-changing platform co-ops for a number of years.”

    “At Co-operatives UK we are anticipating an exponential growth of these 'new-look' co-operatives and absolutely believe they are well placed to tackle some of society's new problems just as the original Rochdale Pioneers faced and solved the issues around food supply. We're asking, what's the new arsenic in the sugar?”

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    We think this is a really important initiative to support in the current climate and look forward to seeing the pioneering ideas that come out of the scheme turn into successful platform co-op businesses through the support of this programme.
    – Catherine Douglas, Director of SME Banking, The Co-operative Bank

    “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.” 

    “We think this is a really important initiative to support in the current climate and look forward to seeing the pioneering ideas that come out of the scheme turn into successful platform co-op businesses through the support of this programme.”

    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.”

    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 bring together people that want to develop their digital business in a more collaborative and equitable way.

    When will the UnFound Accelerator run?

    The UnFound accelerator will run twice in 2021:

    • The first will start on 12 May 2021 and will conclude on 14 July 2021, followed by the pitch event on 21 July 2021 (TBC).
    • The second will start on 8 September 2021 (applications will open in July) and will conclude on 17 November 2021, followed by the pitch event on 24 November 2021 (TBC).

    Applications are open for the UnFound Accelerator

    Find out who can apply – the deadline for applications is 11 April 2021.

    What is UnFound?

    UnFound aims to develop the platform co-operative sector in the UK. It's a programme delivered by Co-operatives UK and Stir To Action – supported by The Co-operative Bank. www.unfound.coop

    What is the UnFound accelerator?

    The UnFound Accelerator is a dedicated 10-week programme for teams of early stage platform co-op start-ups. There will be two cohorts in 2021, with the first programme starting on 12 May 2021. After an application process, eight successful teams will be taken through a process to turn their pioneering ideas into successful platform co-op businesses.

    The Accelerator will offer each team the guidance and support they need to set the foundations of their platform business. This includes practical workshops as well as access to Co-operatives UK and Stir to Action’s extensive network of experts.

    Teams that complete the Accelerator will get the chance to pitch their business idea to access funding and support at an event on 21 July 2021. Applications for the second cohort will open in July 2021 with a pitch event taking place later in the year.

    The UnFound Accelerator is made possible by The Co-operative Bank, which has also donated a £10,000 prize fund for each pitch event. 

    Examples of platform co-ops

    UK examples

    • Equal Care Co-op, a co-op of care-givers and care-receivers
    • Signalise, a co-op of British Sign-language Translators and Deaf people
    • Open Food Network, providing a platform for small business as well as wholesalers to manage buying groups and supply produce through networks of food hubs and shops. The platform has seen a rapid increase of membership during the pandemic.
    • The Meteor (Manchester), an independent media provider for Manchester where both the producers of content and their audiences are members of the co-ops.

    International examples

    • Resonate – registered in Ireland, Resonate is global-streaming music service owned by the artists, fans and developers who run it. 
    • CoopCycle: an open-source platform developed in France, used internationally, including in the UK co-ops (Chorlton Bike Deliveries, York Collective and Cooperation Birmingham), with more UK examples in the pipeline.
    • Stocksy: Canada-based platform co-op for stock photography and video
    • Savvy: a patient own data co-op empowering people to use their patient experiences to improve health innovations.  
    • Drivers Seat Co-op: a data co-op for gig workers and local governments to make informed decisions with insights from their rideshare and delivery data.
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