Press release

A ‘co-operative Amazon’ wins first competition for tech co-ops

A co-operative alternative to Amazon, owned by its users, has landed a unique prize to help kick-start the new platform’s growth.

Fairmondo UK is an online marketplace for buyers and sellers with strong ethical commitments, which set out with a mission to make it easy to “buy the good” by connecting ethical producers and sellers with ethically minded, responsible consumers. 

It is one of a growing number of ‘platform co-ops’ – an emerging movement of organisations that want to see online platforms like Uber and Deliveroo set up as ‘platform co-ops’ that are controlled by, and benefit, the workers and suppliers.

The tech co-op beat off a host of other tech start-ups in a new ‘dragon’s den’-style competition, #DigiDen, and as a result will receive specialist business support to help it the next phase of its development as well as £2,000 in start-up funding. 

Jack Thorp from Fairmondo UK said: 

“After three years of talk and toil we are absolutely thrilled to have won the #DigiDen competition. There is a sense of validation and the feeling hard work is starting to pay off.”

"Internet platforms are quickly changing our lifestyles and relationships to work. They operate as monopolies and exist to serve shareholders. We want to build a new kind of platform that is owned by its users. Fairmondo UK aim to make it really easy to shop and trade in line with your personal values. If we can make ethical consumption fun, easy and cheap then more people will do it. This could have a big impact on our planet!"

#DigiDen is the first competition of its kind and was run in partnership between The Hive, the business support programme for co-ops from Co-operatives UK and The Co-operative Bank, and The Open Co-op.

Fairmondo UK is already using the business support to explore options for its future membership structure and learn more about online distribution with the UK’s largest worker co-op and wholefood wholesaler, Suma. The prize money is being used to develop their marketing strategy ready for the launch of its next crowdfund campaign.

Ed Mayo, Co-operatives UK’s Secretary General, said:

“We are seeing more sectors of the economy disrupted by online platforms, from Deliveroo to Uber. They are revolutionising so many aspects of our lives. But what is not changing are the patterns of ownership, where a relatively small number benefit from success of the platform and the workers benefit little.”

“Imagine, though, if the platforms we used every day were owned by the workers and the users themselves. That’s why we partnered with The Open Co-op on #DigiDen, to offer an aspiring platform co-op the chance to kick-start their project with some extremely valuable start-up funds and support. Congratulations to Fairmondo UK on their success – we very much look forward to seeing what the future offers for this exciting, emerging platform co-op.”

Oliver Sylvester-Bradley from The Open Co-op said:

“Congratulations to Fairmondo on winning the #DigiDen competition for new digital startups. The objective of the competition was to help aspiring ethical startups develop their ideas into functioning, member owned platforms and Fairmondo UK is an excellent project and worthy winner. The OPEN 2017 – Platform Co-ops conference aimed to highlight how member owned platforms provide a real, practical alternative to the standard Venture Capital owned model and Fairmondo is a great example of this which aims to provide the UK with an ethical alternative to Amazon.

We designed the competition to be as democratic as possible, allowing the delegates of the conference to pick the winner using a live digital voting system so Fairmondo is the peoples' choice. We wish them every success and look forward to their launch.”

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