Press release

Free UK roadshow challenges start-ups to think differently about the UK's digital economy

Tech and innovation hubs in cities across the UK are hosting an exciting new roadshow for tech founders, entrepreneurs and start-ups this summer, presenting a different and more inclusive way of launching and growing digital platforms.

The roadshow events will feature talks about the potential for platform co-ops, how a platform or product could benefit from the co-op model, what steps are needed and the support available – including funding and business support – as well as the opportunity to network with others exploring this space for their next platform idea.

The UnFound Roadshow, delivered by Co-operatives UK, kicks off in Edinburgh in May, with initial dates in London, Plymouth, Brighton, Swansea and Manchester in June and July – and more dates still to be added. The roadshow events will feature talks about the potential for platform co-ops, how  the benefits of adopting co-op models for platform businesses, how this can be achieved and what business support and finance is available to this next generation of start ups. Events will also provide the opportunity to network with others exploring this space for their next platform idea.

The digital economy is growing rapidly, improving our everyday lives with more, new and better services. But at what cost? Workers and consumers have little or no say over this increasingly dominant aspect of modern society.

UnFound champions a specific type of platform business – platform co-operatives, which go about their business in a more collaborative and inclusive way. A platform co-operative is any business that operates on or through a digital platform and offers democratic ownership and governance.

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Making the digital economy our own – introducing the concept and opportunity of platform co-operatives. 

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The Hive, which funds UnFound, is a £1.3m programme for co-operatives, run by Co-operatives UK in partnership with The Co-operative Bank, has recently revamped to focus on key emerging sectors for co-operatives, including platform businesses. In addition to this, plans for a Platform Co-op Fund was announced by Co-operatives UK earlier this year, which will provide seed capital funding to help platform co-ops to start and grow.

The following events have been confirmed, with more to be announced:

  • Edinburgh – 7 May, The Melting Pot
  • London – 30 May, Allia Future Business Centre
  • Bristol – 29 May, Engine Shed
  • Plymouth – 10 June, Ocean Studios
  • Brighton – 11 June, 68 Middle Street
  • Swansea – 13 June, TechHub
  • Cambridge – 19 June, Allia Future Business Centre
  • Newcastle – 18 June, Proto
  • Manchester – 9 July, The Landing; 31 July, Federation House

To book onto an event, visit unfound.coop/roadshow

UnFound is the UK’s first dedicated programme for tech founders and entrepreneurs looking for a different way to set-up and run platform businesses. It 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, workshops and supporting community economic development.

James de le Vingne, Head of Co-operative Development at Co-operative UK, says:

“There’s no denying the convenience, flexibility and independence that digital platforms offer. But this comes at the human cost of precarious employment, surveillance and the growth of tech monopolies that extract wealth from the workers who create that wealth and from the consumers whose data is collected and then used to influence our choices.”

“A new generation of entrepreneurs and start-ups are rejecting this ‘status quo’ and responding to the growing demand from consumers and workers seeking alternatives. Platform co-operatives are emerging as the new innovative digital platform – with equality and democracy built into their fabric.”

There are examples of platform co-ops emerging in all sectors around the globe. From music streaming platforms providing artists a fair deal for their content, to taxi drivers and health care professionals getting a fair wage for their work. These services are provided by co-operatives that welcome workers and users of their platforms as co-owners.

Cat Ainsworth, co-Founder of Dot Project and who will be delivering the UnFound roadshow events, says:

“The tech sector is bursting with innovative, dynamic entrepreneurs who want to do things differently. UnFound is an invitation to learn more about co-operation, the support that is available to new platform co-ops and the chance to network with like-minded business owners and developers.”

The accelerator is one strand of the National Co-operative Development Strategy – an ambitious strategy to create a more participative economy. Launched in 2017 by Co-operatives UK, it calls for more support for “platform co-operatives using new technology for shared ownership services.”

Jonny Gordon-Farleigh, co-founder of Stir to Action, says:

“The UnFound accelerator inspired more interest in the platform co-operative model, but we’ve realised that we need to be talking to more entrepreneurs who are developing social and ethical technologies and still do not know about alternatives to traditional ownership and funding models. If you’re using technology for social good, why not share the development and ownership with your community?”

For more information about UnFound visit www.unfound.coop

Technology hubs interested in hosting theUnfound Roadshow should contact [email protected]