Under the banner of 'making the digital economy our own', the UnFound accelerator programme launched in March to help budding startups planning to set up as a platform co-op – a worker- or user-owned online platform or mobile app created to solve social and economic problems by digitally networking people and assets.
After an initial application phase, attracting over 20 groups, UnFound enters an exciting next phase as it announces it will be working with a shortlisted eight accelerator teams for an intensive six- week programme of masterclasses and mentoring focused on business support, digital governance, funding strategies, and pitch training.
The eight successful accelerator teams
- Equal Care Co-op
- Schumacher Commons
- The Media Fund
- The Physio Co-op
- We Collective (Weco)
- Land Explorer
- Open Food Network UK
We will share updates on the accelerator teams and their aspirations over the coming weeks as we get ready for a live crowdfunding session, taking place at Co-operatives UK’s annual Co-op Congress in London on 23 June.
The UnFound accelerator programme is run in partnership between Co‑operatives UK and Stir to Action, with support from The Hive – the business support programme from Co‑operatives UK and The Co‑operative Bank. The accelerator groups will be mentored by experts in a range of fields:
- Mark Hooper, founder of Indycube, a co-operative coworking network. He is currently working with Community Union and the small team at Indycube to build UK coverage and a membership of 100,000 freelancers.
- Rebecca Rae-Evans, a pro-social strategist working on digital engagement, social impact and ethics for The Federation, a community of digital businesses in Manchester. She also founded Tech for Good Live, a series of events and podcasts that look at how digital technology can be used for social change.
- Dan Stanley, co-founder of Small Axe, a movement-building nonprofit, and currently leads Cohere Partners, a brand strategy consultancy that develops brands and communications for some of the biggest businesses and nonprofit organisations in the world.
- Emma Laycock, who leads Co-operatives UK’s Advisory Services Team and has worked at all levels within co-operative and mutual enterprises to advise on, design and develop governance arrangements, structures, and solutions.
- Dave Boyle, Director of the Community Shares Company and has helped over 30 groups raise more than £6.5M from community shares in the last 3 years. He is a Licensed Practitioner by the Community Shares Unit, and is an associate of Crowdfunder.
- Sam Toland, an Irish legal professional, with a managerial background in technology and housing. He works closely with the Resonate Board and Founder Peter Harris, supporting their co-operatively owned music streaming service.
Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, says:
“We are seeing more and more sectors of the economy disrupted by online platforms, from Deliveroo to Uber. 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.”
Nathan Schneider, co-organiser of the Platform Cooperativism conference, also sees the significance of this new pilot accelerator.
“Accelerators like UnFound make it easier for entrepreneurs trying to make their idea real in the world to do it with democracy. 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.”
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, Stir to Action, says:
“We’ve got experienced teams of facilitators and mentors who will be supporting the co-operatives through the accelerator. We’ll also be joined by the inspiring co-founders of Stocksy and Fairmondo who will be introducing new ideas for business development, digital governance, and crowd finance.”