19 Feb, London: Platform co-ops: solving the capital conundrum

I saw @coopsmark post this on a Loomio thread, reposting here as most people won’t have seen that:

Web-based platforms dominate our daily lives, offering new customer-friendly services cheaply and conveniently. But the standard platform business model relies on extractive financing, the monetisation of user data and often disregards privacy and workers’ rights. It’s time for an alternative.

Over the last nine months, Nesta and Co-operatives UK have convened groups of experts and pioneering practitioners to explore the potential for cooperatively owned and operated platforms to create a more equitable and socially beneficial alternative to ‘platform capitalism’.

We are now delighted to invite you to the launch of our joint research paper “Platform Coops - Solving the Capital Conundrum”.

Join us for an informal gathering of practitioners and champions from across the sector. We will discuss our research findings and share a new programme of work to establish new funding models for platform co-operatives in 2019, supported by Open Society Foundations.

Registration will open at 17:30 with the event starting promptly at 18:30. The session will finish at 19:30 with
the opportunity to continue the conversation and learn what your peers might be doing in this space until 20:00.

The event will take place at Nesta, 58 Victoria Embankment, London, EC4Y 0DS facing the river, a short walk from Blackfriars station. Please note that the buildings are not numbered in a sequential order, 58 is located between 40 and 50.


If any London based CoTech people are free it might be worth checking out and reporting back regarding the answer(s) (if any) to the problem — we are never going to be able to compete with AWS without some capital to get started…

1 Like

If anyone is interested in participating in the public-facing
Platform 6 Development Co-operative Loomio Group, where this was
posted, then let me know and I’ll invite you or you can ask for
access at:


Everybody welcome. Already 44 co-operators co-creating a new
vibrant community of practice around co-op development.



Sharing this in case anyone is interested and can come along. Ian and I will be going along so maybe see some CoTechers there as well?

19 February, 5:30pm - 8:00pm

58 Victoria Embankment,

1 Like

@aaron I just moved your post to the existing thread for this event, hope that is OK, look forward to hearing how it goes.

Will be there for Gildedsplinters/Diglife


I’d be interested to hear what you thought. I had hoped to make it myself but couldn’t in the end due to other commitments.

Good to see that there will be some CoTech representation at this event. I think this could be an important moment in the evolution of digitally enabled co-operation. It’s always been my view that CoTech could be the tech piece in the jigsaw, along with the innovation piece and the finance piece, that unlocks the potential of the platform co-operative model.


I was at the event last night, and spoke with a couple of other co-op people (waves at We Are Open and Open Coop). The report is now public - https://media.nesta.org.uk/documents/Nesta_Platform_Report_FINAL-WEB_b1qZGj7.pdf

In essence there’s a suggestion for a community-shares type model to help platform co-ops secure risk capital, and the start of a £1m fund to provide seed support for UK platform co-ops. There are plans for a roadshow to raise awareness with entrepreneurs and to understand the opportunity for this model going round tech hubs and cities around the country (although a couple of us pointed out that targeting earlier stage startups might be worthwhile too). Both Nesta and Co-operatives UK made noises about growing the UK platform co-op movement although it was unclear whether there’s much resource or energy for this. Investment from Open Society Foundations towards the new fund, and in Equal Care Co-op, from their economic justice programme, might suggest future support opportunities from there…



I guess £1M is not to be sniffed at, but it does feel like a pretty small amount. Is the expectation to exit these seed investments fairly quickly and by doing so keep this pot full?

The document suggests not. It talks about patient seed funding. Is that an oxymoron?

Thanks Laura - got the 'flu so couldn’t make it…

Same for myself.

I had a ticket, but couldn’t make it along, due to my arthritis. :frowning:

Thank you for posting the link to the report.

Jenni Lloyd from NESTA is picking up on this story in a workshop session at the https://waysforward.coop event in Manchester in a couple of weeks. the event also covers the emerging mutual credit network model which may well be of interest to many businesses in this community, and I’ll be there as well to pitch in with some thoughts on the blended crowdsourcing approach that Platform 6 is looking to develop. Three funding models, three different and I think complementary approaches.


A couple of us who were at the Nesta event had a follow up call with James de la Vingne today. The http://unfound.coop roadshow will showcase basic co-op ideas to tech entrepreneur and tech4good communities. We talked about potential collaborations to take these to university campuses where startups are encouraged, and trying that too. I also suggested connecting with the Zebra community. We talked about the need for more than just raising awareness of co-op options, but that’s the focus for now. Unfound have resources online, which they think cover the next stage of need, and we talked about developing a network of potential mentors who could help startups taking the co-op route (or, frankly, even just other not-extractive routes). It was all very positive, although I look forward to more porous edges so others can help build resources and offer mentorship without needing to go through Unfound.



Thanks for sharing information and your insights. The report admits the co-op platform model is still emerging and perhaps it will remain that way though improving the infrastructure would definitely help crossing the ‘valley of death’ and such. Platform Co-op Development Kit can potentially have a great impact in visualising the path. Proposed withdrawable shares combined with community asset lock approach is very robust, akin to Community Benefit Society model. I presume co-op business are expected generate sustainable revenue, particularly once they receive any funding/investment. In a recent talk from Platform co-operativism, Hong Kong ‘co-ops’ largely operate informally, not registering as a co-op, which is highly inaccessible to form. These are known in this part of Asia as amphibian platforms. On the other hand, one example cited by Jack Qiu portrays a bona fide co-op platform that folded recently, partly because it was not backed up strongly enough by local community. It is certainly difficult to effectively connect to communities at scale.

All non-extractive routes are just as relevant, I’m glad co-ops are one of them but the effort takes many shapes (go amphibians!). I agree that porous edges are desirable and I believe many movements are occurring in parallel.

A couple of days ago at the launch of “Peer to Peer manifesto” there were calls for pooling resources whenever possible and forming commons-oriented entrepreneurial coalitions. Shared, non-extractive goals can forge ever more dense bonds. Recommend the book, a quick read too. The capital conundrum is a wicked problem but it could be disentangled in each part of the supply chain (here communication between supposedly separate efforts is vital) however deep the rabbit hole goes…

@lbj Could you share some links you find relevant regarding the Zebra community?

@coopsmark would be great to catch up one day, perhaps you are coming to CoTech Spring Gathering?

1 Like

A big plus 1 to the comment about “porous edges”. Open collaboration is the key here. Re: “pooling resources wherever possible and forming commons-oriented entrepreneurial coalitions” this is exactly what we (and that very much includes @coopsmark) are doing with https://platform6.coop - itself a platform co-op. Everyone is very welcome to join and pool resources.

I’m also part of this bid for £40K which could help build an important component in the ‘platform co-op software stack’. Bringing the tech community (and the CoTech community in particular) together to support projects like these seems to me to be an obvious way forward if we are to have any significant impact here.

I’ll be at the CoTech event in Sheffield and would love to see a focussed discussion around these issues.

1 Like

For me a part of the conundrum about platform co-ops is that people are looking at the big extractive platforms and thinking how much better they would be if user-owned. Whilst that vision is attractive, when you look at the large scale user-owned entities (things like the Co-op group, Nationwide BS, etc.) then actually they aren’t very democratic and tend towards management capture. Scale is the enemy of real economic democracy. A better approach in my view is a network-centric model of small human-scale nodes federated through a digital mycelium. Resilient, difficult to capture, highly scalable.


The Zebra movement grew from a blog post https://medium.com/@sexandstartups/zebrasfix-c467e55f9d96

“We believe that developing alternative business models to the startup status quo has become a central moral challenge of our time. These alternative models will balance profit and purpose, champion democracy, and put a premium on sharing power and resources. Companies that create a more just and responsible society will hear, help, and heal the customers and communities they serve.”

The community can be found at https://zebrasunite.mn.co

Wrote an article commenting on the report. Also includes ideas about Preston model for platform cooperatives and why we might need “lighthouse” institutions alongside anchor institutions. What’s a lighthouse institutions? You have to read the article to find out…

1 Like

Hey everyone, just reigniting this old thread to say that I have been asked to speak at an event on Wednesday (sorry for the short notice!) on the theme - would be great to see you there: Meeting Registration - Zoom.

I’m only just sitting down now to properly plan my talk, so it’s really useful reading through the links here. I will be covering:

  • What CoTech is
  • How platform coops to-be could wok with digital cooperatives to build their platform
  • Why technology won’t answer all your problems (this is basically ‘you need to actually have a good business model that will generate revenue quickly, not just a fancy website’)

…I’d be really interested to hear whether any of the CoTech coops have built a website for a Platform Coop, that is currently trading and is in profit. I’ve got Equal Care coop covered already. Let me know if you have any examples please. Also let me know if you can think of any other great nuggets of wisdom for my talk.


1 Like