Hi there. I’m Guillermo, one of the co-founders of We-Guild, a UK project to create a financial mutual aid app based on trust and transparency which will of course be a co-op!
We’ve crossed paths with quite a few people from CoTech in the past (the Sanford Co-op connection surely) but we were reaching out to you guys now because we’d love to be members of CoTech and have questions about this and other things.
In terms of where we’re at at the moment with the We-Guild project, we have developed an initial MVP (without the payment functionality though) and are currently working on a more advanced version (this time with payments enabled) to run a wider and more thorough pilot in the very near future.
We’re now being assisted by The Hive and, as a result, are looking at incorporating imminently as a multi-stake holder co-operative (really exciting!). In the summer we’ll be launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds and awareness about our project to a wider audience.
So, the questions…
1) Joining CoTech
As said earlier we’d love to be members of CoTech and, when looking into it, we’ve come across the Who can join CoTech wiki where it says that you have to be “a worker co-op based primarily in the UK that sells digital services”.
Since we’re looking at becoming a worker-led multi-stake holder co-operative with a vote weighting for the worker class of 50%, we’re hoping this will address the first bit of the requirement (as we know there are multi-stake holder co-ops in CoTech).
The second bit though (‘that sells digital services’), makes us wonder. We-Guild’s business model is SaaS since, at least to start with, we’d be charging users a minimal fee to use the platform. Broadly speaking that sounds like it qualifies as ‘selling digital services’, but we’re wondering how specific that phrase is in the sense that you mean it. Basically, could a SaaS co-op business be part of CoTech?
2) SaaS experience within CoTech?
We’re also reaching out because no one in the group of co-founders has first-hand experience with SaaS business development. We are experienced with many aspects relevant to the project and we have some general goals and milestones mostly within the context of the upcoming crowdfunding campaign; but we’d love to know if there are people in CoTech who have experience with such type of business in whatever shape or form.
But we’d also love to just chat with anyone interested!
Happy International Workers’ Day and thanks everyone for your time!
Welcome Guillermo, thanks for posting about your co-op.
I don’t see why not.
It strikes me that your plans sound a little like a credit union, are you anticipating that you will have to be authorised by the FCA?
Hi @Guillermo long time!
Great to see you here!
Excellent news that The Hive have finally realised We-Guild is worthy of support
I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t join CoTech
I’m a member of a Credit Union, and while their software operates effectively for what it does, there doesn’t seem to be any drive for extending it beyond the current state-of-the-functional.
This is partially because each Credit Union is local to a single area, so may not have the budget to work on larger development projects.
It will be worth talking with ABCUL, as they perform co-ordination activities bettween Credit Unions.
This would also sort out the FCA req’s, as they’re an existing organisation that is already regulated by the FCA.
I don’t really think We-Guild would not should be considered a Credit Union.
It’s not even really that similar either imho. There are no saving, deposits nor interest in We-Guild, just payments between peers.
On this page “peer-to-peer lenders” are listed as being a type of loan / credit that is FCA regulated.
But there’s an existing network of Credit Unions that We-Guild could work with, as well as ABCUL who would potentially be a funder for this technology.
Working with someone who is already accredited will make getting FCA accreditation easier, as they’ll be a known quantity, rather than just another FinTech start-up.
Thanks for the comments Chris, Billy and Josef! We’re aware of this issue as we know this has thwarted similar projects in the past.
We-Guild as a credit union:
We-Guild doesn’t hold anybody’s money. It just facilitates users to donate each other relatively small amounts of money directly – peer to peer. Users will have their own e-wallets and the money will flow between directly them (we’re now experimenting with Mangopay API). We are concerned this could result in higher transaction fees but it does get us round being a money-holding institution.
We-Guild as a "peer-to-peer lenders"
The FCA on crowdfunding and authorisation says:
“loan-based crowdfunding: also known as ‘peer-to-peer lending’, this is where consumers lend money in return for interest payments and a repayment of capital over time”
There is no lending as such in We-Guild as it’s all donation based. You help by gifting money if you can and want. There is no interest of any kind.
Donation based crowdfunding is not regulated by the FCA and this has been confirmed by them to us in email.
Thanks for this Billy. I’ve just added ABCUL to the list of contacts for We-Guild and we’ll be reaching out to them very soon!
Sure, We-Guild may well find itself needing to be authorised by FCA for some reason.
But I don’t think it’s peer to peer lending. When you give someone money who needs help, you are not giving them a loan nor lending them money at all. You’re just giving them money because they are your friend and they need help, and you like to help your friends in need. Likewise when you receive money from others, you don’t have to pay it back.
IMHO all We-Guild is doing is keeping a transparent record of gifts between friends in need (in order to help encourage more people into such relationships of solidarity).
Reminded me of the difficulties liberapay had with mangopay → Liberapay is in trouble. Our payment processor (Mangopay) is… | by Liberapay | Liberapay’s Blog | Medium
Sounds like a nice project you’re building though, hope it works out!
An enlightening read Nick . Thanks for that.
The payment platform aspect is definitely the trickiest from many angles. It has already proven so to us a couple of times and will surely keep giving us unpleasant surprises. We’ll keep going though!