Hi from Steve Gill at VME (soon to be VME Co-op)

So might the Malta Co-operatives Board http://maltacooperativefederation.coop/


Holy thread resurrection! It only took another 2 years, and 4 attempts worthy of a book on its own, and almost £250,000 in professional fees, but finally we managed to convert to a worker coop, on Monday 28th September 2020 - my birthday!

The reason for the delay I’ll explain in what’ll have to end up being a book, and like any good book there are goodies and baddies in it, but water under the bridge as VME is now a 35 member worker coop, across 3 countries. I’ll leave it at, I wanted us to be a multistakeholder co-op, but couldn’t convince the retail societies to get involved.

Now that its done, I’m going to be part time at VME so I can be mostly full time on delivering Coop Exchange. We’ve been discussing Coop Exchange with the ICA which is part of the reason for the delay on that, but the main reason has been the focus on getting VME over the line first.

@Cooplawman my apologies for not replying to your post. Part of me going part time is dedicating more time to social media and co-operative forums like Cotech. I am based in Scotland now although hope to return to Malta in the future. For now we’re focussing on getting Coop Exchange live in the UK.


Congratulations! I look forward to reading the book! :smiley:

Please share more details about Coop Exchange. @coopsmark @Graham and myself are trying to pull together a working group to properly spec out a co-op crowdfunding and share/ membership management platform and there is obviously loads of overlap in terms of goals.

I think @Graham has perhaps recently chatted with you about this already?

Looking forward to learning more! :smiley:

Also, will VME be joining CoTech? (I’m not sure, but I think so long as you’ve got UK members you should be eligible. I’m assuming VME is incorporated in Malta?)

PS shame you couldn’t get retail societies to get involved :confused:

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Hi Josef, many thanks!

Firstly, it would be awesome for VME to join co-tech, and makes perfect sense. I’ve been banging the drum for larger societies to spend money with tech co-ops for some time now, most recently in a presentation to the Westminster Co-op party MPs in the middle of this year. There’s a reason it’s called the Co-operative Economy, and there’s a reason why co-operation amongst co-ops is one of the seven principles! I’d welcome any discussions about pushing that issue forward, perhaps with the weight of Coops UK behind it.

Ref Coop Exchange, this deserves a much more thorough response, but the short version is I’ve put in a conservative estimate of about £400k into the project, and am personally taking a substantial cut to my own income to go part time VME so I can spend time on Coop Exchange (which cannot afford, obviously, to pay me a wage!).

Coop Exchange is (or will be, once the finalised FairShares co-operative articles are adopted later this year) a Northern Ireland company, and it has a Maltese company as well. We have been speaking to the ICA in detail on this and still are (although slooooooowly) and a few large societies to invest. It needs around £10m invested to get it off the ground, mainly to employ people but a big chunk is the FCA requirements on capital.

This £10m investment will be in the form of investor shares without voting rights but with a guaranteed percentage of surplus.

Ironically, the regulations make it extremely difficult for us to raise money from the public, which is why we’re pursuing large (international) societies for the first investment round.

Our intention is, once live in the UK, to go live in Europe (via our Malta branch), and then likely into North America. NA is a substantially bigger challenge, likely to require a minimum of £20m for discussions with the SEC, but could be substantially more. That’s why Coop Exchange is a long term project for me, with the rest of my working life dedicated to it. Although it feels like its going slow (and it has the last 1.5 years, reasons why will come out in the book to protect the innocent for now) it is important we get this 100% right, 99.9% is not good enough. For example, a scam co-op raising funds on the platform would sink it. Another example is voting rights - its fine when investors have no rights but if they use Coop Exchange to invest they are user members, with voting rights. Its imperative we are custodians of this coop for the long term future, with indivisible reserves to ensure it can never be broken up or sold for the profit of its members.

Our intention is to get the articles finalised and get working on how we can allow others to get involved and to contribute in a fair and equitable manner. That’s our short term goal right now. Our dream is to have it live in the UK for next year’s ICA congress, but its too early to say if we’ll make that or not.

With regards to the working group you’re talking about, I agree there is overlap but one of the things that drew me to the co-operative movement in the first place is that we co-operate, not be frightened of competition. I’ve always said if someone could solve the capital conundrum before Coop Exchange then happy days, the job is done. So what I’m saying is I’d be more than happy to help within the limits of time, and hopefully vice versa you’ll be able to help Coop Exchange. Perhaps the 2 ideas would eventually come together, who knows. The most important thing for me is that a way for those who support co-operative principles and want to grow the co-operative economy are able to put their money into co-operatives who need it, and as soon as possible, especially because of the massive job losses due to covid. For example, Coop Group opened its 400th store delivery with Deliveroo. If it were to invest some of its community donations into a new co-operative to compete with deliveroo, thereby providing the capital to employ people, and gave its business to that new coop instead of Deliveroo, we’d be off the ground. Its not difficult, but we need leaders and managers who understand co-operative values and principles.

I’ll be posting more over the next few months, but happy to answer any specific questions if it helps.


Would be interested to know why you’ve opted for Northern Ireland instead of mainland UK?

Just because @LeoSammallahti is (I think) based there?!? :stuck_out_tongue: (I guess not)

Well, the first idea for what this working group would do is to help probably spec out what is actually needed. I imagine this could be of great help to Coop Exchange. And given the investment and time you’ve made and are making into Coop Exchange it would make sense to me (at leat in the first instance) for us to just help you with your efforts rather than starting a another (completely unresourced at present) project with the same goals.

The only reason I can think we might want to do parallel development is if, once knowing more about the plans for Coop Exchange, some of us conclude you’re barking up the wrong tree :slight_smile: (e.g. I personally may think that if you’ve already sunk significant costs into imho fairly pointless, slow and expensive blockchain stuff)

I’d love to hear more about existing plans/ spec for Coop Exchange and at what level current development is currently? :slight_smile:

@Graham has seemed to suggest you already have some running code? If so, where can one see that code and follow along/ contribute to development?


Best wishes with it Steve, it sounds very positive

And I look forward to reading the book as well :slight_smile: especially covering how “Ironically, the regulations make it extremely difficult for us to raise money from the public,”

Best regards

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Once again, I am neglecting to reply! Apologies, @jdaviescoates. It is a little busy right now but still no excuse.

Actually we changed plans - it’s registered in London now. NI was due to the potential link to Europe but we’ve decided to change that plan, focus on getting licensed with the FCA in the UK (once we raise capital, ironically) and we still have an entity in Malta we can use for Europe.

One of the things we’re about to start working on is how people can get involved - their time or their money - and fairly. I’m going to blog about this in the new year (try and catch up with @LeoSammallahti !!) and explain the options we have. This is (or to be fair, in the new year will be) setup as a FairShares co-op under company law - cannot register as a stock exchange unless you’re a company. As I mentioned before our focus was getting VME over the line as a co-op - now we’ve succeeded on that, attention turns to Coop Exchange.

The code isn’t open source - its owned by the company (Coop Exchange Ltd) and as we spent £100,000s on it (so far) I don’t think it would be fair to open source it - I’m a big fan of the word ‘Fair’ and I don’t think it would be fair to release the code - at least at this stage. I also believe the FCA would have a heart attack if a stock exchange’s core system code was open source :wink:

So to get involved with the code would require becoming an employee of Coop Exchange (and therefore a stakeholder) but we don’t, ironically, have the capital to employ people - yet.

And I agree that is possible - so I wouldn’t want you to rely on Coop Exchange, especially if our objectives may differ slightly. As far as I’m concerned, I’m in this for the long game - to try and solve the co-operative capital conundrum with an innovative (and yet to some quarters controversial) solution - but it may take many years to get established and ultimately succeed - and many millions spent on the way.

As I’m starting (unpaid) full time on Coop Exchange next month, I hope to share more details about our plans then, and regular updates - with the number one priority being working out how interested parties can, if they wish, get involved, and be fairly rewarded for doing so. The number 1 priority is capital raising so we can afford to employ people and stump up the £2m capitalisation we need in the bank before the FCA will let us go live (technically it’s just under £1m but we need a serious buffer just in case - no point in going live one day and shutting down the next!) :slight_smile:


Thanks @jonathan - the book has taken a back seat at the moment for obvious reasons, but in the interim, I can highly recommend Graham Boyd’s new book, “Rebuild: The Economy, Leadership, and You”. A lot about FairShares in there.


You could be correct, but that would be rather silly of them.

I’m willing to bet that the FCA, just like the vast majority of businesses and organisations these days, is utterly dependent on open source for their functioning, whether they know it or not.

Moreover, I’d think that the code of exchanges being open ought to be of utmost importance so that the code can be properly independently audited to assure there is no funny business going on.

Anyways, thanks for the update. :slight_smile:

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On the contrary, I suspect that the stock exchanges core system code is probably something written in COBOL that is within nested VMs with an entirely bespoke setup. Probably some open source stuff in the mix, but it probably isn’t a piece of code we’d consider to follow best practices of contemporary software engineering. This is a guess though.

Do agree though that this code probably should be open to inspection!

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