A Co-op Incubator?

August 25th, 2011
[ Software Development ]

I had a great chat over pints yesterday with a friend spitballing the Startupify.me model further. There were a few key threads I wanted to share publicly.

Uniquely Canuck

One was the idea that there is something unique about us folk here in Canada. We agreed that as our startup ecosystem matures, it will be fundamentally different than similar communities in the US and around the world. Understanding how we’ll evolve is less about learning from the valley and more about contemplating who we are, who our parents, grandparents etc are. For my family, we’re closer to the farm than the valley. We’re farmers, we’re builders, our collars have more blue in them than white.

Having said that, we’re also fiercely loyal. We’re company people. For whatever reason, our parent’s generation expect us to go to school and get a good, safe job. My father worked for the same company for 43 years. He started there as a teenaged mechanic.

What does that tell us? We’re hands on, we’re going to grind it out, fill the shop floor with wood shavings. It doesn’t mean we won’t innovate and create, it just means it will come through the work not from outside it.

I’m not interested in ideas that will land on techcrunch and I’m not alone on that. Want to build golf course software? Let’s get some of us working on the ground at a few golf courses. Think there’s space for software innovation in dentist offices? Great, let’s partner with a few dentists and get some software guys in there working daily.

For us I believe we need to do the work first. Innovate from the work out. Let action uncover innovation. It fits with us and it allows us to build sound companies from the customer out.

Us, Together

In the context of startupify.me, what model allows us to share this, in everyway? I’m interested in building success and sharing it, I don’t want to own things, I don’t want employees, I don’t want to manage anyone. What is the right model that engages you? The straight up funded incubator model is out there and known, but what else is there?

In the current model I’ve briefly written up, we have two key stake holders, pre-entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs. We all need to pay our bills, we all want to build successful companies, support each other in that, and share in that success. What model effectively supports that culture?

Is there some form of co-op model that could work here? I’ve been referring to this as Broken Social Scene for startups. If the startupify.me concept appeals to you, would a co-op model make it more or less appealing? Encouraging equity exchanges among members and possibly have startupify.me have equity roles?

Basically all our interests would be highly aligned. As a collective, we would all be invested in the success of each of our startups, pre-entrepreneurs etc. (Bring on the hippie, commune jokes!)

PS: I figured a quick search was in order and outside of a lot of chicken coop sites, Hackers and Founders appear to be headed in a similar direction!

  • http://Epic.io Michael

    Co-op is a great direction. By the community. For the community. Ownership and control in the community. I haven’t looked lately but if I remember correctly, entrepreneur commons and village capital were experimenting in this direction. I’d be a part of a canadian startup coop way before I’d consider an incubator or accelerator. Even if I was out of startup mode I’d want to support it. I owe a lot of my priviledge and opportunity to Canada.

  • brydon

    Michael, it goes without saying I’d love to find some way to tangle you up with wherever this goes so it’s great to hear you feel that way. I’ll look up the project’s you mentioned. Thanks for the feedback!

  • http://www.markroseman.com Mark

    Brydon, the whole “real products solving real problems for real and not necessarily young and hip people” seems to go against the “startup” culture epitomized by TechCrunch and the high profile incubators. Similarly building “real businesses” seems so distant to what most so-called “startups” seem to do.

    How does “useful and grounded in reality” jive with the startup mentality? That kind of thing appeals to me too, but I’m also over 40. As for uniquely Canadian, who knows, maybe its the fact that its legit for people past their 20s to be part of “startups”, which in the USA is harder because of health insurance.

    Sorry if that part caught my eye more than practical ideas for your startupify.me model. The only practical thought I have at the moment is that your co-op like model can explicitly encourage a very open idea generation/evaluation process, connect the right people together, etc.. If the ground rules are set so that there’s a way to get from there to the traditional company phase without everyone and their dog believing they own a piece of the IP, you may have yourself a winner.

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