An ecosystem for cooperative startups

Rome, 18th November 2015

Coopstartup is 2 years old and a lot had happened. The aim of the 2015 meeting was to stop for a while, think, discuss and leave again, hoping for a bag full of new ideas.

To describe the state of the art, the opening session was dedicated to Coopstartup main results:

  • 7 projects launched at local level (2 involving more than 1 region, 4 in 1 region, 1 in 1 province);
  • More than 1,000 people reached;
  • 300 business ideas selected;
  • 100 groups trained;
  • 37 partners involved in the local projects;
  • 8 cooperative startups begun (3 in Lazio, 2 in Ferrara, 1 in Puglia, 2 in Marche).

The project is constantly evolving, as it is not based on a rigid model. Every local project means new energy and suggestions for further improvements. From the first local trials, new ingredients were gradually added to Coopstartup – a coordinated image using offline and online tools, more tuned selection procedures, some training tools (the Guide, free online courses, classroom training), specific financial help and active partner involvement.

Looking ahead, four working tables on specific issues (finance, selection procedures, incubation and acceleration, communication and community involvement) followed. They were led by external figures and directly involved all stakeholders – both of the cooperative and non-cooperative world – in the discussion.

Finance for cooperative startups

Finance should not be considered a startup starting point: at the beginning, financial needs are limited but become greater when the business begins and investment is required. The real initial cost involves planning, human capital and training (the so-called sweat capital). Apart from the traditional financial sources, for cooperative startups there is also the possibility of crowdfunding (reward or equity?) and, as well, investors who are not so interested in a quick return but consider more the social impact (patient capital).

Selection procedures for startups

A business plan is essential for any startup evaluation, which should involve overall business project consistency, capacity to meet market needs and social issues and team quality (skills and motivation). For cooperative startups it is also essential the sharing and loyalty to cooperative values. As well, when presenting the project, different ways of communication for each project stage and each kind of investor should be highlighted.

Incubation and Acceleration

Selection is not only important in the prestartup phase but also when the project is incubating. Incubation can make a project take off, however, it can also stall and crash if the expectations are impossible to realize. Incubation also involves agreements and partnerships. For cooperative startups, it should be easier as they are already part of a larger network, sharing experiences with other bigger and/or more experienced cooperatives.

Communication and community involvement

It is important to communicate the change and to talk about cooperation in a modern way. It means opening up minds to new ideas, new tools and new places. When speaking about youth involvement, for example, it is important to go where they meet, listen to them and try to build projects with them. The cooperative movement has a great strength counting on thousands of members and partnerships that could be powerful means to listen to people and intercept new needs.

Coopstartup is going ahead, the ecosystem is growing, cooperative startups are a reality, but it is now time to see how strong they will be.

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