Update: Sharing Accelerator Barcelona

The sharing accelerator event at the Makerspace of Barcelona on February 10. Photo: Boyd Cohen.

This is the third installment of our series of articles on the development of the Sharing Accelerator Barcelona. We are committed to developing the accelerator as a commons project. We want to include the global sharing community in the co-development of this accelerator, while hopefully encouraging and supporting the development of similar accelerators in other cities around the world.

Here are the latest updates on our progress as well as requests for feedback:

  • Communication. Since my last post we have now launched a website and Twitter account. We utilized Upwork to source the website development (in WordPress) for less than $200. It is, of course, a work in progress, but it’s a start. The logo development was created by a friend of the accelerator, Manuel Portela.
  • Location of accelerator. I wish I had a definitive response to where we will locate the accelerator. The Impact Hub Barcelona is an official partner of the accelerator and, in fact, the Hub’s Barcelona Founder and Director, Diego Fernandez, is a co-founder of the Sharing Accelerator. So we do have the option available to locate the accelerator in the Hub. However, due to our strong belief that this type of accelerator needs to have a deep, committed relationship with the local municipal government, we are still holding out hope that Barcelona Activa, the city’s entrepreneurship support arm, will provide us space in their physical location that supports other accelerators in the city’s innovation district (22@).
  • Reaching out to the local sharing and startup communities. We have been absolutely blessed to have the support of OuiShare in Spain, led by Albert Cañigueral, in supporting connections to the local community. Albert helped translate and frame my last post on Shareable into Spanish and posted it on Consumo Colaborativa. This resulted in significant interest from local entrepreneurs, so Albert hosted an event at the Makerspace of Barcelona on February 10 where we were able to share with the community the progress to date on the accelerator and timelines, and to gain insights from the local sharing and startup community. We were quite humbled by the amount of sincere interest, as shown in the image above. Also, in the spirit of the commons, we are including our slide presentation from the event.
  • Paris connection. At the end of February, I was invited to present some recent research on business models in the sharing economy which I conducted with Pablo Muñoz (one of the Accelerator mentors). We were able to take advantage of this opportunity to meet with Antonin Léonard, co-founder of Ouishare. Aside from other conversations about OuiShare’s activities with Arun Sundarajan who was visiting from New York University, we also had a chance to discuss the Accelerator, and Antonin expressed interest in supporting the Accelerator from the perspective of OuiShare international. Another interesting development on the Paris trip was a discussion with a sharing economy leader in Milan who has been given access to a physical space in the city to promote sharing economy startups. They have been following our updates on Shareable and are quite interested in replicating the model there. This is an exciting development as it demonstrates that our commitment to an open approach does, in fact, have the potential to enable the development of similar initiatives around the globe.

Ongoing Challenges & Feedback Requests:

  • What does responsible mean and how should we measure it? We are constantly asked (and ask ourselves, as well), "What do we mean when we say we are only going to support responsible sharing startups?" This is not an easy question to answer. In our event with Shareable in Barcelona, we discussed this at length with the community. We, of course, have been inspired by the platform cooperative movement and have had several conversations with some of the leaders in this space. We embrace the idea of platform cooperatives and are keen to accelerate some. But we have decided not to be exclusive to just cooperative business models. Others, such as Michel Bauwens, Javier Creus, and Albert Cañigueral have encouraged us to support projects committed to the commons. This, too, is of great interest. However, instead of choosing just one organizational form or philosophy, we prefer to keep an open mind about what responsible means. At a minimum, we believe the startups will have to be mission-driven instead of purely profit-driven. Beyond that, we are open. But we could use some help in refining this, as it remains too open for communicating to interested startups and other stakeholders. We are also hoping that B Corp will offer some help as they are nearing the release of their next standards which we have been told will contain, for the first time, criteria for evaluating sharing business models. However, we would benefit from recommendations from the sharing community on both of these related topics: screening criteria for consideration of sharing startup applications and approaches we could use for measuring the impact of the startups we will be supporting.
  • Ideas for a model of mentor compensation? In speaking with friends of the Accelerator, the topic of how we might compensate mentors for their active participation in the Accelerator comes up frequently. Many accelerators do not compensate mentors as mentors participate for other reasons, such as the enjoyment of collaborating with cool startups and founders, access to investment opportunities, or even joining as a board member or executive at some point. However, in embracing the idea of collaborative governance and cooperative models, we are exploring alternative compensation arrangements. One possibility could be an equity pool that would be shared by all mentors who have participated in the accelerator for a minimum amount of time (perhaps two to three years). We may also need to diversify the equity depending on amount of contribution, as some mentors may be providing weekly support while others might only intervene a few times per year for specific inquiries from startups. Other possibilities for compensation could be cash (if we have it) or even exploring time banking, which could be a fun challenge to work through.
  • Thoughts on reliance on and models for crowdfunding to support the Accelerator operations and the startups' pre- and post-participation in the Accelerator? We are exploring the use of equity crowdfunding models, which could be used in at least three different ways: 1) to support the Accelerator’s operating costs; 2) to support small (10-20,000 euro) investments in startups accepted into the program; 3) the development of crowdfunding campaigns for the startups that are graduating from the Accelerator. We have initiated talks with three different crowdfunding platforms in Spain to identify potential partners for this. Any ideas from the sharing community regarding the use of crowdfunding in any of the three ways discussed above would be greatly appreciated.

While we have plenty of other questions to resolve, I will leave it at these three and save some of the other challenges for the next post. The Sharing Accelerator Barcelona wishes to thank the ongoing commitment of Shareable and the global sharing community for supporting us on this journey.

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