We are here, deploying our alpha version marketplace and our destination is over there at the far end of the growth curve. It is a long way off, hard to reach and there is a lot of work required. So its reasonable to ask: why go there, why is travelling the exponential growth required? Received wisdom suggests that somewhere on this curve, the enterprise becomes, viable, it benefits from network effects, achieves critical mass and hopefully passes the break-even point.
At the lefthand side of the graph fairmondo uk is a small group of users (121 all counted, August 2016) who think the idea – a cooperatively owned marketplace for ethical sellers and goods – responsible consumption – is worth a punt, its our planet saving idea!. We are a team of 2 to 6 volunteers (depending of life, work family) putting in our own time and money to test the idea. It costs a few hundred pounds and whatever time we can grab from the daily grind. The software is off-the-shelf, it works well but will require development. We have zero marketing budget. Every new user and transaction is cause for a little celebration and a step along the journey.
Our destination is a sophisticated, multi-million pound marketplace for the “good stuff”, the things you know help rather harm people and planet, made by people we trust to do and to be the right thing. It generates enough revenue to pay the bills, support full time workers who maintain and develop the platform for the users. The workers, sellers, buyers, investors collectively own and control the marketplace as members of a multi-stakeholder coop.
Network effects – mutual benefit
Getting to the destination requires that more users, both sellers and buyers sign up and begin to use the platform to trade. Each new user adds a little more value to the product for the other users. A marketplace with 121 geographically distant users does not create much value, it is unlikely that anyone will find the goods they need or that sellers will find enough customers. A 121 users in a small neighbourhood or 12.1m users in the UK would make fairmondo a different proposition, it becomes much more likely that users will discover the things they need, it becomes more likely that fairmondo is the first place to look.
Attracting new users and encouraging activity is our current work priority. But we can’t do that alone, growing a cooperative platform requires – well cooperation and collaboration to grow our numbers and improve the product. We believe if we work together we can start to move along the curve.