Let's experiment with how we do business


Thesis

The Ventures Lab is a space where we can experiment with doing business differently.In the world of startups, we talk of innovation, of disruption, of progress. We expect a constant stream of new ways to work, travel, communicate, play, create and collaborate from our entrepreneurs.But here's the contradiction. The systems and narratives that entrepreneurs operate within keep the range of outcomes very narrow. Profit or purpose. Unicorn or “Lifestyle business”. Venture capital or bootstrap. Values or valuation. Exit or bust. Death or glory.It's a poor choice to offer our entrepreneurs and innovators. Why do we stop innovating when it comes to how we bring good ideas to life? When it comes to legal entities, funding instruments, ownership structures – we just do what we’ve always done. When we're looking for visions of how the future will be different to the past, why do we assume that the structure of it will always look the same?Let’s explore how we can do business that builds a better world – humane, diverse, sustainable and collaborative. Let’s stop building the companies that fit the funding - and instead design funding solutions that help solve problems.Can we co-opt the structures we already have to work differently? Can we invent new ones? Can we enable more people to participate? Can we write new stories? Can we light new paths through entrepreneurship?

About

I'm Daisy. By day, I'm Head of Group Investment Programmes at Firstport, Scotland's agency for startup social entrepreneurs, running a revenue-based fund that invests in social enterprises. In addition, I'm Scotland Chapter Lead for Zebras Unite, a global movement seeking to build the culture, capital and community for businesses in the New Economy. I’m also a scout for a London venture fund, working to ensure underrepresented founders and overlooked markets get venture capital, if that’s what’s right for them.Here’s what I’m working on at the moment:

  • banging the drum about alternative early stage investment in Scotland and the wider UK

  • supporting the development of the purpose-driven business ecosystem in Scotland

  • venture scouting – if you’re an ambitious and underrepresented or overlooked founder building a global company, get at me!

  • monthly events and content for Zebras Unite Edinburgh

  • gathering stories and resources here, for founders following a different path

I’m happy to chat, collaborate and occasionally consult. If any of these topics interest you, drop me a line!


Innovators

Who’s doing the work of doing business differently? These organisations are innovating in the system, redesigning the structures of entrepreneurship to fit the problems we face.Either in the UK, or open to UK partnerships/ applicants.


Funding

  • Calm Company Fund (previously Earnest Capital) – funding for bootstrappers, that treats the investor like another founder – when you get paid, they get paid. Also preserves optionality depending on the path that's right for you. They have specifically said they’re open to UK companies!

  • Tiny Seed - a remote accelerator for SaaS that includes funding along similar lines to Earnest. Now with European cohorts!

  • Uncapped & Outfund – funding for growth, paid by a % of revenue until you meet the investment plus a fee. Plug in your accounts and the algorithm decides.

  • Clearco – same again, except they've really led the way on this in the US and have some other interesting products that will hopefully make it over to the UK sometime.

  • 2050 – an evergreen VC fund focused on impact for the long-term.

  • Catalyst Fund - a revenue-based fund for asset-locked social enterprises in Scotland.


Accelerators and programmes

  • Crisis Venture Studio - support for start-ups working to end or prevent homelessness from the charity Crisis.

  • Unfound - What if Uber was owned by the drivers? Or Spotify owned by the artists? Unfound is the UK's digital platform co-op accelerator.

  • Catch22 - in collaboration with Social Tech Trust and Hatch Enterprise, Catch22 will be taking a different approach to supporting social enterprises with the Youth Employment Fund by supporting startups to build solid B2G models, delivering public services and unlocking investment.


Governance and structure

  • Purposely - a tool to help you write purpose right into the DNA of your company, your articles of association.

  • Going for Gold - a report on how to use a Golden Share to protect your company's mission. Interestingly, the British Venture Capital Association's draft response to the Cabinet Office’s call for evidence on Mission-led businesses cites the use of a golden share as a great way to protect a startup's mission when taking on investment.

  • Community Shares and Community Benefit Societies - community shares are a democratic form of equity, only available to Community Benefit Societies in the UK. Often used for local communities to raise finance to acquire assets, Community Shares are also relevant for online communities of interest.

  • Purpose Economy - supporting steward entrepreneurship, the concept that entrepreneurs are stewards of a company's purpose and profits are a means to fulfil that purpose.


Exit strategies

  • Exit to Community - how can we preserve the mission of a company on exit? Exit to the collective ownership of those who value that mission the most - users, employees, community. See also employee ownership.


Business in a just economy

  • B Corp - an holistic certification for businesses that demonstrates their commitment to all stakeholders.

  • The Business of Wellbeing - a wellbeing economy delivers human and planetary thriving as its highest priority, instead of growth, and businesses can be part of that.

  • Future Fit - tools to guide companies and investors to create value for themselves and society, now and in the future.

  • Doughnut Economics for Business - the aim of this tool is to facilitate a deep reflection on the internal organisational design of a business, and on what systemic changes are needed if it is to become regenerative and distributive by design, and so help bring humanity into the Doughnut.


Responsible, humane technology

  • Ethical Explorer - tools for thinking about the impact of the tech you're building.

  • Mozilla Foundation - protecting the internet as a global public resource, Mozilla has loads of interesting resources and events.

  • Tech Transformed - originally developed by Dot Everyone, a suite of tools to help you be a responsible innovator.

  • Tech for Good - global movement supporting the use of technology in making the world a better place

Stories

Most of the startup stories we hear have one of two outcomes: unicorn or bust. It can be hard to believe that there can be another way, or even infinite different ways, to do business. And perhaps even harder to believe that if you've set out in one direction, you can change your destination.If you're looking for real life inspiration, check out these stories from founders who found a new path...


Founders on finance


Exploring new models

  • Equal Care Co-op is delivering a digital social care platform as a multi-stakeholder co-op, raising funds through community shares: New tech platform ready to “radically reshape” UK social care system

  • Have you heard about Mondragon, the world's largest worker-owned co-operative?

  • How Yvon Chouinard turned his eco-conscious, anti-corporate ideals into the credo of a successful clothing company: Patagonia's Philosopher-King

  • Juho Makkonen of Sharetribe opted for a 'steward-ownership' model to ensure the company would always work in service of society, not the other way around: Steward-ownership is capitalism 2.0

  • In 1961, the three Robertson sisters founded a charity, gifting it their shares in the family business. The business was Edrington, which today makes some of the biggest names in Scotch whiskies, and is still majority-owned by The Robertson Trust, Scotland's largest independent grant-making charity. Read about Robertson and Edrington.

  • Obran does private equity with a difference - a co-op conglomerate holding profitable small to medium size businesses and real estate on behalf of worker-owners.

  • Blipfoto exited to community and is now owned by its users.


Books & Articles

Blogs, articles, long reads, academic papers and books - the theory behind the practice.If you're buying books, please consider secondhand!


Innovating with Investment


New economics


Changing innovation


Exit with Impact

Contact

Let's experiment with the way we put ideas into the world. Together!
Please get in touch if you're interested in conversation, collaboration or consultation.