How do we generate revenue to support the work of building OSCE days and what comes after?

During yesterday’s call an important question came up: How we generate revenues to cover the costs of coordinating not only the OSCE Days, but the needed follow up work too?

Most initiatives fail to generate monetary resources not because they don’t manage to develop and deliver a product to the market; they fail because they develop and deliver an experience, service or product that no customers want or need enough to pay for. While it does require a core team to coordinate it, OSCE days is a collaborative and decentralised initiative. So it makes sense to structure a process which everyone can participate in to build economic sustainability into the project in a decentralised way.

I propose that we set up a series of 5 community calls, one for each step in the process below, and document everything online:

  1. Identify and document our assumptions

    1. What are our assumptions/hypotheses about how we gratify our clients and or sponsors, who they are, how we will acquire and monetize them?
    2. What are our assumptions/hypotheses about how we gratify the local organisers of the OSCE Days, who they are, as well as how we engage them into becoming more active users of the site?
  2. Talk to prospective customers to validate (or invalidate) our assumptions

    1. What problems do they face?  How do they solve them?  What matters to them?  What is a must-have for them?
  3. Identify the risk factors in the opportunity

    1. Are we facing significant technology risks?  Or more of market risk?  How can we test and validate these (starting with the most risky)?  What market testable milestones can we build that would result in sufficient evidence to induce us to pivot or move forward? A proof of concept? A letter of intent?  A prototype?
  4. Create and Test a Minimum Viable Offer

    1. landing page click-through that prove there’s some amount of interest in an experience, product or service;
    2. a time commitment for an in-person meeting to view a demo that shows the customer or funder's problem being resolved;
    3. a resource commitment for a pilot program to test how the experience, product or service or product fits into a particular environment.
  5. Once we have users using our MVO we listen for & tune into the Must-have signal

    1. We listen very carefully to find our must-have signal and articulate it.
    2. We Double-down and strip away the unnecessary> focus on building an experience, service or product that is cherished and supported by everyone who uses it.

This was my first attempt. Does this make sense to you? Do you want to be involved?

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I’m into figuring out assumptions

At least the first two community calls sound very useful for completeley non-market wise people like myself. Even when you’re not exactly fundraising but want to build partnerships for a project, answering those questions helps map who’s who and how to angle a collaboration useful for both sides.

Me, I’ve been attending meetings with potential funders lately and I realised how hard it is to gauge their real interest: even if they would be tentatively up for funding, the question is what is the magic number that most of the times you can’t even ask about in a negotiation? Turned out our assumptions about what the “product” is worth were somehow misaligned, and so this makes us all go back and forth for a longer time than initially assumed. Sometimes there may not even be time for long term negotiations, so proper data at hand, we’d get better at filtering in and out what meetings to take.  What would be a good timeline for these calls and fundraising for the event in general, @Sharmarval or @SamMuirhead?

To go into concreteness, @Nadia what would be a good example of an MVP in the OSCEDays or similar events case?

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Your process, but per project?

OSCE days is an event, and the early LOTE experiences show events can be organized on a shoestring budget if needed. Maybe do the first one like that, then gauge interest for follow-up versions, and if there is, then care about sustainability / proper funding for these?

But your process, Nadia, is great for finding a sustainability model for each of the circular economy projects that will be involved. If using this process in the runup to the OSCE days, it would make it a kind of OSCE business incubator, being attractive to participants partially for this prospect of getting help to set up a “sustainable sustainability business”.

The advantage of the circular economy topic, compared to most other open source stuff, is that it deals with physical goods and upcycling. So often enough, straightforward business models are possible. Some project ideas with business models, off the top of my head:

  1. Open hardware paper pelletizer. If somebody develops such a machine, the business model is to sell these machines. Home owners, truck dwellers and everything else with a wood stove would surely buy them, as it allows free space heating: just ask your neighbors if you can have their paper trash …
  2. Electronics Remanufacturing. This has been all the hype in 2012 (see this list in my blog). Since then it has cooled down and margins have become lower, but my recent tests with a strategy of focusing on some models only were quite encouraging. This of course needs a collaborative buy-in platform with multiple buyers, each specializing in some products. Incidentally, we have exactly that one-of-a-kind software around. We developed it as a cooperative strategy to cope with falling margins when Aamazon and eBay entered the remanufacturing markets in 2012, but then ran out of resources to market and establish that platform. If a group around the OSCE days would become interested in operating it, we could negotiate something :) It's a business model that can work, esp. in emerging markets like India, but needs sweat equity by a medium-sized group to get it all started properly.
  3. Freedom Fones. This has been another business idea that I worked on for some time. It's about adding some upcycling to the smartphone remanufacturing, making the results more valuable. Namely, in the light of the post-Snowden area, it's about (1) removing all of Google from an Android phone, (2) removing all spyware like Google's wifi location gathering, (3) rooting the phone, installing CyanogenMod and adding recommendable open source Android apps. Often enough, this can bring newest Android 4 to phones whose latest official version is Android 2.3 (which makes them "disposable trash" to many people). This is a circular economy project because it is about lifetime extension, and it's attractive to buyers because it is politically relevant.
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All three look interesting. One way to find out which work.

I think it might be interesting to run through the process for each of the projects you propose above. I think it will be a good way of connecting with people all of which for whom the Open Source Circular Economy concept is relevant, albeit for different reasons. Also, I think this is the way to build a great event, one project and group of related interests at a time (in parallel) otherwise you risk getting a lot of talking but that energy is not channelled into anything that lasts after the 4 days are over.