OpenVillage Solutions for Collaborative Entrepreneuring

(Initial writeup by @matthias. But this is a community wiki, so please contribute.)


1. Introduction

2. Solutions Toolkit

1. Introduction

After a call with @nadia yesterday and as a contribution to the thought work by @zmorda and @hazem around the future OpenVillage “venture”: here is a proposal for an OpenVillage Solution, meant to support collaborative entrepreneurial activity.

All tools are named as in the OpenVillage Solutions list. That list explains the basics about them, and this document adds comments, discussions and ideas around that.

The specialty of Edgeryders solution is this: they are hard to find, but precious, because once they work for the Edgeryders crowd they can work for young people everywhere. We should apply this to tools for business as well – seems promising to me, as there is a lot left to innovate in this area. (Given that the only formal tool for business founders that young people have ever heard about is BMC: the famous Business Model Canvas.)

2. Toolkit

2.1. Agile project management system

The closest we ever go to a task-centric collaboration solution for “Edgeryders style people” is our flavor of Dynalist. Going further, we want to integrate it with Discourse, add a mobile notification app, and eventually replace it with a similar but self-hosted and open source software.

2.2. Economic exchange system

Originally planned to be just PayCoupons, but as discussed with Nadia it seems better to have a combination of:

  1. A community-internal tool based on a complementary currency or timebank system. There are various good open source systems for managing this, such as Cyclos 3. By design, these systems have a scaling barrier at around 150 - 200 people as users will only trust this type of system if they can trust that the other users will redeem the value they own in this system (their “balance”). This scaling limit is not a major issue though, as we hope to migrate to “PayCoupons everywhere” by the time that the collaborative business network runs into that limit.

  2. PayCoupons for community-external collaborations. As a multi-token system (every user issuing their own type of value coupons), it does not have the trust issues and scaling limit as complementary currencies / timebanks. Instead, it relies on networks of trust, given that each user only has to trust those from whom they order coupons (that they will redeem their coupons when requested to). This makes PayCoupons a true P2P collaboration system. The downside is however that it requires a critical mass of users (25 at the bare minimum), has lower liquidity than a single currency, and does not allow spontaneous purchases (except from those whose coupons one already owns). It is also still a never-deployed experimental solution, so we should not try to make it the only option for economic exchange right from the start.

2.3. House management toolkit

From the original description of the Solution:

[quote=“community_wiki, post:1, topic:7566”]Tools and manuals to help the founders of OpenVillage Houses make their projects successful. Including, among others:

  • House founder’s knowledge base. Containing recommendations for steps and processes when developing the concept of an OpenVillage house and setting it all up.
  • Tools and practices for self-governance. Including best practices and decision making tools for a house’s community, as tested in existing OpenVillage houses and as appropriate for houses of different sizes.
  • Tools and practices for collaborative development on-site. Such as “Harmonious Hackathons”, a co-working / community innovation that Edgeryders experimented with during one of the LOTE conferences.[/quote]

2.4. Digital communications manual

About safe, privacy protected communications and information storage.

2.5. Financial sustainability toolkit

A set of well-tested financial planning, monitoring and controlling tools.

2.6. Business communications toolkit (NEW)

Nothing too special, just Discourse and Riot and our conventions about what goes where, “no e-mail” etc… Just documenting what we do and why.

2.7. Business planning toolkit (NEW)

Well, we only founded one successful company so far, but still … here are some inspirations for better business planning tools:

  • Intuitions for business idea generation. This is only geared towards realistic and profitable business ideas that young people in the MENA region etc. find interesting. Based on previous work, a good way is to combine (1) traditional technology and (2) a piece of the most modern high-tech trends available to (3) solve a problem that is specific in a developing area. For example, load-carrying drones made from paragliding caps and electric propulsion. Or made-to-order 3D objects from metal by combining lost-beewax casting and 3D-printing in wax (even beewax).

  • Semi-structured product idea brainstorming. People usually come with a basic idea for a business that will not change (“incubator for date palm entrepreneurs”), but anything inside can change, including the product to launch first. For this, we made the experience in OpenVillage House Sidi Kaouki that a combination of locals with local knowledge, (semi-)experienced entrepreneurs and tech polymaths is a good group to brainstorm and evaluate product ideas. The entrepreneurs should be both from a local and international background, and the polymaths as international as possible since their task is to bring in common and uncommon tech solutions from all over the world. We might want to create an online service for matchmaking into such groups, also including compensation via the “economic exchange system” tool and an automated way to set an appointment for a call that will work for everyone to actually have the brainstorming. We might also want to experiment with different forms of having it (forum, text messaging, audio call, video call) and evaluate participant experiences.

2.8. Business network scaling (NEW)

If the new system for young entrepreneurs, as described above, is any good then the success of new companies founded with it depends on how well-skilled its core people are in employing this system and its individual tools. People acquire these skills relatively easily when having to use them repeatedly for a prolonged time.

Taken together, it seems to make the most sense to employ a “divide and multiply” model for scaling this collaborative entrepreneurship network. So instead of people starting immediately as entrepreneurs with funding in this system, people start as contributors in somebody else’s entrepreneurial project for a time (6 months to 2 years), while being paid as employees. (The usual OpenVillage House live-work integration is applied to reduce costs, meaning that these employees are paid partially in money and partially in kind.) After “graduating” from this time, they qualify for receiving funding for their own project, while training a new set of employees.

The important part for potential funders / supporters to understand about this growth model is: a “divide and multiply” model has exponential growth rates, slow at first but unbeatable after a few cycles.

2.9. Financial services toolkit (NEW)

This is a new insight from discussing with the Tunisian participants of OpenVillage House Didi Kaouki: access to a bank account that allows international bank transfer and to a credit card that works international is essential for founding any innovative business, but the hardest obstacle in countries with a closed currency.

For example in Tunisia. Currently, only businesses over a certain amount of capital are allowed to hold an international bank account, and then transaction thresholds are limited depending on the business’ amount of capital and / or business age. Tunisian students have legal access to an international credit card that allows them to spend approx. 1000 EUR per year, but in practice these cards are not accepted internationally. A law enabling access to international banking for startups is in preparation, but not yet implemented.

So what is needed here is a toolkit of legal and technical hacks. In the case of Tunisia:

  • The usual solution of Tunisians is to register a Neteller or PayPal account or a credit card in the name of a relative living abroad, for example in France, and then to use it inside Tunisia.

  • The Edgeryders company might offer on a small scale to provide prepaid credit cards registered for Edgeryders OĂś to our collaborators from the Edgeryders community, who then can use them for international online purchases for their own startup projects. This should be possible, on a small scale, without making us a financial service provider.

  • A combination of Bitcoin (or another cryptocurrency) and prepaid credit cards seems a good idea. For example in Tunisia, Bitcoin is not forbidden, “only practicall suppressed”. If no registered cryptocurrency exchange is operating in a country and a citizen has no way at all to make international transfers (such as in Tunisia), the only remaining option is the over-the-counter cryptocurrency market (“OTC”), especially Local Bitcoins and #bitcoin-otc. There are very few offers of Bitcoin sales inside Tunisia, so it makes more sense that Tunisians buy cryptocurrency OTC for cash while travelling to European cities. The other part of the problem is how to use cryptocurrencies when a seller does not directly accept them. One option is the XMLGold prepaid credit card. However their arrangement with a MasterCard payment provider was terminated in early 2018, and it is not clear if they have a replacement yet (you can order cards, but not sure yet if and when your order will be fulfilled).

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You sir are an outstanding documenter…

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I appreciate how Dynalist works in some contexts within Edgeryders. For me, the lack of a notif system makes it a weak proposition, because I have to perform two actions for each task that I assign to someone.

With notifs, I can very well see myself use it. I use normally and happily Github issues in the appropriate contexts.

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? :confused:

Fortunately, we can add these notifications to Dynalist without needing developer collaboration from their side. If we get funding for the collaborative entrepreneurship model, I’d really want to allocate some to make this mobile notification app (plus e-mail notifications server) happen.

(As an open source solution, it would for sure attract a user base. Compare @anu’s CSS overlay for Dynalist, which has 91 users right now.)

To be completed. It was simply late and I did run out of time :slight_smile: (Edit: I completed that section now.)