The Problem –

The current economic need to compete against one another, in addition to external forces, means that many people get the short end of the stick.

In response to this growing divide, people protest those who won this lottery instead of working together to take matters into our own hands.

Often a reason for this divide is due to a lack of skill.  This is perhaps a reason for the protesting instead of progressing – people do not have the abilities they need to implement a solution.

 

The Solution –

Create a network of cooperatively run businesses that can mentor people with their own inventions until the new ideas can be made into something of direct value to the world.  They will then iterate on this collaborative model by starting their own cooperative.  Founders of a cooperative and other people invested in an idea full time will be seen as “Operative Members” or simply Members while people affiliated with a current coop but also working their own endeavors will be seen as “Associate Members” or simply Associates.  Each associate will spend approximately half their time working with existing cooperative members and half their time turning their own ideas into actionable procedures toward the attainment of a viable product or service.  Because they will be working for an existing coop part of their time, associates will be paid a stipend instead of needing to cough up an inordinate sum in loans or tuition as they would in the standard way of learning and business growth.  When the person has gained enough knowledge and skill and advanced their own project sufficiently, they will either start their own cooperative, thus iterating on this model, or join as a member of an existing cooperative, if the ideas this member has been working on are in line with the mission of that cooperative.

 

Community Served

The Other Realm will be focused on serving people who, for whatever reason, do not mesh well with the present education and economic structure predominating in the U.S.  Whereas the current methods of higher education and business incubator systems are by and large highly competitive, we will not discriminate based on a person’s current ability, knowledge and skill but direct them towards the path they desire to lead.

 

Mission

The goals for which The Other Realm was formed are to:

  1. Foster sustainable, cooperative education and innovation that leads to the betterment of those involved
  2. Lower the energy and complexity necessary to get a task done with the expressed or implied purpose of making room for previously unachievable tasks
  3. Promote community while encouraging individuality and uniqueness in all

These goals are to be for the purpose of directing where entropy is headed and using it to benefit humanity in an ever more joyful way.

 

Objectives

  • Recognize people’s achievements, allow people to distinguish themselves, but realize that everyone has a part to play in making other peoples’ achievements a success.
  • Learn from each other and teach each other.
  • Compete against the unknown and collaborate in order to do this
  • For mutual agreement to be achieved within a group without any one party having more say in the matter because of status or seniority

 

The Phases of the Solution

tOR will be implemented in several phases.  Some of the activities in each phase will continue into the next phases.  The “phase” breakdown is primarily based on goals that are achieved and the focus, rather than the tasks at hand or their order.

 

Phase 1 – Find collaborators (timeline: 1-12 months)

To begin, tOR will build a network of people who have ideas but do not want to fight with other people in order to have these ideas brought to light.

Class

This class will be all about creating collaborative, interconnected businesses that solve unmet needs in a community.  Participants will use ideas they though up prior to joining the class, or else identify current problems that have gone unaddressed and that are of significance to them and others.  Although there is no restriction on the topic the participant addresses (within reason, nothing harmful, illegal, ex.), there will be a focus primarily around health, technology, and science.  Additionally, a look at how these topics can be sustainably brought into greater public focus, shifting them away from the current media focus of political divisiveness and other dystopic subjects will be discussed.  We will then work together with members of the wider community to develop solutions that solve these problems.  Along the way, we will document the progress by the production of content in various multimedia modalities.  This will act as both a learning reinforcement technique as well as a means of getting the word out about the products and services created.  Marketing is important in virtually every industry and the ability to get the right message out to the right people is one of the largest gauges for success of a startup.  Finally, we will work to implement the solutions the participants have developed in a financially and societally sustainable way.

Podcast

As a marketing tool and means of generating revenue, tOR will create podcasts and eventually other forms of media.  This will be done in part collaboratively with the class.  See the marketing link for more detail about the specific podcasts we are planning on creating.

 

Phase 2 – Capital (timeline:1-6 months) see also Tentative Budget

To gain capital sufficient to proceed to the next phase, the following methods will be weighed and given priority in order of potential benefit divided by amount of projected effort necessary for them to be accessed:

-Grants/Donations

Advantages –

Potential for temporary funding for a up to a couple of years with less work then it would be to bring a product to market that will earn sufficient ROE to be the sole source of financing for the research into the next product.  This means that work can more tied to what is wanted by the group rather than by what is needed short term to keep the organization afloat.

Disadvantages

-Potential to be tied in to a certain way of doing things or a certain organization, institution or corporation’s goals and strategies that may not match our own.

-Usually only short term

-A hassle working on finding and writing the grants

-Will probably not be the sole source of funding

-Some infrastructure needs to be in place before most grants/loans are up for consideration.

-Crowd Funding

Advantages

-Basically the same advantages as for grants

-Crowd funding can double as a marketing tool

-Less legal strings attached (possibly more social strings though)

Disadvantages

-The majority of the prototyping and manufacturing logistics need to be done prior to the launch of the campaign

-Crowd funding can lead to an obligation to need to stick to what is marketed in the funding push

-Usually only short term

-A hassle working on amping up the vibe, can take up a significant amount of time.

Potential Crowd Funding platforms

-Kickstarter

-Indiegogo

-Experiment.com

-ActBlue

-Own donations using PayPal, Common Good or other credit card processing company such as the above

-Loan

Advantages

-Cheaper to payback then Venture Capital

-Possible source of support and advising, although probably less than angle/venture investors

Disadvantages

-Obviously loans need to be paid off plus interest and most loans are non-forgiving

-Possibility of stress

-More stringent requirements

-Angle Investors/Venture Capital

Advantages

-Likely one of the largest source of capital

-Potential for more than simply monetary contributions (i.e., advice, business connections)

Disadvantages

-Will want a return on the investment and are probably less likely to contribute because we will be a worker cooperative and eventually a nonprofit that puts priorities on helping people and returning profits to operative members, not outside leaches

-Will most likely want a say in how the business is run

-Partner with UMASS/Five Colleges/Another organization or business

Advantages

-Many existing resources

-Probably the largest source of ready knowledge in the area for advice and training

-Abundant student help?

-Because of the first two advantages, potentially a quicker means of producing a viable product

Disadvantages

-Probable to have much less autonomy

-Probably need to share in income

-Less ability to scale on our own timeframe and to the same extent

 

Phase 3 – achieve homeostasis (timeline: 1-4 years)

When funding is procured, the coop will implement the infrastructural framework to ensure its sustainability and long term growth.  This includes developing the financial income and infrastructural capacity to insure the long term sustainably of tOR and partner cooperatives.

Concept map of ideas and their relationship to people and interests –

The relationship between the people making up the cooperatives, their needs, assets, desires, the projects planned or under way, and the input/output exogenous to the system will grow increasingly complex.  The need to gleam meaning from the data will therefore gain ever greater importance.  To achieve this, an easy to use and edit concept map program will be created that will show the relationship of people, ideas and resources.

Physical space –

We will need to weigh quite a few factors when considering a good location.  On the one hand, being located in a central space (downtown Holyoke/Springfield) will attract more people, however the downsides are that the real estate is likely more expensive, there is little open space and bicycling may be more dangerous to name a few.  However, big factors are that the space is within walking distance to a bus stop, bike-able, and not overly far from Northampton, Amherst, Holyoke, and Greenfield.  This makes towns around Hatfield, Whatley, Sunderland, Hadley, Deerfield, Easthampton, Northampton, Southampton, Non-Downtown Holyoke, Leverett or South Hadley the most promising locations.  Until we get nonprofit status anyway, Hadley would be a good location because it has by far the lowest property taxes and it is a rather central location.  However general real estate prices are higher and finding a good fit there may be difficult.  Careful research will be important when the time comes that we are in a position to purchase land.  The reason we are not seriously considering renting is because, when we move into Phase 4, considerable infrastructure will be necessary, meaning being at the whim of a landlord would be a liability.  Furthermore, the concept of the tenant/landlord relationship is counter to the ideals of ownership and equality.

Coop Server –

This will be a web hosting platform that lets you log onto a preconfigured Linux virtual machine from anywhere, using any platform that has internet access.  The hope, although this is still in the works, is to then put together a network of tech cooperatives in which an OpenStack system of distributed servers could be deployed.  OpenStack is an open source platform that lets you distribute resources across many servers.  Any tech coop (or really anyone at all) with a server in the network could have their server use distributed throughout the world, thus reducing the need for any one group to have to deploy and maintain many servers or pay a third party and give up server sovereignty to a third party in order to have a distributed system.  It would be a cooperative endeavor where those who use more than the available resources on their system will pay those who use less and then a general fee will be decided on for upkeep of the system as a whole that everyone pays (and that goes to those maintaining the system [maybe you!]).  The service we (tOR) would provide would be a server node, all preconfigured and ready to integrate into the larger system with n-number of VMs all set up.  This could be a subscription service to just subscribe to the distributed system and pay the existing group of physical servers.  However, we will also have an option to buy a unit out right and the software part of the system will be available under an open source license.

The main market and feature focus of what tOR will be working on in the beginning will be for people interested in starting collaborative science, teaching, alternative health and therapy/coaching businesses.  The environment will eventually provide easy access to public data services and connectivity to external devices (POS machines, wearable devices, sensors other electronics, ex.).  The hope is to also integrate an online “coop tech” iteration of Common Good™ Finance’s Common Good™ System, allowing free transactions between anyone with a registered Common Good™ account and eventually credit/debit card payment even from non-Common Good™ subscribers that are then transferred to the recipient’s Common Good™ account.  We will also setup one of the open source QuickBooks alternatives and have this custom modified to support Common Good™.

 

Phase 4 – achieve allostasis and have this grow and grow – (timeline: ∞)

Once homeostasis is achieved, our next step is to take factors external to simply those of maintaining the integrity of just tOR.  This is a non-exhaustive list of the ideas that tOR will be pursuing once Phases 1, 2, and 3 have been set up.  This is not to say that activities started in these previous phases will not continue.

Create Gnu Life

This will be a cellular biology lab that both analyses understudied plants and micro-organisms and researches gene cloning, chimera creation and synthetic reproduction in an open and collaborative way.

Pressure Power

This will be a design and research project that investigates water pressure as a compact means of energy storage

Other Mind

This is a research project that attempts to harness artificial intelligence to augment real intelligence using EEG and other brain reading technologies.

Garden Underground

This is a simple project to sell ready to go kits to grow vegetables in your basement (for people in cities or anyone in the winter.

 

Phase 5 – Iterate

Coop conference –

An important component of tOR’s plan to catalyze the worker cooperative/solidarity model as the future method of business and job growth will be to initiate an annual event that is part a job fair and part a startup conference.  Associates that have matured to be separate business entities and are now looking to take on associates of their own, other cooperatives in the area looking to hire and possibly other businesses that have a sociocratic/holocratic/democratic/ex. form of governance, will come to recruit new people looking for work.  We will then look for people who are seeking employment and people networking to find partners in their new business ideas.  Finally, we will seek venture capital/seed funders who agree to work with the new businesses that form.  The difference between this conference and any other job fair or start conference is that the conference does not end until everyone has found a job with an existing coop or a new collaborative venture.  All the newly started businesses will adopt some version of the collaborative work/learn/create model of tOR and agree to iterate on this model.  The end result, if everything goes as planned, will be that overtime, more and more businesses will be created using this model.  The hope is that this means, also overtime, that the economic divide between the haves’ and the have not’s – those just barely treading water and those with cruise ships of their own – will start to even out.

 

Evaluation

There will be qualitative reviews on an ongoing basis in regular meetings between members and the wider community.  In addition, using the concept map app we create, we will be able to maintain close to automated tracking of our progress (things like Profit/Loss/Liquidly, inventory, fulfillment of member needs, ex.) in a quantitative sense.

 

Tentative Budget

The main startup cost in fixed assets is estimated to be the acquisition of land.  Although the total cost of acquiring land ranges anywhere from under $100,000 to in excess of $1,000,000, we will use $500,000 as our midline price until a more thorough evaluation of our needs and optimal location is done.  Electronic equipment, including a web and backup server, a few workstations, A/V equipment and peripherals will probably be below $50,000 and we will probably have around $35,000 in other fixed assets that we will need to acquire.

Our main operating capital expenditure will be a salary of 3-6 fulltime members and 6-10 associate members.  Between the people we plan to have as initial fulltime members we will need skills in network security, legal and basic accounting.  Between all people working with tOR, we will also need skills in computer programming, people doing business assessment and planning, skills in graphic design, P.R., grant writing, acting/voice, A/V editing, journalism and social media.  The full time members will get a starting salary of $50,000 plus a proportion of any profit in excess of this amount and the associate members will initially get a stipend of $12,000.  This is unless the organization as a whole runs in jeopardy of bankruptcy, or we in general decide otherwise.  In any case, it will be split equally for fulltime members and equally for associate members.

Our income and means of long term sustainability will come, after initial grants, investments, and other startup funding, from the sale of ready go to coop servers and the subscription VPS services.  We expect to be able to break even on this product/service alone; however it could be a year to three years until we start generating income from this venture.  Another source of income will be from selling “supporter” ads (in a similar vein as NPR sponsorships).  This could also potentially generate enough income.  Eventually spinoffs from Phase 4 project’s commercialization are expected to prove highly profitable.  However it is too early to tell when this will happen and we will not rely on this until we have a better idea when this phase will commence.

We will seek $1,350,000 in initial capital to last us at least two years, first from donations and grants, then from crowdfunding and finally, if those low risk avenues have been exhausted or are taking too much time, venture capital or loans.

Estimate Required Start-Up Funds – First year Amount
Fixed Assets
Land/building $500,000
Electronic Equipment $50,000
~Microphones
~Computers
~Keyboard
~Server
~Miscellaneous
Furniture and Fixtures $2,000
Other Fixed Assets $30,000
Total Fixed Assets $582,000
Operating Capital
Salary full time ($50,000 x 3) $150,000
Associates ($12,000 x 10) $120,000
Insurance Premiums $32,856
~Health $10,800
~Business $18,000
~Dental $4,056
Legal and Accounting Fees $5,000
Food for meetings/events $12,000
Utility $3,000
Office Supplies $1,000
Internet $6,000
Advertising and Promotions $1,000
Taxes ?
Working Capital (Cash On Hand) $20,000
Total Operating Capital $350,856
Total Required Funds $932,856

 

Podcast Income, First Year

Price Per Units Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Totals  
1-Advertisement, The Other Voice; Prox. 15-30min $0.10 # Downloads per Month 0 0 0 0 15,000 25,000 35,000 45,000 55,000 65,000 75,000 85,000 400,000 $40,000
Spotlight On, The Other Voice $1,000.00 # Shows per Month 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 9 $9,000
Sub Total $49,000