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At our first prototype meeting, I perceived a tension between the people who were interested in making a profitable business and those whose interest was solely in the community possibilities and opportunities for collaboration. I came away unsure of what legal structure would work best – a traditional shareholder-owned limited company or a non-profit company limited by guarantee. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since then.
On the same occasion I said something along the lines of: “What I want to create is a platform that enables people to create value for themselves.”
The inspiration for this comes from the tech world – CP/M & MS-DOS, the IBM PC, the Internet, the Web, Amazon Marketplace, Craigslist, Ebay, Facebook – what they all have in common is that no matter how they get paid for or how they’re organised, or whether or not they make money for their inventors, they have also given other people the opportunity to create new relationships, markets and businesses that weren’t possible before (btw, I use big examples so that people will recognise what I’m talking not because I think our little project will be on that scale.)
I want everything we do to in some way support people doing cool stuff on their own. I don’t think we have to own *every*thing and I certainly don’t want to create a walled garden. We’ll get a lot more done by creating the conditions for people to
So turning back to the legal structure, the choice seems to come down to a limited company (or a partnership) which exists to create value for it’s shareholders (or partners) or a company limited by guarantee which exists to… well do whatever we decide it should do – I think it should serve the needs of people interested in Social Media in London – if that’s not too wooly (or too specific) – but I’m open to suggestion. There was broad agreement that limited by guarantee was the right route for us but the aim and purpose does need to be boiled down to something that expresses what we want and allows us (as a group) to do as much good as possible.
So if that is sorted, my mind then turns to the structure of this business. I’ve always talked about the three bits – café, learning, working. But that might not be all we want to do together – other ideas for services have come up in meetings too. Can we make the Tuttle Club our base platform? With no direct services except to facilitate cool stuff happening. Then the first cool thing it does (quickly) is to set up a Social Media Café or perhaps the café space, a learning space and a workspace could each be individual, but co-located businesses. And then it can do other things too as they arise. Or am I making it too complicated?
Had a little wander around a little bit of Soho on Wednesday to see what I could see that might be of use to someone thinking about a London Social Media Café. I only covered Brewer St, Wardour St, Dean St & Berwick St and the thoroughfares in between (you know the places you’re most likely to trip over Charles Frith at 5am… allegedly)
I took some pics of the ad boards from commercial property agents. Lots of upstairs offices. One or two boarded up or broken down café type spaces including one with a To Let sign in the window.
Left me wondering whether LSMC could operate in what is existing office space. Obviously you’d lose the passing trade, non-social-media traffic but still not sure how much that would be anyway. Also, don’t know if that sort of thing means a change of use and therefore requires some government interference, or looking at it in a more practical way, what you can get away with without upsetting Westminster CC.
Bonus pic: Before I got that far, I went and snapped the New Piccadilly which is now closed and boarded up. Anyone (Russell?)have any pointers to stories or info on whether the signage or any innards have been preserved?