Exit to Community (Part 3 of 4)

5 mins read

Enter Exit to Community.

I struggled for a long time to articulate my vision for Peep.me. I always knew that things like profit sharing with our creators and community governance was part of that vision, but it wasn’t clear how all the pieces fit together. What I really wanted was something…more. I wanted to build a creator platform ecosystem that would transition over time to being owned and governed by the sex workers who used it. If a platform cooperative is the destination, then Exit To Community is the the journey.

Exit to Community (E2C) is an effort to develop alternatives to the standard model of the startup “exit.” Rather than simply aiming for an acquisition by a more established company or a public stock offering, could startups aim to mature into ownership by their community of stakeholders?’ 

From Media Enterprise Design Lab – University of Colorado, Boulder

Did anyone happen to catch “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix? If you haven’t watched it yet, I suggest you check it out. NOW.  It explores the dangerous implications of social media on the fabric of our society, in this new era of surveillance capitalism, and if there’s anything sex workers understand – they’re the implications of surveillance capitalism <side-eyes in FOSTA – SESTA>.

Tristan Harris, a former Google Design ethicist and now Co-Founder of the Center for Humane Technology, plays a key role in the documentary.  He’s soft spoken, brilliant, and haunted: 3 of my favorite things. So, of course, I immediately started following him on Twitter. While spending some quality time fan-girling through his tweets and came along this:

Immediately, I clicked over to the TechCrunch article mentioned and hungrily gobbled it up.

“…there are other ways for startups to exit that could potentially bring more value to a larger variety of stakeholders. Exit to Community (E2C), a collaborative working project led by the University of Colorado Boulder’s Media Enterprise Design Lab and Zebras Unite, explores ways to help startups transition investor-owned to community ownership, which could include users, customers, workers or some combination of all stakeholders.“

From “There’s a growing movement where startup founders look to exit to community

This was the way to fit all the pieces together.  This was our way forward. It had a definition. It had purpose. It had a name: Exit To Community.

Armed with my expert Google-Fu, I took a deep dive into everything E2C. 

And learned about:

The Internet of Ownership – a collective of organizations leading the charge to democratize the internet. 

“The Internet of Ownership is a resource for the emerging online democratic economy—a vision for online platforms that share democratic ownership and governance among the people who rely on them, especially those who contribute their labor and personal data”

From The Internet of Ownership About page

The first cooperatively owned creator platform for musicians, Ampled:

“Co-ops are for-profit, private enterprises.”

From Ampled’s organizational documentation

There is often a misconception that co-ops are non-profits. This isn’t true. Like traditional companies, co-ops are profit-seeking private enterprises that act in the interest of their shareholders. The primary distinction is that the shareholders in co-ops are its workers or customers — not its investors and founders. This means that the company’s profits are distributed back to its members, instead of to a singular owner or group of executives.”

From “Exit to Community Primer,” published by Media Enterprise Design Lab

“Exit to Community (E2C) is a strategy in the making. It’s a different kind of story, one that connects the founders, workers, users, investors, activists, and friends who have been trying to feel their way toward a better kind of startup. Its endgame is to be a long-term asset for its community, co-owned and co-governed by those who give it life.

From “Exit to Community Primer,” published by Media Enterprise Design Lab

So where do we start? 

How does Peep.me become the first Sex Worker Owned and Operated Platform Cooperative for Adult Creators?

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