Some Startups Use Cooperative Profit-Sharing Concept to Create Greater “Sharing” Potential

Amy Cortese reported in yesterday’s New York Times that, “The arresting images on are far from the standard fare found on many stock photography sites. Colorful portraits, unexpected compositions and playful shots greet visitors.

The most distinguishing feature, however, may be the structure of the site’s owner, Stocksy United: It is a cooperative, owned and governed by the photographers who contribute their work. Every Stocksy photographer owns a share of the company, with voting rights. And most of the money from sales of their work goes into their pockets rather than toward the billion-dollar valuations pursued by many venture-backed start-ups.”

Ms. Cortese noted that, “Stocksy is part of a new wave of start-ups that are borrowing the tools of Silicon Valley to create a more genuine ‘sharing’ economy that rewards the individuals generating the value.

According to a recent Pew poll,72 percent of Americans have used some sort of shared or on-demand service, whether it’s Uber for rides or TaskRabbit for things as diverse as dog walking and household chores. But there has been much criticism that, after the platforms take their cut and the workers pay for expenses, little may trickle down to those doing the actual work.”

Yesterday’s article stated that, “Stocksy is what’s known as a multi-stakeholder cooperative, with three classes of shares: one for executives, one for staff and a third class for photographers. There is no fee to join or annual dues; members pay just $1 for their share of stock. That collaborative approach has helped the upstart thrive in a crowded and competitive market.

“Stocksy’s customers include major media names, such as the magazines Glamour and Elle, as well as start-ups and small businesses.”

The New York Times article added that, “Stocksy’s revenue doubled last year to $7.9 million. More than half, $4.3 million, was paid out in royalties. After that and other operational costs, Stocksy last year generated its first ‘surplus revenue,’ or what is akin to profit at co-ops. This allowed it to pay a dividend to members for the first time, totaling $200,000.

Stocksy’s success may be a model for other digital cooperatives taking on behemoths in other industries. In San Francisco, Loconomics has started an online cooperative for professional services, from massage to graphic design, comparable to TaskRabbit.

“Others are developing profit-sharing platforms for filmmakers, domestic workers, taxi drivers and musicians.”

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