Spain, the country known for its sun and sandy beaches, has become a new sensation in the global economy, but for all the wrong reasons. With record levels of youth unemployment (> 50%), a banking sector on the brink of insolvency and a debt-saddled population, times are tough for Europe’s fourth-biggest economy. But beyond the daily headlines lies a new economic paradigm, one driven by the collaboration and entrepreneurship, which is why we recently headed to Spain for a little inspiration for innovation.

Over the last several months, we have discussed several themes on the blog, ranging from crowdfunding to business model innovation. The focus of our writing has been much more about where we are going rather than where we have been, as our belief is that we are entering a new era where the role of business in society will be completely redefined. While these topics are fun to study and think about, the real energy comes when you see them in action.

Recently, we passed through Spain on a trip and connected with a few organizations who are pushing the boundaries and planting the seeds for a whole new economy. The following is a brief summary of who those organizations were and how we can learn from their models in other respective markets:

Goteo

+ www.goteo.org

Goteo is a Spanish crowdfunding site created by the Fundación Fuentes Abiertas in 2010. The site was developed as a way to crowdfund for the commons; the site only puts campaigns on its portal which are open-source digital projects that generate direct cultural or social benefits for the Spanish society. Whereas a site like Kickstarter funds creative projects and new product offerings that more or less fall in line with traditional economic models, Goteo seeks to create a new model of commons-based crowdfunding where impact is generated through cooperation. Their mantra is to maximize ‘shareability.’

The real beauty of Goteo is their distributed model; whereas other platforms seek to grow vertically and drive revenues through project volume to the main site, Goteo is distributing itself horizontally via their Goteo Euskadi program. In the Euskadi model, Goteo works with a partner organization in another geographic location and provides the code, training and logistical support to launch their own version of Goteo. The projects from these partner sites run on a separate platform (http://euskadi.goteo.org/), but are also visible on the main Goteo site as well.

—Lessons—

Distributed business model – the model of distribution is aligned with the principles of the new network economy, where the real value lies in the community and brand;

Open-source projects – by promoting only open-source projects, Goteo is helping to exponentially increase both the impact and social dynamics of the project;

Foundation focus – by working as a foundation, rather than a corporate entity, Goteo is ensuring they preserve their impact-driven mission and maximize social innovation.

Eco Currency

+ Eco Alt Congost

The Eco is a new social currency that was conceived by Spanish social entrepreneur Eduard Folch. What makes the Eco unique is the way it is structured. When someone performs a service or gives a good (ie. a loaf of bread), they go + whatever amount was negotiated. The person who receives the service or good goes for that same amount. The recommended exchange is 10 Ecos per hour of work, and the Eco community hopes to maintain an exchange rate with the euro that is roughly par. The maximum any person can go below zero is – 100, while businesses can go -500. In the end the currency is always balanced, meaning that it cannot inflate away to infinity.

The currency has become a tool of social innovation in Spain because it encourages local buying and selling. One of the big reasons impoverished communities remain poor is because the majority of their capital flows out of the community to multinationals, not because they don’t have money; currencies like the Eco could inspire new ways to keep capital within the communities. The Eco is also helping provide people who are below the poverty line with a mechanism to sustain themselves and meet their basic needs. While the currency is an experiment in progress, initial results have been encouraging, enough to capture the attention of the Wall Street Journal.

+ WSJ: For Spain’s Jobless, Time Equals Money

—Lessons—

Balanced by design – the currency is always balanced at zero, which ensures that it will not self-inflate itself to worthlessness over time;

Local commerce – low-income communities need to focus on initiatives that help keep as much capital within their communities as possible;

Debt free – currencies like the Eco are built around the opposite principles of today’s global currencies, without debt, and there is no profit incentive for the currency’s creators.

OuiShare

+ OuiShare

OuiShare is a new network based out of Europe that is composed of entrepreneurs, researchers, students and a variety of experts who are working to spark the collaborative economy. Right now, the group is focusing its attention on educating the market and spreading the word about collaborative consumption, a market that is redefining the way we look at our resources.

+ Business Model Breakdown: Collaborative Consumption

When we landed in Barcelona, we had a chance to connect with OuiShare’s Connectors in Spain and take in a few events the group organized. The beauty of OuiShare is that it is not just focused on building the community online, but also bringing people together for face-to-face discussion and collaboration offline. The company, which is currently setup in Barcelona, Rome, Paris and Berlin, wants to make sharing the hallmark of the new economy and create a global network to accelerate the growth of the collaborative economy worldwide.

—Lessons—

Collaboration + Community – when access replaces ownership, the rules change. Community and collaboration are the drivers of the new economy;

Open-source knowledge – knowledge is something to be shared, not hoarded. The open-source movement is redefining how enterprises and industries are being created;

Offline > online – while online is a great way to connect with new people and discover new ideas, the key building block for collaboration is face-to-face communication.

MegaFounder

+ Megafounder

Megafounder is a new crowdfunding site that is getting ready to open its doors to the Spanish market. The platform endeavors to inspire a new era of entrepreneurship in Spain, especially in the youth. Based out of Girona, a small city about an hour outside of Barcelona, Megafounder is looking to give entrepreneurs more than just a portal to get their ideas off the ground. In addition to a crowdfunding platform, Megafounder is also rolling out MegaFaculty, an initiative to educate people about crowdfunding, and MegaLab, a physical space for new entrepreneurs to incubate their ideas.

Founder Jonathan Garcia is thinking big and putting his money where is mouth is by giving a young team of developers and unemployed graduates the chance to learn about building a business through the creation of the company itself. With the MegaFounder/Faculty/Lab combination, the company is trying to tackle the root of the problem from all angles. While initially the focus is rewards-based crowdfunding, the company is looking down the road towards crowdinvesting to unlock the real potential of the platform.

—Lessons—

Education is everything – the success of crowdfunding platforms like Megafounder will be based on their ability to educate their market and build the network;

Physical + Online – by merging the physical and online worlds into one location, Megafounder is giving its crowdfunders the chance to take collaborative finance to the next level;

Gen Y Collaboration – companies like Megafounder, Catarse and other similar crowdfunding platforms show how Gen Y is bringing collaboration to every part of the business.

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As traditional economies continue to be pushed towards their breaking points, the exploration of new models and ideas becomes more important now than ever before.

Overall, Spain is providing a glimpse of how new methods of collaboration and entrepreneurship are coming together. With a new breed of entrepreneurs emerging in wake of the crisis, the challenge now is to find business models to make these new-era enterprises sustainable. While it’s not clear how such initiatives will play out over the long term, the Spanish economy is providing some inspiration for innovation for entrepreneurs in all corners of the world today.


+ BMBreakdown: ETSY
+ Time For BMi


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