Envisioning a startup exit strategy that results in more winners and more sustained value

When folks are talking about startup activity, there are generally a few topics that jump to the fore: starting companies, funding companies, and liquidity events, the euphemism for that point in time when founders, investors, and ideally employees generate wealth from their efforts. But what if that last event — that exit — could also benefit the folks who find the most value in what that company was providing? That’s the concept with Exit to Community.

When a startup company takes early investment, typically the expectation is that everyone is working toward one of two “exit” events: selling the company to the investor-owners of a bigger company or selling to stock-market investors in an initial public offering. What if there were a third option, an “exit to community,” in which a startup transitions to ownership by the people who rely on it most?

Those people might be users, workers, customers, participant organizations, or a combination of such stakeholder groups. The mechanism for co-ownership might be a cooperative, a trust, or even crypto-tokens. The community might own the whole company when the process is over, or just a substantial-enough part of it to make a difference. These kinds of outcomes could help prevent the accountability crises that now beset today’s most successful venture-backed startups.

Maybe it’s just me, but the concept sounds like something that a collaborative community like Portland could take advantage of. And so it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that a Portland person is on an upcoming panel about the topic.

To learn more, join the Media Enterprise Design Lab at University of Colorado Boulder for a Webinar on Tuesday, December 11, 2019, featuring the founder of Meetup, the founder of Roam, and Portland’s Mara Zepeda, as they discuss this concept and its potential impact on the startup world.

For more information or to RSVP, visit “Exit to Community: A New Option for Startups?