Home » Culture » An interview with the founder of 'Agora'- The business run by an online community
An interview with the founder of 'Agora'- The business run by an online community
by Startacus Admin
Allan Szymczyk is the founder of Agora Food & Beverages - nothing revolutionary about a Food and Beverages Company perhaps. However the idea behind Agora is to create a business that is completely run by an online community so that it benefits society & its business stakeholders as much as it benefits its shareholders.
Fab idea and whilst there's some way to go to make it a fully fledged business, a couple of weeks ago we awarded Allan, with our acclaimed Self Starter of the Week title - offering a big high five to Agora’s efforts to date. We invited Allan to self interview to explain all, and without further ado, here’s what he said:
What is Agora?
Agora is a beverage business that is run by an online community through a website. Community members decide on all aspects of the business, starting from what kind of drink to produce, how it should look, how to market it to end consumers, and ultimately what to do with the profits. Basically, we put the online community in the shoes of the CEO.
Where are you in the process?
The community has decided to create a flavoured water with a raspberry & mint flavour. The name that was selected for it is 99% Guiltless which refers to it being 99% water and 1% of natural flavour. Our line is that “1% natural flavour is guilty of making this drink taste amazing”. We are currently testing the various samples that we received with our target audience and once we arrive at a flavour that meets the expectations of the end consumers, than we will launch it on the market.
How can I get involved?
You can get involved by just joining the website and submitting your ideas to the current questions that the business is facing. You also might be able to become a spokesperson of the business, which means that you can go to local independent retailers and convince them on behalf of the community to stock our product. Should you be successful in doing so, than you receive a share of the profits generated in all the locations you were able to get us into.
What do community members get out of participating?
Community members receive points for most actions on the website. Should the company become profitable than the community is allowed to decide what to do with the profits. Should they decide to pay out a share to community members than that amount will be allocated according to the points earned. (That decision was made by the community as well.)
Why are you doing Agora?
Agora is an attempt to create a fairer business that benefits all people who are involved in it. We had the idea while studying for our Master’s degree where we realized that the current corporate design has major problems. It benefits basically only the shareholders and top management while forgetting that it really exists because all the people involved (customers, employees, society in general) support it. So we thought in order to make a business really beneficial for everyone, the decisions need to be made by everyone, & the idea for Agora was born.
Why do you think this kind of model could work?
We actually are not sure it will work. But we are giving it a shot. There are many reasons why it could work, one of the most important ones is collective intelligence which basically suggests that a group is most probably better at finding the right solution than the individual. An example that I personally like is when a French philosopher visited a farmers’ market. One of the main attractions was to estimate the weight of an ox. The estimates of individuals ranged from ridiculously little to extremely high weight to very accurate. However, what was really interesting was the mean of all estimates, which was only 3 kg off the real weight of the ox. The story for me suggests that of course individuals get it right every now and then, but in general, the crowd is a more stable, reliable source of good decision making.
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