I once was a big believer in the power of capitalism to change the world for the better. This explains why, when I became alarmed with the science of climate change, that I joined forces with Hunter Lovins to co-author the book, Climate Capitalism, which aimed to show the world (and the politicians who claimed to address climate change would be disastrous for the economy) that the private sector could mobilise to solve climate change at a profit.
However in the years since, I have grown increasingly sceptical of the role of the private sector in solving the world’s biggest challenges such as climate change and inequality in an ever populous, consuming and urbanising world. I do believe, as I highlighted in my TEDx talk in Argentina years ago, that cities can be a big part of the solution to our greatest threats, despite the incredible pressure they face to meet the insatiable needs of their growing populations for housing, jobs (good luck with that one in light of trends in automation, robotics, AI, etc.), energy, healthy food and mobility (more on mobility later).
Thinking about the role of entrepreneurship in solving urban challenges, led me to write my second book, The Emergence of the Urban Entrepreneur with help from Richard Florida and Pablo Muñoz. However, the culmination of my research, my ongoing work with smart cities and my own startup activities as well as immersion in great books by Douglas Rushkoff, Paul Mason and Yuval Harari among others, made me realise that the world is in need of a new model for framing an economy which could be inclusive and if not restorative to the environment, at least have a lower footprint. Last year I published my lightly read book (so far at least), Post-capitalist Entrepreneurship. In this book, I highlight new (and old) types of entrepreneurial behaviour conducted in a collective manner without profit maximisation as a goal. In fact, in many cases normal (fiat) money is not even exchanged. We have entrepreneurs working in maker spaces developing digital designs for 3D printed objects, distributing for free or close to it, the design for others to use, and to print locally instead of producing in China and shipping such products around the globe. This is part of commons-based entrepreneurship, which has long been promoted by Michel Bauwens at the P2P Foundation.
We have platform cooperatives, like Resonate founded by Peter Harris as an inspiring story of a post-capitalist entrepreneur seeking to do right by musicians by empowering them to co-own a streaming platform. And, of course we have alternative and cryptocurrencies potentially disrupting our entire economic paradigm. Here I think of projects like Bhiive, the world’s largest time bank where people exchange experience and expertise and receive time not financial compensation in return.
But also, of course, the explosion of block chain based cryptocurrencies and the resulting ICO market is one that is poised to turn industries upside down. Venture capitalists are either shaking in their boots or, jumping into the ICO market realising that it is better to be part of the disruption than be eliminated as a result. I admire people like Jamie Burke who founded and led Outlier Ventures as a 21st century distributed blockchain VC. And of course, some mainstream VCs are getting into the action while SPiCE VC has just become a fully tokenised VC, having raised $40mn already in a presale for their ICO.
In a world driven by post-capitalist entrepreneurs, business models don’t look like they used to. A focus on extracting profits by building walls around proprietary IP is giving way to a new form of collective entrepreneurial action designed to open the doors to innovation for others. All of this evolution has helped drive me to co-found IoMob as a tool to help disrupt and democratise (urban) mobility services. Along with my geeky co-founders with PhDs in computer science (Josep Sanjuas, Victor Lopez), we are building a block chain protocol and supporting technology to allow any mobility service provider (startups, shared mobility services, public transit) to share a common platform allowing for more efficient, intermodal service delivery to users while providing more equal access to the network effects normally accrued to VC-backed, proprietary, and frequently extractive mobility enterprises.
Block chain technology and cryptocurrencies pose the real potential for us to create a more inclusive economy for all, levelling the playing field while improving the experiences and joy, for everyone in society, not only the 1%.
About the author
Boyd Cohen, Ph.D. is recognised as a global thought leader in entrepreneurship, innovation, sustainability and smart cities. Boyd has published his research in leading management journals including: Journal of Business Venturing, Strategic Management Journal and Technovation. He also has a strong focus on influencing practice through, for example, as guest editor of a special issue of the California Management Review, as contributor to Fast Company and as a regular keynote speaker around the globe. Dr. Cohen also, co-authored the 2011 book, Climate Capitalism, and, in 2016, will be publishing his second book: Urban Entrepreneurship. He obtained his Ph.D. in business strategy & entrepreneurship from the University of Colorado in 2001. Prior to entering academia he was a change management consultant with Accenture and later co-founded several startups in the areas of green buildings, software and energy efficiency.