The internet had arrived in the early 90s and dot com had boomed and busted. Website had developed rapidly from being basic online brochures to being ready to link millions of people together to communicate and share. In the early sharing economy days the talk was all about the access economy, about looking after the environment and building community. This was before the big money arrived. Zipcar, Goget, Modo and others formed along with a hundred others designed to share tools and local stuff.
After venture capital hit the sharing economy in the mid 2000s there was an explosion of different platforms that rose and fell and thrived. Uber and Airbnb emerged as the global standouts, raising tens of billions in capital and spreading across the world. Uber went on the rampage, with taxi businesses protesting, governments folding on tax and employment law and their simple and effective app was being used by millions. Drivers provided their own time, car, work cover, insurance, super, health care, phone and more. Airbnb went from a simple platform to share your spare room to the biggest hotel chain in the world with the vast majority of bookings being investment properties.
bHive CoFounders Clare Fountain and Ian McBurney, with a bunch of brilliant micro business owners Founded Bendigo’s first CoWorking Hub in partnership with Haven; Home, Safe. Our first Sharing Economy Venture. This is where Clare and Ian met the other bHive CoFounders Julie and Marcus. It’s brilliant what can come out of co-working conversations and collaboration.
Ian reaches the final 10 in the Myer Innovation Fellowship, an annual prize that gives three $100,000 prizes. His application was investigate “A Replicable Bendigo Sharing Economy Hub”. So close … and yet so far. The outcome from the process was that the seeds of the idea of bHive were now thought up and written up for the first time.
Whilst googling what a sharing economy might look like we found this conference on Internet. Ownership. Democracy. A coming out of the cooperative internet. We sat up all night as speaker after speaker from around the world spoke about the possibilities of a cooperative digital economy. About how the cooperative model cooperative model could work perfectly for digital platforms and about the problems digital platforms face when owned by shareholders expecting “unicorn start ups” with huge profit and exit strategies.
We came up with a list of a hundred possible names. But it was the very talented Dale Harris from Studio Inc (who does all of our brilliant graphics and design) who came up with the name. bHive has obvious ecological metaphor, but it also draws inspiration from the Beehive building in Bendigo, a beautiful gold rush era building that housed the Bendigo mining stock exchange. It was therefore the birthplace of the Bendigo mining economy (of course, before that we had the local Dja Dja Wurrung peer to peer economy that lasted at least 60,000 years). We want bHive to be the birthplace of a new Bendigo economy.
For the first time we laid out who we were, what we wanted to do and what funding we needed to get there. The ask was $140,000 to build and test Villages application, from which all else would flow and our first paying sharing service, car sharing.
The bHive pitch night was like a dream. We worked hard to put together our prospectus and build and promote the pitch event, right down to the installation of an actual wardrobe on the front door of the Handle Bar in Bendigo. In a play on the Narnia theme, everyone had to enter the “new world of bHive” through the wardrobe. 120 people joined us for the night and the conversations were brilliant. Darren Sharp from Shareable spoke, providing a global overview of the movement and Ian spoke about why we need bHive. $35,000 was raised in donations to kickstart bHive from an amazing group of Founding Patrons.
Antony McMullin, cooperative guru/junkie helped us form our cooperative rules. It was hard work! The cooperative model rules seems to have been created in a pre industrial age. We had to rewrite them to reflect the digital age. When we asked consumer affairs if we could change paper communication with members to digital communication, we were told that we could, so long as our changes complied with the Communications Act of 2002. More reading! Finally Consumer Affairs granted us cooperative status. We were now a real thing.
Trebor Scholz came to Australia from the New school in New York for two events. Ian presented bHive at the Melbourne Law School and bHive Director and Julie joined a panel the next day at the City of Melbourne event to discuss a real sharing economy and how to get there.
Julie headed to New York to speak at the third global platform cooperativism conference: The People’s Disruption – Platform Co-ops for Global Challenges. bHive was live streamed from New York to the world.