So-called “stakeholder capitalism” has not had the most illustrious of histories. Yes, there have been “Walmart Associates” who may have owned shares in the company, or “John Lewis Associates” (in the UK), but that hardly made the average person well off. At least they have something? In tech startups, however, tech founders are helped by many people along the way, most of whom will never work for the company but who can have a huge effect early on. This introduction to an investor, for example, can be a game-changer. But tech founders have what’s called “founder amnesia,” which means when they finally get that $20 billion release, they kind of forget about all the people who helped them in road course.
Koos (which in Estonian means ‘together’ and ‘next to’) offers a standardized API for companies to offer a form of ‘participation’ in a company’s success, and – latest news – it only uses no blockchain tokens to do so. .
Unlike a loyalty program, Koos’ “fair” platform only pays out to stakeholders when the company achieves predefined business goals. Koos says this means that the platform is much more positive in terms of return on investment and rewards those who have contributed to the success of the company, unlike, for example, a simple loyalty program for customers.
How it works: A company sets a business goal; indicates when the business goal is reached; records significant actions via its tokens (not those of the blockchain); and pays via the Koos platform on the results.
Founded earlier this year by serial entrepreneur and former Estonian civil service CIO Taavi Kotka, Koos claims it can be used by companies to issue “equities” (but not options or shares) in companies more easily than issuing said options or shares, he claims.
It has now raised $4 million in seed funding led by relatively new European VC Pluriel, with participation from investors including LocalGlobe, Tiny.vc and Matt Clifford, co-founder of Entrepreneur First.
This follows a providential pre-seed round of $600,000 from a number of Estonian founders such as Taavet Hinrikus, former CEO of Wise, Sten Tamkivi, co-founder of Teleport, Markus Villig, founder of Bolt, and Kaarel Kotkas, founder and CEO of Verif.
It will now expand its platform across the UK and Europe, with a legal framework in line with EU and UK law.
Kotka, who led the Estonian government’s policies around digital democracy and e-government for four years, said in a statement: “We have developed a digital tool that allows companies to engage and reward their community, expanding the circle of people who have access to equity-like incentives, which in turn increases the pool of people who will champion the business and want it to succeed.”
The startup says it now has 27 companies running its platform, including start-ups, NGOs, SMEs and large corporations. Koos earns its money through onboarding fees, a monthly retainer, and 1% of all rewards (tokens) created by programs on the Koos platform.
For any service consumed on the Forus platform, 1% will be donated in the form of Koos tokens to the customer, 1% to the service provider and 1% to contributors.
Sten Tamkivi, advisor and co-founder of Plural Platform, said in a statement: “Plural wants to invest to help create a more equal society. We believe that broader community ownership leads to more meritocratic systems so that wealth can be distributed based on actual contributions. Koos has found a way to track support from all stakeholders in a community or business, without having to donate equity. We anticipate that the platform Koos is building will become an essential part of many startups, funds, and communities, including charities and NGOs.