Smartup Zero: the experiment


This is a trial and error experiment that is designed to grow as we go. We are going to have to be flexible, act with patience and be resilient as pioneers of the first Smartup in the world and proceed according to the lessons learned. We are going to make mistakes and might get stuck. That is how true innovation looks like. That is how it works when you enter new frontiers that haven’t been explored yet. Keep in mind: if we succeed we invented a true new institution that can accelerate the process to change our societies. Plus, as you will find out in chapter 3, we created a robust new technology for people to start that process from within their own communities. 

So let us begin. It starts with crowdfunding.

At the crowdfunding website you can buy three types of licenses that all give you access to the Smartup. Two of them directly, one indirectly.

Watch License.png

Watch License (direct)

A license that gives you ownership and voting rights. You can follow progress, meetings, provide feedback and you can always upgrade to a Work License.

Work license.png

Work License (direct)

A license that gives you ownership and voting rights. It also enables you to work for the Smartup. The money being raised through crowdfunding is available as budget to perform tasks.

Campaign License.png

Campaign License (indirect)

A license that gives you the opportunity to campaign for the Smartup and earn your Work or Watch License.


How to become a Smartup owner

  1. Buy a Watch license or a Work License on the Indigogo crowdfunding website. 

    • If you can’t afford a Work License but want to work for this Smartup you can buy a Campaign License that allows you to earn your way into the community. 

  2. Receive an email that leads to the official Registration form for Smartup Zero

      • This will register you in the Book of Owners. 

      • With a work license you will need to fill in your expertise and choose the team you want to be part of.

  3. Receive the welcomes email that gives you access to the Slack workplace and private social media channels. If you never worked with Slack you are going to do some introductory courses about working with Slack. 

      • Watch license gives you access to the General Forum and the private social media channels of the Smartup.

      • Work license gives you access to the General Forum and the right team channels (in Slack) based on your given expertise. In those teams you can subscribe to tasks that can lead to assignments by your team captain (or become a team captain yourself)

  4. Now you are part of Smartup Zero and can follow all progress. If you have a Work License you can immediately start working in your team channel (in Slack) and earn Karma points. 

Smartup Teams (the workforce)

If you bought a Work License you have the right to work and earn money within the Smartup. Working for a Smartup always happens in teams. Depending on the kind of service or product the Smartup is creating, you can subscribe, based on your own talent, skills and willfulness, to a specific team. When you are part of the team you can contribute to specific discussions and sign in to tasks that are set out by the captain of the team. In the Validation phase, each team has to choose a captain that represents the team in the Project Leaders Team. For Smartup Zero the teams are:

    1. Development Team

      The team that actually builds the actual product once the Smartup is in the production phase. Front end, back end, native, architecture, security, testing, all kinds of computer engineering expertise is needed in this team. The development team is most likely the biggest team of the Smartup that works with platforms like Github or Gitlab. During the Validation and Design phase, they do not develop yet. In those phases, they organize themselves and support, review and research development issues that surface in the validation and design phase. They have to be ready to start once they receive the scientifically reviewed Design Blueprint. 

    2. Design Team

      The team that performs all design-related tasks based on The Official Smartup Business Plan. Think of User Experience, Branding, Housestyle, Wireframing, User Interface, paper prototyping, mockups, Icon design, etc. The design team is working on the Design Blueprint that the development team needs to actually build the product. They are consulting the development team regularly as they progress. Before handing in the Design Blueprint to the production phase the first scientific review takes place. 

    3. Science Team

      Science plays a crucial role in a Smartup. Scientists should be seen as the compliance officers that check, based on peer to peer-reviewed facts and models if the product or service is created under the most sustainable and scalable conditions. The science team assists all other teams in their efforts to make the best decisions. All kinds of scientists, academics and researchers are needed. The main function of the science team is to perform the two scientific reviews where they first check if the design complies with the best sustainable practices in their fields and later check if the work of the development team complies with the market's assessment they made. The science team is the only team that can turn back a decision that is made in the general forum. 

    4. Media Team

      The media team has two main functions: 

      1. Internal communications

        Follow all the work of the progress and activity of the teams and report on the General Forum so the community can stay informed on the progress and issues. 

      2. External communications

        The Smartup has social media channels for the general public. The media team makes sure those channels are filled with informative and engaging content.  

In the media team, all kinds of different talented people in the area of communication, journalism, PR and social media are busy creating engaging pieces of content. During the creation of the product or service, a Smartup is completely depended on crowdfunding. It’s crucial that there is a constant line of communication from the internal community to the outside world. Articles, blog posts, translations, animations, the media team has a lot of work to do. 

5. Business Team

This team is responsible for creating a solid business proposition, marketing and financial plan.  They are developing business cases, making forecasts, crunch the numbers and, in general, make sure the product or service is ready to market under the best conditions. The business team also is responsible for The Official Smartup Business Plan and makes sure all the latest adjustments and decisions are updated and all teams always have the most up to date version available. The business team plays a crucial role in the Organisational phase of the Smartup. There they work closely with the science team and do the final market assessment and guide the community in choosing the first Executive team that is launching the product or service into the market. 

6. Operational Team

This team’s only focus is to streamline the cooperation between the teams. The operational team has an oversight function and operates like a commission where they discuss adjustments and procedures to improve the collaborative processes that lead to an improved creation process. They also look at ‘incidents’ between community members that are flagged as inappropriate or unfair. In this team can be people with experience as a Project Manager, Compliance officer, Legal consultancy, and Psychology professional. This team is constantly monitoring, documenting and adjusting the overall Smartup organization. Especially for Smartup Zero (the first Smartup), their role is crucial because their work is to watch the Smartup organize itself, make mistakes and create a guideline, almost like a Smartup constitution, for future Smartup to follow. 

Rules of engagement

Although money should never be the main incentive for people to work for a Smartup, a core principle is that a good effort should always be rewarded. That’s why the money that is being raised through the crowdfunding campaign is immediately available for the community to perform all the crucial work that needs to be done. The more money is raised through crowdfunding, the more budget each team has available. This is a unique mechanism that also drives Smartup owners to spread the project in their own network for more backers. 

The currency and value is one of the many aspects that have yet to be clearly defined but it is very important to be clear to all community members from the start. For the long term, I personally feel that it would be ideal if we create an official cryptocurrency for Smartups. Obviously, this is not something that is available for Smartup Zero but could be subject to research by the science and operational team for example. For Smartup Zero these are the ground rules.

  1. Only when you bought a Work license and are part of a team, you are eligible to earn money in the Smartup. There are two general ways to earn money for workers:

    • Earn Karma points within your team and exchange those points for real money once the product or services brings in the first profits. This means that being active, positive, constructive and critical will be rewarded.

    • Work for money by working on tasks within your team.

  2. All team members can give each other karma points for their help and contributions. These points later will be exchangeable for money once the product is successfully marketed and brings in the first profits. (a solid and fair structure for this has to be designed)

  3. Good work is being rewarded with financial compensation

    • In each phase The Project Leaders Team have to set the budget that is needed in the next phase. The sum of those budgets is the next financial targets that the Smartup needs to raise during the next crowdfunding round. 

    • Each phase has one designated team that takes the biggest chunk of the budget because that team is most important in that phase and needs to do most work. The other teams can get their budget from the community budget which exists out of the remaining money that is raised through crowdfunding. Per phase:

      1. Validation ---> Designated team: Entrepeneur

        1. The entrepreneur is the one who gets rewarded the most since he/she did a lot of work setting up the Smartup. 

      2. Design ----> Designated team: Design Team

      3. Production ---> Designated team: Development Team

      4. Organization ---> Designated team: Business Team

  4. In the Validation phase, nobody gets paid besides the entrepreneur whose work is valued and validated. When validation is reached this means all the work the entrepreneur has done is been deemed good enough and deserves to be paid. Depending on the ‘original documentation’ of the entrepreneur (is it a one-pager or as evolved as a prototype?) the entrepreneur gets a maximum of 25% of the total crowdfunding amount.

START READING AT ENTREPENEUR. He/she sets a financial target for validation. 25% of that budget is going to him/her. 75% going into the Smartup (community) budget that is used to payout the Project leaders team (PLT). From that point on the PLT sets the budget targets for each phase and all other teams get a budget to work with.

START READING AT ENTREPENEUR. He/she sets a financial target for validation. 25% of that budget is going to him/her. 75% going into the Smartup (community) budget that is used to payout the Project leaders team (PLT). From that point on the PLT sets the budget targets for each phase and all other teams get a budget to work with.

Modus Operandi

Obviously, we are going to need a platform that allows us to work together in a structured fashion. We don’t have to invent the wheel for that. We can use existing platforms for collaboration:

  1. The crowdfunding for Smartup Zero takes place at Indigogo. It’s the frontpage of Smartup Zero, the gateway into the community. Also this is a great way to publish updates from within the community, as the community goes through the 4 phases of creation. 

  2. The central workplace for Smartup Zero is Slack. This is a very common communication tool used in a lot of professional industries. Slack is our communication system. Here we can discuss, organize meetings and share our work. Also Slack is a great tool to automate and streamline processes with the installation of so called ‘bots’.  

  3. The shared file directory of choice is Google Drive. Every Smartup has a central file directory system where we save all documents and other content. 

  4. For coding we use Gitlab. Most developers will be familiar with a system like Gitlab. With this system coders can keep track of issues, bugs and overall progress. This is the way to keep coding activities streamlined  among many developers. 

  5. For task management we use Trello. This allows us to keep overview over all outstanding tasks.

How to get access to a Smartup

How to get access to a Smartup