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London tech startup gives itself away to mark Employee Ownership Day

By Harry Robbins, 03 Jul 2014

Rapidly growing tech startup Outlandish are not afraid to be different and they’re making sure their company can never be sold. While the companies of Silicon Roundabout try to make their name fast and turn an even faster buck, Outlandish are joining a growing number of businesses that, like John Lewis, are being given away to their employees.

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Outlandish builds next-generation data tools and websites for organisations such as the BBC, NOW: Pensions, King’s College London and the British Council. It was formed by a group of friends in 2010 and has stayed close to its roots. “Like most knowledge-based companies the value of Outlandish is the people that work for it not the machines that it owns.” says co-founder Tamlyn Rhodes. “If people are creating the value through their hard work and ingenuity, it’s only right that they should get to own what they create.”

“Traditional business models aim to make money by underpaying workers or overcharging clients – we want to do something different” says co-founder Harry Robbins. “John Lewis was gifted to its workers because its founder also believed that the best way to make satisfied workers and clients was to make sure that the people that really understood the business – the workers – also owned company”.

“Like John Lewis we want to make a company that’s satisfying to work for and which provides a great service to its clients. We want to change the digital sector for the better and build something that will still be here 150 years from now, not the next temporary trend.”

“The John Lewis Partnership fully supports the efforts of companies like Outlandish to empower their workers through employee ownership”, says John Lewis Group Senior External Communications Manager Neil Spring. “It’s great to see that an ownership model that works so well in retailing is just as relevant to an industry that didn’t even exist when the Partnership entered into employee ownership.”

At the company’s official relaunch as an employee owned organization Outlandish’s local MP, Jeremy Corbyn, was also supportive of their efforts and hoped, “that Outlandish’s model can be replicated in many areas”. He added, “I welcome and applaud this great local effort to create fulfilling jobs and provide training in Islington and hope that Outlandish’s model can be replicated in many areas.”.

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“Starting an employee-owned company needs to be a lot easier” says Harry. “The government provides virtually no guidance, and company structures such as cooperatives that are popular in other countries are largely missing in the UK. There’s a lot of talk about getting rid of red-tape which is actually about undermining workers’ rights. Politicians should be focusing on making it easier for people to get together and create great jobs for themselves and others – that means providing support, making employee-owned companies easier to start and making sure the market is not dominated by tax-dodging corporations.”

Employee Ownership Association CEO Iain Hasdell said, “Companies such as Outlandish are great examples of the success and engagement that can be achieved in an employee owned environment. The EOA is delighted to work on their behalf to celebrate Employee Ownership Day, and make it easier for other UK companies to follow their lead into employee ownership so that we can reach our target of 10% of UK GDP to be generated by employee owned business by 2020.”

Outlandish are delighted to be celebrating the UK’s Employee Ownership Day on Friday 4 July 2014 and are calling on all political parties to make it easier for other companies to follow their lead.

Outlandish_Press_Release_4.7.14

 

UPDATE: We’re famous! Thanks to @jondeano at the Islington Gazette.

Islington-Gazette---10-July