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Tech innovators launch ‘incubator’

Digital alliance of software engineers, coders and artists share a new co-operative work space

27 October, 2017 — By Emily Finch

Outlandish team members, from left: Vito Walker, Thea Von-Mantripp and Sam Gluck

VISITORS from as far away as a tech hub in San Francisco joined in the celebrations to launch a co-operative work space in Finsbury Park last night (Thursday).

The new space in Fonthill Road will house dozens of tech companies and was founded by Outlandish, a worker co-op which specialises in data-driven projects for positive social causes.

Outlandish was created by a former BBC tech innovator, Harry Robbins, in 2010. It in turn became a founding member of CoTech, a UK-wide alliance of worker co-ops in the digital sector.

Other members of the alliance include film production companies and web designers which offer fair wages for their workers.

“I’m very excited about the launch of the new space,” said Mr Robbins. “I think lots of things are coming together at the same time. I was at a 75,000-person co-operative in Spain, the Basque country. They are the world’s biggest co-operative, they have their own bank and their own university.

Taking a virtual tour at the party

“I think what we are starting here is in some ways very much behind what is happening in the world. Doing it in the field of technology is providing an exciting potential for future growth.”

Outlandish’s co-op model sees its members own a share of the company and ensures the CEO is never paid more than three times the workers on the lowest wage.

The co-operative has 10 co-owners and around 20 collaborators which in­clude software engineers, coders and artists.

Their projects include the website www.schoolcuts.org.uk which put in focus the cuts faced by schools throughout the country. Outlandish also revamped the Islington Tribune’s website, and its sister paper the Camden New Journal, into one of the clearest and fastest-moving news websites in the local newspaper industry, having been inspired by our campaigning and investigative journalism.

Kayleigh Walsh, who spearheaded the school cuts website last year, said she is now working on a data-driven project for charity Unicef, focusing on water sanitation to highlight the lack of clean water in developing countries.

Kayleigh Walsh and Will Choi

“My school cuts website had over a million unique visitors and it went viral throughout the world,” said Ms Walsh.

Other visitors at the launch included software developer Will Choi who sold his company Aviate based in Silicon Valley to tech giant Yahoo three years ago for millions of dollars. “I’m here on holiday but I am planning to spend more time here next year. I’m interested in what Outlandish is about and I’m trying to figure out my next project,” said Mr Choi.

Described as an “incubator” space where new tech businesses can thrive, the Finsbury Park space is managed by new company Space4 which has been set up by Outlandish and CoTech.

Polly Robbins, manager of the space, said: “Getting people face-to-face is an unbeatable way to stimulate productivity, collaborations and knowledge-sharing. Space4 builds on the co-operative model to keep costs low and benefits high.”

Szczepan Orlowski, a member of virtual reality production company Animorph, said he loved the space. Their recent project saw the northern lights projected onto headsets for visitors to Waterloo’s South Bank to enjoy.

“Having affordable desk and space hire is a great springboard for us. Meeting driven people from more experienced co-ops is also invaluable,” he said.

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