FAQ: The COMMON Marketplace

WHAT IS THE COMMON MARKETPLACE?

The COMMON Marketplace is an online retail market created to support and celebrate the people, companies, products and services that redefine the way the business of everyday life is conducted. Companies apply to sell on the Marketplace, and need to meet a set of design, sustainability and collaborative criteria to do so. Anyone can support these companies by buying goods on the Marketplace. It’s an open retail market.

WHY A MARKETPLACE?

Talk is cheap. Meetings are boring. Theory is good in theory. Rather than operate as a consultancy or incubator, we decided to let free market capitalism do its thing: test the ideas of collaborative consumption and creation, social entrepreneurialism and new capitalism. In the real world.

Historically, marketplaces have also been community centers and gathering spots, where not just goods, but ideas are shared and exchanged. COMMON has always been about community. The Marketplace is our center.

WHAT KINDS OF COMPANIES ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?

We believe that business should contribute to the health of the planet and all the creatures on it. If you’re up to something that supports this notion, if you’re about disrupting the status quo and don’t shy away from a challenge, we’d like to hear from you.

Specifically, we’re aiming to launch in late January 2014 with 100 companies and/or products onboard. Our goal is to have this charter group represent all the different moments in what we call the COMMON Day: a day in which everything you do is done with eyes wide open, with choices made to the benefit of the planet and those of us on it, a day in which products and companies that have “good” at their core start replacing all the greedy bad-apple products out there.

While we don’t define the COMMON Day by categories per se, obviously this includes what you eat, what you wear, how you transport yourself from place to place, what you buy, what you sell, what you share, what you read, how you work, how you play, sleep, party and more.

WHAT ARE THE CRITERIA FOR GETTING IN?

COMMON is not an official certification or seal of approval. We’re not a set of rules, but a ethos-based community who believe business can be conducted in a way that is good for the planet and all the creatures on it. That last bit, “good for…,” is clearly subjective, which is potentially risky, except we have the COMMON Community to keep us honest. It also makes this fun, because we all get to play, take some risks, take a stand. Having said all that, we look first and foremost at these questions:

  1. 1. Is your product or service for the common good?
  2. 2. Is it viable, and ready for market?
  3. 3. Does it matter? (Will it truly make a difference? Is it needed?)
  4. 4. Is it fun, well designed and disruptive?

If you complete our questionnaire, you’ll see what other things we’re looking for.

I HAVE SOMETHING PERFECT FOR THE MARKETPLACE. HOW DO I GET IN?

The first stop, if you’re not already there, is our website, www.common.is. From there, you can pop us an introductory email telling us who you are and why you want in. Following that, you’ll get a call for submission with a link to a more-fun-than-pain questionnaire so we can learn even more about each other. If we’re still mutually in love after all that, we work out terms, prices, timing, all that good business stuff.

WHAT IF I’M JUST AT THE IDEA STAGE, NOT YET READY FOR MARKET?

Give us a shout. We’re working on getting the Marketplace up and running first, but as we move into 2014, we’ll be building a community that will be a resource for entrepreneurs who are just getting things going. The community will be a place where people help each other realize their dreams by providing support, guidance and tangible resources.

WHAT IF WE’RE A NON-PROFIT?

Depends. There are plenty of good places for charity and we’re all for that. But the COMMON Marketplace is a for-profit, capitalist-based market, where goods and services succeed or fail depending on whether customers in the Marketplace buy. Or not. We are not a fund-raising company or site. So if your model is classic non-profit, with fund-raising cycles, donor cultivation, events and mailings, the Marketplace is probably not for you. On the other hand, if you have a kick-ass, world-changing, fun and inspiring product to sell and your tax designation just happens to be “non-profit,” come on in. Apply and let’s see where it goes. If the money you make goes for good, that’s a good first step.

WHAT IS COMMON?

COMMON, the world’s first collaborative brand, was founded in 2011 by Alex Bogusky, Ana Bogusky, Rob Schuham and John Bielenberg. COMMON is a worldwide collaborative community of creative and business professionals, designed to accelerate social innovation by redefining the capitalist narrative.

COMMON is one part brand (the COMMON mark itself), one part community (that’s you) and now, one part Marketplace (where goods for good are bought and sold).

In the past, we have organized and celebrated the COMMON Community and the social entrepreneurial movement in general through COMMON Pitch Events in Brooklyn, NY; Boulder, CO; Milwaukee, WI; Cape Town, South Africa; and Santiago, Chile. In the future, look for more U.S. cities, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, Turkey and Kenya. We also conduct Maniacal Business Attacks (MBAs)—four-day, deep-dive strategic mapping sessions—to realign traditional businesses around the new social enterprise space and to help launch new enterprises.

The COMMON brand itself will be found on products around the world—goods for good, as we’ll call them—some of which will appear in the COMMON Marketplace and some on brick-and-mortar shelves. We call it “the brand for the common good.”

I’VE BEEN FOLLOWING COMMON SINCE IT WAS LAUNCHED, AND YOU HAVE TALKED A LOT ABOUT COMMON COMPANIES. WHAT ARE THEY?

COMMON Companies are companies we take a stake in, either through licensing or equity or both, to further accelerate the goods for good movement. These are companies that want direct access to the COMMON brand and are companies we believe make sense as part of the branded COMMON Day product portfolio.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A COMMON COMPANY AND A COMPANY ON THE COMMON MARKETPLACE?

COMMON companies may appear in the COMMON Marketplace (that would make sense, right?), but the Marketplace is not limited exclusively to COMMON Companies. We want the Marketplace to be open, diverse, exciting and surprising. It will take lots of brands and energy to keep it that way, not just COMMON’s.

DOES COMMON PROVIDE MARKETING SERVICES, ADVICE?

Yes and no. There are Pitches and MBAs, as described above, as well as some classic marketing we do in the form of advertising, events, PR, social media, market disruption and so forth—all designed to accelerate social innovation. Check out www.therealbears.org, for example. The Marketplace itself is, of course, a form of marketing designed to create success for companies and people we believe will change the world for the better. Our brand itself is marketing. This FAQ is marketing. But we are not an ad agency or a design firm. We may build teams in that form from time to time to support ventures and causes we believe in, but we don’t have a building with our name on the door, stuffed with departments of people waiting for the next assignment to roll in, the next award show to chase. We’ve done enough of that. Time to do real business now. To do shit that matters.

DOES COMMON PROVIDE FUNDING?

Not currently. We are not a VC firm or fund. We do have finance and capital-raising folks on our team who will be creating workshops down the road for people who need guidance in this area. We know it’s a big issue for every entrepreneur. We’re also exploring putting together a COMMON Fund so that we can provide capital. Stay tuned for more.

IS COMMON LIKE B CORP, FAIR TRADE OR OTHER CERTIFICATIONS?

No. COMMON is not a certification or seal. COMMON, the brand for the common good, is just that, a brand. We bring the power of branding most often reserved for the big guys—big soda, big oil, big data, big car, big big—to the new, young companies who will change the world. We are a global community, a movement—not a set of rules.

HOW DO I LEARN MORE?

Marketplace inquiries: marketplace@common.is

General inquiries: itmatters@common.is

Call for submissions (more info, seduction and ethos for those who do shit that matters)

Questionnaire (for those ready now)