Gittip is not just another web app or start-up, it’s a new kind of company. I’m calling it an “open company,” and here are its three defining principles:
- Share as much as possible. An open company develops all of its products publicly, and freely shares all of its intellectual property. Any software it writes is open source. It publishes as much financial and other data as it can without compromising customer privacy. All employees of the company are publicly listed along with their level of access to private company information and private customer data.
- Charge as little as possible. An open company tries to charge as little for its products and services as possible. Price to cost, that is, instead of to value.
- Don’t compensate employees. Employees of an open company don’t earn a wage or salary or receive benefits from the company. Their only distinction from non-employees is their access to sensitive data, such as private customer data, passwords, and detailed financial information.
Open companies are situated within the wider movement of free and open culture. Gittip itself provides a way for anyone building free culture, including employees and participants in an open company, to be reciprocally gifted by a community of like-minded individuals. The idea is that employees of an open company, along with all those who share in the wider task of building whatever it is the company “owns” (really it’s a commons) would receive the money they still need to pay their bills via Gittip or similar means.
What about …?
An open company clearly differs from a for-profit company in that an open company maximizes instead of minimizes transparency, prices to cost instead of value, and does not compensate its employees.
An open company differs from a cooperative in that the resources of the open company are developed for the benefit of society as a whole, and not just the mutual benefit of the members of the cooperative. An open company in which the formal employees shared legal ownership might technically be an open cooperative.
An open company differs from a non-profit organization in that an open company is not registered as a charity with a government, and does not itself accept donations. An open company also does not have a paid staff, as most non-profits do in practice. From the open company’s point of view, whether and how its employees receive money and for what, is undefined.
An open company differs from an open source project in that an open company is a formal legal entity, and needn’t be about software.
An open company differs from a B Corporation in that an open company is not centrally certified (yet?), and does not compensate its employees.
I would be happy to learn about any existing open companies or similar entities. To my knowledge this is the first.
UPDATE: Alexander Stigsen invented the open company in 2009 for E Text Editor.
Who is behind Gittip?
Gittip.com is owned and operated by Gittip, LLC, a Pennsylvania company owned by Chad Whitacre. Chad can be reached via email, twitter, or cell phone at +1-412-925-4220, or in person at 716 Park Road, Ambridge, PA 15003, USA.