Pic-Nic Village: Crowdfunding a new social network

The Big Chill founder Pete Lawrence introduces a new business ethos

A new age of business ethics is emerging. Last week, social entrepreneur Pete Lawrence launched a crowdfunding initiative to finance the development of a social network that intends to blur the boundaries between business and leisure. His idea for a modern day co-operative will be one of the first online communities to shun the advertising model preferred by larger social networks.

Pic-Nic Village, due to launch in 2011, will aim to connect like-minded creative thinkers who want to share, enjoy and benefit from each other’s ideas and skills. And central to the network is the funding model, whereby people can become part-owners of the community, with influence over its decision making by investing in one of the Founder Member schemes.

Pete hopes to raise £750,000 of investment, which will be used to develop the online community for its launch next year. In addition to the initial share monies raised by crowdfunding, Pic-Nic Village will be financed by subscriptions in the region of £10 per month.

According to Pete, people will pay to own, shape and participate in a community that isn’t contaminated by big corporates and their advertising. “The advertiser-funded model adopted by many of the larger social networks taints the very heart and soul of the community ethos,” he says. “The feedback I’m getting is that people would place a high value on a corporate and advertiser-free environment. The crowdfunding exercise is a great way to validate the demand for a community which is shaped by its own members.”

Pete is no stranger to building creative communities. In the mid-90s he started The Big Chill, which went on to become one of the UK’s most renowned festivals and also spawned a popular web forum that was an early example of social media. Pete was amazed by the enormous amount of activity on the forum and the potential for what could come out of it – artist collaborations, friendships and even marriages between like-minded people to name a few. He maintains that it’s the blend of work and leisure that led him to develop Pic-Nic Village. “I wanted an un-corrupted community. It’s going back to a utopian way of thinking where people are given a sense of ownership, and where they can be open and honest.”

Pic-Nic Village will essentially serve as a personal media centre for its members. They will be able to store pictures, movies, music, events, news posts, blogs, and job offers, as well as external links, that they can share with one another as and when they choose. The focus of the community is creative ideas, such as art, architecture, design, film making, fashion, gardening, music and poetry.

A percentage of the profits from the site will be invested in the ongoing development of the community and the creation of the Pic-Nic Village Foundation. This aims to support and nurture members’ creative ideas, with particular emphasis on start-ups. “I would like to facilitate ways for new start-ups to get their ideas off the ground,” says Pete.

Pete’s venture is good news for the start-up and creative community, but what about moderators? Pete insists that there will be some degree of control, to ensure the site remains clean, however, the ultimate aim is to place power in the hands of the community, where they will become their own moderators.

Time will tell how the crowdfunding scheme unfolds. But one thing’s for sure, the old style of marketing and advertising is now faced with a potentially devastating competitor.

Founder member schemes:

  • Two-year membership package: £100 buys one share in the company and two years of full membership of the Pic-Nic Village web community.
  • Lifetime membership package: £300 buys lifetime membership of Pic-Nic Village plus three shares in the company.

For further information visit: http://www.picnicvillage.com

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