OldCo v NewCo

Besides explaining our unique festival model, the most frequent question we get at NewCo is “What makes a NewCo? How do you choose the companies which open their doors each year?”

We spend a lot of time thinking about that, so much, in fact, that we’ve published our evolving answer to the question three times over the past few years. Now that we’ve launched a small but growing media property, and are on track to produce fifteen or more festivals around the world, we thought it’d be a good time to once again revisit the question.

The NewCo Narrative

NewCo’s festivals and media are all informed by what we call the “NewCo Narrative.” This narrative is the story of all companies – big and small, legacy and startup – turning away from a mass-consumer, industrial-based approach to capitalism. In its place is a new breed of business: one based on empowered consumers, information-first principles, and purpose-driven philosophies. 

Here’s a bit more, from our last post on the subject:

Driven by capitalism’s central motive of profit, corporations have become one of the most powerful actors on the global stage. In the past century, corporations have amassed more wealth, power, and authority than most governments and all the major religions. But at their core, corporations are just people and processes. And over the past two decades, in parallel with the rise of the Internet, those people have begun a quiet revolution that is redefining what a “corporation” can be, both in terms of its purpose, as well as its processes.

The global economy is transitioning from hierarchies of command and control to more flexible networks of coordination and cooperation. A new kind of organization – one that measures its success by more than profit alone – has emerged. We call these companies “NewCos.” As the networked, information-first economy has taken hold, NewCos are building innovative, purpose-driven ways of doing business. As a result, these corporations are taking a central role in driving societal change – at the exact moment our society requires historic change if it is to remain sustainable.

The people of a NewCo see their work as more than punching a clock or doing a job. They believe work can equate with passion, community, and a force for positive change.

NewCo’s mission is to identify these new engines of economic and social change, and to offer a platform for the stories and communities they foster.

So how do we chose a NewCo? A number of core principles guide our selection process:

A NewCo …

Is on a mission to create positive change. Sure, any company can have a mission, but a NewCo sees itself as on a mission to change its chosen market – or even the world – for the better. Most NewCos embrace the profit motive (although nonprofits and civic organizations can be NewCos as well), but they are about more than making money. Often NewCos enter established markets that have “always worked that way” and imagine a better (or entirely new) way of conducting business. Their mission becomes making that better way happen.

Is driven by an idea, and tells a story. NewCos are about a big idea, one that drives their mission and purpose as an organization. The company becomes the storyteller of that idea – the narrative actor making that idea come to life. This core story is what employees of NewCo companies will tell you if asked “What’s your company all about?” NewCo people love to tell their company’s story – it’s a deeply felt part of their identity. Often a NewCo’s origination story starts with “Wouldn’t it be cool if….”

…and is driven by its people. At the core of every NewCo are the people who comprise the organization, and the community the organization serves.  OldCos see its people as “human resources”: replaceable, prone to wearing out, commodities. NewCos understand that its people are the company – its most irreplaceable assets. A NewCo is never a “faceless corporation.” It’s more like a band – a group of people coming together to create something that adds value to the world. NewCos also believe that the more diverse the people who comprise the company, the more robust that company’s culture will become. Moreover, the manner by which these people organize and pursue their work is driven by a new and evolving set of social mores. NewCos are actively involved in renegotiating the social contract of work. NewCos strive to make work a pursuit, rather than just a job.

Loves the work. NewCos are reinventing what work means and how it’s done. NewCos believe work can be joyous – it does not have to suck. NewCos view “work” as a positive expression of identity – they strive to integrate life and work, rather than merely “balance” them. To that end, NewCo workspaces are powerful collective expression of a company’s identity. That’s why NewCos love to open their doors and welcome visitors inside.

Is information first. Old models of corporate command and control were predicated on a scarcity model around physical resources (commodities), physical energy (fuel/power), and human energy (“human resources”). Inasmuch as it mattered, “information” was a tertiary concern, used mainly as a management tool. But as the world becomes information, NewCos organize to optimize or rethink information flows. Hence, Impossible Foods is rethinking food as information flows, Airbnb is rethinking hospitality as information flows, and DocuSign is rethinking the information flows of paper documents.

Critical to this is an appreciation of platform economics. The rise of the Internet economy has hastened a shift to firms acting as platforms for extended networks of customers, suppliers, partners, and even competitors. NewCos are either platforms in their own right, and/or they understand how to participate in the platform ecosystem of open collaboration and considered data sharing.

Trusts the open, and is open to trust. The word “open” has many meanings, but for NewCos, “open” has a clear test: When faced with a choice between a closed and controlling approach versus one that requires trusting your partners, employees, or community, a NewCo tilts toward the latter. This applies to much more than technology stacks – it includes approaches to partnerships, transparency, and community as well. Trust is the currency of the NewCo economy.

Is of the City. NewCos revel in the tapestry of cities – their pulse, their diverse communities, and their density of networks, information and humanity. The “tangled bank” of a city has the resources, connectivity, and the infrastructure that naturally build new kinds of companies. The NewCo movement is born of city centers, large and small.

Acts Like a Citizen. NewCos realize their value comes from serving their communities – their customers, sure, but also any community where the NewCo has an impact. NewCos believe you get back what you give to your community. And when you’re truly connected to your communities, no one has the energy to be an asshole. In addition, companies understand that they are being given more and more rights (ie, Citizens United) – but with those rights come deep responsibilities.

If you are interested in learning more about NewCo, sign up for our newsletter here, or attend one of our upcoming events.

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