Organise, a U.K. startup that has built a platform to help workers organise and campaign for better rights, has raised £570,000 in seed funding.
The round is led by Ada Ventures, fitting into the VC firm’s remit to back “overlooked markets and founders.” Also participating is Form Ventures, RLC Ventures (a seed-stage fund that commits a portion of their profits back to charitable causes chosen by founders) and Ascension Ventures via its Fair By Design Fund.
Founded in 2017 by CEO Nat Whalley and CTO Bex Hay, Organise describes itself as a “worker-driven network” that provides a range of digital tools and support to enable anyone to start a campaign to improve their working conditions. The idea is to combine the power of collective action, traditionally harnessed by trade unions, with the reach and insight of modern digital campaigns.
That makes sense, given its founders’ resumes. Whalley has a background in political campaigning at 38 Degrees and Avaaz, and also ran ChangeLab, a digital agency building campaigning technology. And Hay was formerly the tech director at 38 Degrees, and also ran Amazon Anonymous, leading her to be dubbed “the thorn in Jeff Bezos’ side.”
“With so many people working remotely, it’s harder to share your problems with colleagues or raise issues about work,” says Whalley. “When people run into issues around unsafe environments or concerns about unfair pay or maternity rights, they have nowhere to turn for support. We provide a way to bring workers together and give them the tools needed to make themselves heard. Our platform empowers individuals, groups and workplaces, helping them to affect meaningful change.”
Whalley explains that users discover Organise in one of three ways: they’re looking to change something in their workplace and discover Organise as a way to make that happen; they join a campaign someone else in their workplace has already started; or they join a campaign calling for a national-level change related to the world of work.
“When people join Organise, we ask them to share their workplace and employment status,” she says. “The platform is then able to connect employees to existing networks of people from the same organisation, immediately enabling them to speak with one, much louder voice. For new campaigns, we can help people build up the awareness they need to get colleagues or workers from across their industry on board.
“Once part of the network, users are in control of their campaigns. They decide what change they want and we provide the tools to make it happen. This might be through surveys, calls to sign petitions, or open letters to decision makers.”
To date, Organise has enabled workers to mount successful campaigns against unjust working practices at companies including McDonald’s, Ted Baker, Amazon, Uber and Deliveroo. No doubt helped by the coronavirus crisis and resulting pressure on workers, the platform has grown from 90,000 to 400,000 members in the last three months.
Asked if Organise is designed to be an alternative to unions or to work with them, Whalley says the platform is complementary to union activities and that many of its members are union members too.
“They use the Organise tools to enhance their impact and increase their reach,” she adds. “For others, Organise makes it possible to bring colleagues together around a single issue where time is of the essence. The dynamic nature of the tools we provide and the speed at which campaigns can get off the ground can be exactly what employees need to drive through meaningful change.”
On competitors, Whalley says Organise is the only platform empowering workers’ rights at scale. There are also whistleblowing platforms in existence, like Vault, which she points out is paid for by companies, “meaning it’s not ultimately in the interests or control of the workers.”
Meanwhile, the business model is simple enough and, I’m told, is working. Organise is free for anyone to join but also offers paid-for, enhanced support for those who need it.
Around 5% of users pay a subscription (usually £1 – £2 a week, depending on income) for enhanced support. This includes employment advice and access to a peer-to-peer forum. “Because it’s paid for by the individuals who will ultimately benefit from it, we can scale and sustain impact at the same time,” says Whalley.