Published: Aug. 25, 2020

What happens when a startup is no longer just starting up?

If you go:

  • What: Exit to Community webinars
  • When: 
    • Thursday, Aug. 27, at 10 a.m. (MDT): Industry-Wide Accountability
    • Monday, Aug. 31, at 10 a.m. (MDT): Meet the Zine
  • Where: Virtual presentation through Crowdcast
  • Who: Events are open to the public by registering at Crowdcast for Industry-Wide Accountability and Meet the Zine.

The answer, known to insiders as the “exit,” is a critical part in any company’s lifecycle, says Assistant Professor of Media Studies Nathan Schneider. 

“For some people, the idea of ‘exit’ in this sense might seem a bit foreign. But for anyone who has worked in or around startups, the exit is a really big deal,” says Schneider, who is also the director of the Media Enterprise Design Lab (MEDLab). “It's the whole point of the startup: When it ceases to be a startup and the company gets sold—either to a bigger company or to the public stock market.” 

Part of the College of Media, Communication and Information, MEDLab is a think tank for community ownership and governance in media organizations. One of its programs, Exit to Community, partners with interested startups to explore and develop alternative exit pathways through policy research and popular education. 

This month, Exit to Community will host two webinars focused on corporate social responsibility and exploring new alternatives to standard models of startup ownership:

  • Exit to Community: Industry-Wide Accountability, to be held from 10 to 11 a.m. (MDT) on Thursday, Aug. 27, will explore how broad-based ownership is being used to create more accountable economies with featured speakers Amelia Evans, executive director of MSI Integrity, and Jim Kennedy, senior vice president of strategic planning at the Associated Press.

  • Exit to Community: Meet the Zine, to be held from 10 to 11 a.m. (MDT) on Monday, Aug. 31, will explore what a new option for startups might look like and how companies can get started. The organizers will also announce instructions for people to order free copies of the E2C Zine, Exit to Community: A Community Primer, available in print and online. The publication was created as a collaboration between MEDLab and Zebras Unite, a women and people of color-led network of startup founders. Its layout and design was done by Media and Public Engagement master’s student Cassandra Dana. 

Exit to Community connects founders, investors, workers, users, activists and friends in order to make stakeholder alignment a reality, as opposed to the traditional startup ecosystem that relies on a small subset of highly wealthy people. It is designed to enable people who use and love the startups to become stewards, Schneider says. 

“We don't claim to have all the answers, but we have a nice family of startups that are trying to do this, and we have some helpful tools on hand that can help make it possible,” he says.  “We hope that, with time, E2C will be a much more available option for founders to consider when they're deciding what kinds of startups they want to build, and how.”