USS Social Enterprise, part 5: Governance + Structure


It was Scotty that started it: typical left-wing Celt. “I cannae go on giving everything Cap’n, without feeling like I have a stake in it, like I own a bit of it”. As is my wont with Scotty, I would have laughed it off, but a bunch of others piled in and agreed. My gut reaction was that everything was working pretty well so far: 4 planets in, funding in place for another 4, good “evaluation” data from Spock’s team, and so on. Still, I’m nothing if not a listening type of leader….so I heard them out.
Turns out, they had a fair enough point. I hadn’t really given our legal structure or governance much thought: too busy getting on with the job (I’ve very much from what my Uncle Bob used to call the JFDI* school of management) . We’d set up simply as a limited company, but it appears there are several different options. Scotty was all for us becoming a workers’ co-operative, while Spock had found out about some new-fangled thing called a Space Interest Company (SIC), and Uhura felt that being a registered charity would be best.

Tough call, this. Lots to weigh up: I’m certainly keen to share ownership, but also want us to be entrepreneurial and agile. I also want us to earn most of our own income, and possibly attract bigger investment in future, but be open now to some traditional start-up charitable funding. And the tax relief is appealing: the rates on our space dock are pretty scary. I also like Scotty’s point about people having shared goals and shared “skin in the game, Cap’n”; none of us are in this to get rich, so sharing risk and reward seems like a good way to go. And we’re a diverse bunch on board (Uhura once called the bridge “a microcosm of community cohesion”, which may reflect her previous role as Head of Government Jargon in the Department for In-depth Space Community Organisations), so all of those cultures being represented and benefiting definitely appeals. In time, some of those we work with might be useful to have on board as well.

Ultimately, it became pretty clear that this was a tough one to solve on our own, and that we needed specialist legal help. At least now we had a pretty clear idea of our mission, activities and financing, along with some further principles (for example, we’re going with the 1:7 ratio of salaries, which means I can only earn a maximum of 7 times the lowest-paid person; am raising their salary as I write). Someone pointed out we could get this help ‘pro-bono’ which I thought was a planet until Spock pointed out this meant it was for free; the benefits of a classical Vulcan education.

While we’re looking for legal help, I’m going to speak to a bunch of other space entrepreneurs in a similar field about why they chose their particular structure (and whether it’s worked out). Seems like a sensible place to look for advice.

Till next time, ciao.

* Just, ahem, do it

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