I’ve been blogging occasionally about business barter, a sector I would very much like to see disrupted. As a monetary reformer and someone who wants to see an economy that enables trade rather than inhibits it, business barter is the critical tool which is already available and needs no legislative changes.
Yet the sector isn’t serving those aims at the moment, being highly segmented and very expensive to use. Disruptive business models are needed to make barter more appealing, more affordable and more scalable.
That’s why I’ve been encouraged by meeting Laurence Anderson in Melbourne, Australia and seeing his life’s work, with TradeSwap Laurence has spent most of his career working for various trade exchanges in the region, and only comparatively recently decided to coalesce his vast address book into his own exchange.
Laurence doesn’t thrive in the role of manager or owner, and when designing his trade exchange, didn’t seek to create a vast dominion and live from the rent. Laurence prefers the role of salesman, and a matchmaker, and TradeSwap is setup to reward those who grow the network and make trades happen. He boasts of having only 20 minutes a month work to trigger all the commission payments, and the rest of the time he’s working as a trader.
While Laurence is the main trader on his platform maybe it is academic whether he’s paid by commission or by rent. But now he’s hoping to bring other traders onto the platform to build their careers. It works like multi-level marketing, so recruiters and matchmakers are rewarded for what happens up to 5 levels below them.
Laurence sees himself as a barter-activist, and that’s why he’s invested AUD $200K in developing the app on which it all happens to enable anybody to participate on equal terms.
Laurence’s next question is how to take TradeSwap to the next level. He doesn’t want to be a social media geek, or a pen pusher or a strategist, he thrives on the road doing what he does best. The system will work in any country, but how should Laurence, identify, recruit, train or poach deal makers worldwide when all his own networks are in the state of Victoria?
So I’m wishing Laurence every success. If I had the chance to redesign his system, I would do it only slightly differently:
Politically the network and the software and the intellectual property of the software still belong to Laurence. As it grows across countries and continents, the governance/ownership model is set to stay the same, so it would grow into a massive system under his control. This can be good for quality and branding – he is adamant about transparent accounting and respecting zero balances – but other innovators will be unwiling to build on what they cannot own.
So, as the Credit Commons White Paper explains, I would like to see more emphasis on the development of protocols for interoperability between platforms/networks. A single barter network need not span several countries (several regulatory domains) but can connect to networks in other domains.
If we are to allow the creation of sub networks within a greater barter network, then each sub network needs to have political independence meaning its own bank account, its own conditions of membership, its own rules for setting credit limits and commissions, and crucially, its own brand or reputation. Joining one network or another should not affect who you can trade with but it should affect the risk/reward ratio of participating.
So contact TradeSwap of you are looking to make barter sexy again, to upgrade to a ‘mobile first’ software, or forge a new career building an economy without money.
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