How You (Yes, You!) Can Build a Startup Society

The ideal of startup societies is a commendable one: A world of accountable, competitive and localized jurisdictions attracting citizens with innovative approaches to handling human life and problems. As pretty as the pictures we paint may be, there must come a time for people of action to turn these speculations and pipe-dreams into concrete local experiments in government - hopefully successful ones. The info stockades are chock-full of great ideas: Mountains of pen and paper stand idle with nary a thought given to execution. The following are the dancing steps of startup society creation - the order of appearance need not be the way an individual entrepreneur may undertake this colossal task, but merely an exhaustive list of all possible steps that may be necessary at one time or another.

STEP 1: Location, location, location!

The old adage of real estate salespeople stands resolute even when faced with the innovative world of startup societies and 21st century governance. Here it will be an even more prodigious task for the party doing the development - the first step is to specify a territory which the startup society to-be will call a home in the future. Many measures must be undertaken to ensure maximum value for potential citizens: natural resources, weather, infrastructure, proximity to roadways and airways, waterway access and many others will dictate the most promising areas for the founding of up-and-coming projects. Be it disputed border territories, the wide open sea or even Antarctica, the location of the society will play a decisive role in the creation thereof. Each type of environment brings with it a unique plethora of requirements - infrastructural, regulatory and financial. Only after specifying a location can other aspects of the society be brought to completion.

STEP 2: Who owns it?

Simply deciding to create a startup society on an attractive location sounds desirable in theory, but is a dubious proposition at best when faced with the woeful hardships of the real world. What the entrepreneur should endeavor to do at this point is ascertain ownership and jurisdiction over the potential founding location. Even if none exists (jurisdiction), there are certain guidelines that must be respected before the creation of a society may occur. These include, but are not limited to the UN's law of the sea or the Antarctica treaty (If the entrepreneur is of a pioneering temperament).

The founder must essentially negotiate with the powers-that-be (be they nations, international committees or other governing bodies) the legalities of human settlement before subsequent steps may be undertaken.

STEP 3: Why don't I own it instead?

The founder must then establish rapport with the relevant authorities of the chosen location, making possible the establishment of a territorial entity in which certain regulations that are otherwise active may be circumnavigated. This does not mean secession or the establishing of a new state (though these certainly remain possibilities for the intrepid founder), but it shall perfectly suffice to create a new status for the startup society within the current legal framework of the current authority. This may come through miscellaneous specifications such as sanctuary city, special economic zone or any other of a number of available territorial/legal provisions. Depending on the locality, the authority in question may be local or federal, individual (president) or group (chamber of commerce).

This effectively requires a certain level of lobbying and political maneuvering. After all, it is a privilege given by the local authorities that is instrumental in this step which the founder is seeking. This is in some ways similar to the acquisition of a patent before an entrepreneur sets off on the risk of engaging in production. If there is failure in this step, the process must begin anew. The first, second or twenty-second attempts may not yield fruit, but the main weapons of the founder's arsenal are not creativity and innovation. These he cannot do without, but his true strengths are raw grit and perseverance in the face of insurmountable odds. Before attracting investors, the governments of the world must be made to see the reason behind founding a society - be it through persuasive, legal or fiscal means.

STEP 4: Cui bono - Attracting investors

A startup society will at a certain point need to provide its citizens with certain services - all of which necessitate capital. Surveying, legal fees, construction materials and labor costs don't cover themselves. The unique value proposition of the fledgling society must be first brought to a cadre of forward-thinking investors ready to assist in manners not only financial, but through contacts, know-how and good will. Once capital is procured, the physically intensive part of founding may occur - if a society's infrastructure is being built from the ground up. An infinitely more preferable alternative, however, is the conversion of existing underutilized assets into livable and workable space. In these instances, the novel governance structure would be the prime value being delivered.

The societal investors must then be organized into a transparent and systematic trust through which the internal governance of the startup society may be exercised. This can take many forms - a publicly traded company, LLC, or any other governance structure that the investors deem fit for purpose. The investors may be members of the local authorities and may even wield veto rights as a provision for allowing the startup society experiment. This can and has happened, where an entrepreneur successfully founds a startup society only for it to be shut down by the governing board of the local authorities on account of a minor setback or (much worse) outshining the issuing authority's governance model.

STEP 5: Attracting citizens, maintaining the competitive edge and delivering value

The entrepreneur must then present value to potential citizens of the society - which can come in many forms. The governance structure may be favorable for science, business, agriculture or any other field. The purpose of the society is to establish a competitive (and comparative) advantage in a certain regulatory/governmental field, such as to deliver enough value to attract clients. Be it businesses, traffic, citizens, deposits or any other form of measurable inflow of human activity, the society must aim at fulfilling a niche in governance and regulation that is lacking elsewhere. This is the regulatory competition aspect of startup societies - small experiments in local governance will have no choice but to practice the very latest in cutting-edge regulation to make certain they are attracting the high-profile human economic activity of the future.

It is necessary for there to be market analysis in the field of governance so as to ascertain the market's outlook in a branch of the field. Perhaps all previous steps are successfully concluded, but without a governmental niche the startup society loses appeal in the eye of the client. Analyses and constant following of market trends hold paramount importance for any would-be startup society entrepreneur. A lapse in security, fiscal policy, regulatory burdens or immigration policy can easily turn away the clientele of the society, which is why the investors and governors of the society must remain ever-vigilant to maintain value delivery chains to the users of their services.

STEP 0: Why startup societies?

"A person who has a 'why' can deal with any 'how'."

-Friedrich Nietzsche

There are hundreds of books, programs, training courses and pamphlets that explain how one may approach one's government with the solicitation of a special regulatory zone, how to attract investors, maintain value chains etc. We do not purport to know how to achieve any of these at a level profound enough to warrant publishing in an article. The steps listed above are general outlines for the birthing of a startup society, but the main take-away from this article should be that governance is the market of the future. New minds will enter this field and deliver to us hitherto unseen levels of development in their field.

If one understands that the future lies in computers, electronics become a part of a greater whole with a nobler ambition than simply crunching numbers - what was once a house-sized series of vacuum tubes used for deciphering military communiqués can now fit in the palm of our hand while looking like a sleek blade. The same development can happen with government - the essence of government is fluid. It can be remade and reshaped into an infinitely more complex but also streamlined version of itself. What was once ENIAC can become the iPod.

Could you be the future Steve Jobs of government?


Aleksa Burmazovic

Aleksa is an undergraduate student at the University of Belgrade in Serbia, working on a degree in finance and insurance.

He was involved with European Students for Liberty as a local coordinator in 2016, but has since retired from the organization of ESFL events.

Aleksa is fascinated with the idea of establishing new societies, competitive governance and new regulative structures.

An avid supporter of cryptocurrencies and free trade, he joined Startup Societies Foundation in the summer of 2017 while volunteering for the Startup Societies Conference in San Francisco.