What Makes a Company a NewCo?


We at NewCo regularly throw around the term “NewCo” to describe the type of company that presents on our unique “unconference” platform in cities around the world. We thought it would be important to break down this term and describe exactly what we believe constitutes a NewCo. So, here’s an update on our original post, newly edited by co-founder John Battelle.


Driven by capitalism’s central motive – profit – corporations are now among the most powerful actors on the global stage. Besides government, no other institution in society has amassed as much wealth, power, and control as the corporation.

But, at their core, corporations are just people and processes. And over the past few decades, in parallel with the rise of the Internet, those people have begun a quiet revolution that has redefined what a “corporation” can be.

The global economy is transitioning from hierarchical models of command and control to more networked and flexible approaches. A new kind of organization – one that measures its success by more than profit – has emerged. We call these companies NewCos. As the networked, information-first economy has taken hold, NewCos are building innovative, purpose-driven new ways of doing business.

A NewCo views “work” as more than punching a clock or doing a job. The people inside these companies believe work can equate with passion, community, and a force for positive change.

Since launching NewCo, thousands of people have experienced the unique NewCo model of “going out to get in” – and hundreds of NewCos have opened their doors in cities as varied as London, San Francisco, Detroit, Palo Alto, New York, Istanbul, Austin, Los Angeles, Mexico City, and Boulder.

NewCo Festivals’ mission is to identify these new engines of economic and social change, and to offer a platform for the stories and communities they foster. How do we chose a NewCo? A number of core principles guide our selection process:

A NewCo …

Is on a mission. Sure, any company can have a mission, but a NewCo sees itself as on a mission to change the world for the better. Most NewCos embrace a profit motive (nonprofits and civic organizations can also be NewCos), but they are about more than making money. Often NewCos enter established markets that have “always worked that way” and imagine a better (or entirely new) way of conducting business. Their mission becomes making that better way happen. Google’s mission, for example, is to organize the world’s information and make it accessible. See some more of our favorite missions here.

Is driven by an idea, and a story. NewCos are about a big idea, one that drives their mission and purpose as an organization. The company becomes the storyteller of that idea – the narrative actor making that idea come to life. NewCo people love to tell their company’s story – it’s a deeply felt part of their identity. Listen to Eric Ryan, founder of Method and Olly, talk about how they came up with the idea to rethink the vitamin aisle, for example.

…and by its people. The core of every NewCo are the people who comprise the organization, and the people the organization serves. A NewCo is never a “faceless corporation.” It’s more like a band – a group of people coming together to create something that adds value to the world. At NewCos, people are never “human resources.” They’re the key asset of the company.

Is information-first. Old models of corporate command and control were predicated on a scarcity model around physical resources (commodities), physical energy (fuel/power), and human energy (“human resources”). Inasmuch as it mattered, “information” was a tertiary concern, used mainly as a management tool. But NewCos view information flows within their markets as primary resources, and organize to optimize or rethink those flows. Hence, Hampton Creek is rethinking food as information flows, Uber is rethinking transportation as information flows, and DocuSign is rethinking the information flows of paper documents.

Is platformed. The rise of the Internet economy has meant that no company is an island. We are all interconnected. NewCos are either platforms in their own right, and/or they understand how to participate in the platform ecosystem of open collaboration and considered data sharing. We call this being platformed. A good example of a NewCo that’s made the platform shift is HolaLuz, which leverages the Internet to create a platform for distribution of green energy in Spain.

Trusts the open. The word “open” has many meanings, but for NewCos, “open” has a clear test: When faced with a choice between closed and controlling vs. a more sharing, open tack, a NewCo tilts toward the latter. This applies to much more than technology stacks – it includes approaches to partnerships, transparency, and community as well. Check out Gimlet for an example of a NewCo exploring the edges of openness and transparency.

Is of the City. NewCos revel in the tapestry of cities – their pulse, their diverse communities, and their density of networks, information and humanity. The NewCo movement is born of city centers, large and small.

Gives to get. NewCos realize their value comes from serving their communities – their customers, sure, but also any community where the NewCo has an impact. NewCos believe you get back what you give to your community. And when you’re truly connected to your communities, no one has the energy to be a jerk. A great example of a company leading the way in this space is Salesforce, which pioneered the 1/1/1 model and continues to lead in creating a culture of giving back.

Loves the work. NewCos are reinventing what work means and how it’s done. NewCos believe work can be joyous — it does not have to suck. NewCos view “work” as a positive expression of identity. To that end, a NewCo workspace is a powerful collective expression of a company’s identity. That’s why NewCos love to open their doors and welcome visitors inside. We hope you’ll come along!

Originally version published at stories.newco.co on November 1, 2014.

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