We need to Smartup

The Smartup Hypothese is a blueprint for a socio-technical system that combines social behaviour with technology. It’s a step forward in computing that takes into account community goals, not just individual needs. By owning, creating, and governing technology together, Smartup’s organizational structure allows for joint optimization for the common good.  

The 3 main structures of the Smartup Hypothese:


What is our process, cycle, method? Learn about our 4 PHASES OF CREATION


What is our organisational backbone? Learn about our 6 GROUPS OF PRODUCTIVITY


What are our workflows? How do we work? Learn about the ADM TRIANGLE

Smartup Definition

In a Smartup we can own, create and govern our technologies and operate completely autonomously, independently and be self-sustained. It creates and markets, like any other company, a product or service, while providing jobs for people. However, a Smartup is run as a democratic society where people decide together what we make, how we make it and, above all, why we should make it.

What makes a Smartup 'Smart'?

“Whether developing a new product or service, researching a topic of interest, seeking a cure for cancer, or improving conditions in underserved communities, a group's Collective IQ is a key determinant of how effectively it will respond to the challenges presented. More specifically, regardless of the end goals, it comes down to how quickly and intelligently the group can identify needs and opportunities, develop and deploy solutions, and incorporate lessons learned, while continuously iterating and adapting to changing conditions until the goals are met” - (Douglas Engelbart Institute, about Collective IQ ).
Douglas Engelbart
Computer pioneer

Collective Ownwership

Technology ownership is typically limited to founders and shareholders based on their initial financial contributions. However, Smartup Zero is testing a different approach. We distribute ownership equally to all those involved in building and governing the idea together, prioritizing contribution and collaboration over financial investments. This shift changes ownership from a focus on profits to one on responsibility. By joining a Smartup, you can contribute your time, skills and network towards building solutions that aligns with the United Nations sustainability goals. It all starts at 0_timeline. The arena in which Smartups are born. 

Collective Governorship

In Smartup Zero, everyone has the right and obligation to participate in governance, acting as caretakers and fulfilling their responsibility as owners. The two fundamental principles of governance in a Smartup are deliberation and oversight. Deliberation involves informed discussions leading to decision-making, often through voting. Oversight is performed through a transparent structure that is implemented at every level of the organization. To actively participate in deliberation and oversight, it is essential to be well-informed, engaged, and critically aware of what is happening within the Smartup. This is what all co-owners can do in the general forum. Being the democratic heart of every Smartup. Here you can see an overview of our current General Forum:

Collective workmanship

A Smartup is a company where people work on developing a product or service, with a significant amount of effort required. The organizational structure encourages owners to also be workers, achieved through the simple and clear rule that the only way to earn money in a Smartup is by becoming a member of the workplace and contributing to tasks.

All funds raised through crowdfunding are utilized to support collective workmanship, enabling the workplace to undertake crucial work to develop a marketable and sustainable technology that helps communities become more resilient. Get a glimpse of the workplace of Smarup Zero:

Smartup Life Cycle:

The 4 phases of creation

Like any other startup, it starts with an idea that has a certain shape. Most often a visualization and theorization of why and what the idea comprehends. This is the Official Smartup Business Plan (OSBP). It can be as simple as a powerpoint presentation or a one-pager and can be as evolved as a prototype or Proof of Concept. The product will be ready to market if it successfully goes through the 4 phases of creation. The phases are Validation, Design, Production, and Organization. Every layer has clear deliverables and thresholds that enable the next layer. The final ‘Go’ to go to the next layer always takes place with a vote in the General Forum. There has to be a majority that approves the ‘Go’.


You are presenting your case on a crowdfunding website and validate your solution following a structured process of creative, scientific, democratic deliberation in place.


You are designing the solution following a structured process of creative, democratic and scientific deliberation in place.


You are developing the solution following a structured process of creative, democratic and scientific deliberation in place.


You launch the solution following a structured process of creative, democratic and scientific deliberation in place.

Follow as a clock: Open to see in detail what type of activity takes place in what phase

Smartup Anatomy

The 6 groups of productivity

A Smartup follows the principles of holacracy, which replaces the conventional management hierarchy with distributed power throughout the organization. The Smartup’s organizational structure is based on six groups of productivity, each with one or more subgroups. These groups form the backbone of the Smartup and are where people own, work, and govern the production and governance of technologies. The General Forum, the mothergroup, is the democratic heartbeat of the Smartup. This structure is found in all online collaborative applications used within the organization to streamline collaboration processes.


The General Forum (GF) is the lifeblood of our Smartup, serving as the public square where all owners exercise their ownership rights and obligations. It is the only group where all Smartup members convene, and it provides a space for discussion, suggestions, criticism, voting, and organization through the process of deliberation. Essentially, it is the public space for all members to oversee the activities taking place within the Workplace and to discuss them. The GF is also where you can measure the viability of your community, as it is one of the parameters that can indicate the health of a Smartup. A Smartup thrives on the level of people’s willingness to commit to the responsibilities that come with being an owner of a Smartup.


The Workplace is the only subgroup of the General Forum (GF). If the GF is the public square, then the Workplace is the big tall building in the middle where people stop talking and start working. Only owners with a work membership are part of the Workplace, which is the only group where all workers come together. The primary function of the Workplace is to realize the envisioned product or service, which is accomplished through teamwork in the subgroups of the Workplace. As a worker, you will always belong to one of these teams, such as the design team. To begin working, you must apply for one of the roles in your team, such as UX designer. Roles represent the subgroups of your team, and your team captain decides whether you will get access to the group of that role


The workplace is composed of Teams, which are subgroups where workers must be assigned to in order to participate. Each worker belongs to at least one team, such as the design team, which serves as their home base. Within a team, there are Roles, which workers can apply for, like the UX designer role. To apply, workers select an Objective, a subgroup of Roles, and write an application to their team captain, explaining how they plan to contribute to that objective. Objectives are established by the team captain and approved by the PLT. For instance, an objective could be creating the front-end design of the Android app.


In a team, the subgroups are roles. To start earning money, you must be assigned to a role by your team captain, which grants you access to the corresponding objective group. Objectives are set by the team captain and verified by the PLT. Tasks are the subgroups of objectives, which contain open tasks that workers can sign up for.

For example, suppose you are part of the design team and have been assigned the role of UX designer for the objective “Create the front end design of the Android app” by your team captain. You can access the group of that objective and all its related documentation. After notifying the Mission Leader of your availability, he or she will assign you a task based on your skillset, level, and experience. The role of the Mission Leader will be further explained in Group 5: Objectives.


The objectives are the subgroups of roles. The team’s primary purpose is to achieve these objectives set by the Project Leaders Team. The achievement of these objectives marks the progress of the Smartup through the four creation layers. An objective can involve multiple roles. For instance, the objective of ‘Creating the front end design of the Android app’ may require a UX designer and an icon designer. Objectives are further divided into tasks, which are the final group among the six groups of productivity. Tasks are assigned to a worker, an assistant, and a robot. The details of task execution will be explained in group 6: task.


The Six Circles of Productivity’ last group is tasks. Being a part of this group means that you are paid for the work you do to complete a specific task. In a Smartup, everything revolves around completing tasks to move the organization forward. A task group may consist of multiple workers working together or just a single worker, depending on the decision of the Mission Leader. However, you are never alone in a task group because you are always assigned an assistant who checks, helps, learns, and reports. Additionally, the assistant is connected with a software robot (bot), which is the third entity in the task group. This structure, known as the ADM-triangle, is part of the DNA of a Smartup and will be discussed further in the chapter ‘the metabolism of a Smartup’.

Smartup Metabolism

When we looked at the Smartup as an organism we saw a sociotechnical system. When we cut the beast open horizontally we identified the anatomy is a holacracy with the 6 groups of productivity. Now we cut the beast open vertically and want to find out how the metabolism works. What are the processes that a Smartup uses to be self-sustainable and vital?  In other words: how are we communicating, exchanging information, making decisions and document everything, inside a Smartup?

2 ancientarmy methods

ADM & Buddies

The core mechanism that is present throughout the 6 groups of productivity and defines our modus operandi is the Attacker, Defender, Midfielder triangle (ADM triangle). This means in every group there is an attacking force, a defending force and a neutral midfielder that streamlines the communication between the attacker, defender and other groups. The ADM triangle facilitates the three core values of a smartup: Collective Ownership, Collective Craftsmanship, and Collective Governance. It provides transparency, structure and control over how we work.

In a Smartup, you never work alone. This powerful idea is based on the ancient army buddy system, which ensures that workers do not abuse their freedom and independence. The buddy system also helps when workers get stuck or make mistakes, preventing them from drowning in administrative tasks. Additionally, it establishes a learning environment where junior workers can connect with senior ones to learn the job


The task group “set up a server” under the objective “create the backend of the CMS” is assigned an attacker (worker) and a defender (assistant). The attacker can use the assistant’s help but the assistant primarily monitors the worker’s progress and effort. The bot in the group checks in with the assistant every 20 minutes and creates a log of their assessment. Once the worker stops working, the assistant sends a final update to the bot, which then sends a report to the Mission Leader of the Objective group. The Mission Leader can then assess the quality of work, determine the reward, and decide how to proceed with the task.

A Smartup utilizes the ADM triangle and the Buddy System, both based on ancient army methods, to facilitate collective ownership, craftsmanship, and governance. The ADM triangle ensures transparency, structure, and control by assigning attacking, defending, and midfield roles in each group. The Buddy System ensures workers don’t work alone and fosters a learning environment. The addition of software bots streamlines communication and administrative tasks, freeing up workers’ time and increasing transparency. Overall, these methods promote collective intelligence and efficient work in Smartups

Smartup Finance

One of the unique aspects of Smartups is that they are entirely independent of commercial investors and government funding. Instead, they rely on crowdfunding as their only source of income. Your contribution to a Smartup, become part of the community budget, which rewards those who have shown responsibility and passion for the many missions undertaken. If you decide to also work you will see a quick return on investment. 


In this way, crowdfunding becomes a tool for stimulating democratic practices, as the success of a Smartup is determined by the collective efforts of its community members. Each contribution represents a vote of confidence in the Smartup’s mission and a willingness to participate in the co-creation and co-governance of its technology. This is a key metric in the validation phase of a Smartup. Raising money means validation. 


As a result, Smartups offer an innovative approach to funding that not only empowers communities to take ownership of technology development but also promotes democratic decision-making and collaboration. By supporting a Smartup, you are not only investing in a promising solution to a pressing problem but also contributing to the advancement of democratic practices in technology development.


Crowdfunding rounds

So a Smartup shares ownership equally among its members. Everyone who joins is an equal owner to everyone else. However, that ownership is worth nothing if you don’t also work. A Smartup is a task driven business applies the clear rule: only if you work on tasks you’ll get paid.  This means that a Smartup can provide numerous jobs to people with skills, passion and talent. 


A Smartup has a crowdfunding round for each of the 4 phases of creation (Validation, Design, Production, Organization). Every round the smartup is selling membership so it can collect the resources that are needed to perform it’s activities. There are two types of memberships with different features. Still, each one makes the member an official Smartup owner.

Work & Watch membership

In the General Forum everybody has equal rights and obligations. Stil, you are either a Worker or Watcher.

As a worker, you have access to the workplace, and you are eligible to be part of a team, the subgroup of the workplace. Being part of team you can apply for roles. If you are assigned to a role you can get to work on tasks and earn money. 

As a Watcher, you don’t have access to the workplace and you are not eligible to work. A watcher only has access to the General Forum and can see what is happening in the workplace but can’t participate in it. 

The differentiation between the two was made based on the idea that some people do want to support the Smartup but don’t have the time or skills to work. Others might want to first have a look around before deciding what kind of worker one will become.

Watch License


A watch membership gives you ownership and governing rights. This means you will be able to track progress, vote on important descicions and perform oversight over the Smartup workplace. You do not have the right to work. However, you can always upgrade to a work membership.

Work license


A Work membership gives you ownership, governing and work rights. This means you can track progress, vote and perform oversight. You are also part of a team the Workplace (e.g. Business team) and can earn money by getting assigned to tasks.

Smartup Zero modus operandi

Obviously, we need a platform that allows us to work together in a structured fashion. We don’t have to invent the wheel for that. We can use existing platforms for collaboration:


Slack is our Smartup Zero home. Here we can own, work and govern.

Google Drive

Google Drive keeps all our files together and allows us to collaborate on them.


With Trello we create an overview over all activities in Smartup Zero


On Gitlab we keep our code.