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Meet the New Boss, it’s You…

This article first appeared in the Brighton Independent dated 29 June 2021.

Press releases about Brighton’s digital business owners selling the companies they’ve built have become a regular occurrence. 

Two recent examples are Brandwatch, who grew from a local start-up to an international media-monitoring powerhouse and was sold to Cision for around $450m; and the Fall-Guys studio Mediatonic who was snapped up by Epic, the games giant behind Fortnite. 

Wired Sussex recently ran a fascinating event with Brighton Digital agency Rocket Mill about a different kind of sale – by the agency to their own employees. The founders of Rocket Mill decided that employee ownership was the way forward. CEO Sam Garrity told me:

We never wanted to sell Rocket Mill, however one unsolicited offer met the mark on every level – but there was one problem. Only the two owners would be the winners. It left us feeling there must be a better option. That’s when we discovered employee ownership. A model that fits perfectly with our people-first philosophy. A model that means we all win.

Rocket Mill are not the only digital company in the city to recently go for employee ownership. Renowned design and innovation agency Clearleft recently made its whole team owners in the form of an employee ownership trust. Original co-founder Andy Budd announced:

 Clearleft will be run for and on behalf of all our team, now and in the future.

It’s exciting to see digital businesses in the city investigating more inclusive models of ownership, and I’ll be keen to see who else might follow suit. 

There is another great example of a different model of digital ownership, and that’s the new fibre ring being installed by Brighton & Hove Council. The high-tech fibre that powers digital connectivity is of course essential these days. The Council’s successful application for funding to the Local Enterprise Partnership means the city will have core digital infrastructure that is publicly-owned and cooperatively managed. A brilliant initiative. 

Interestingly, publicly-owned, cooperatively managed and accessible to all is an approach that also informs the digital strategy of the recently elected president of the USA. Where Brighton leads, Biden follows, eh?

About the author

Phil Jones

Hi, I'm the Managing Director of Wired Sussex, overseeing our strategy as an organisation and work to promote our membership and its needs to local, national and international stakeholders, including government.

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