Tunji Williams, the well-known former CEO of dealWIP and most recently Director of Adoption & Growth Strategy at Litera, has left the legal tech platform to launch a new startup focused on the ‘Buy Nothing’ movement.
Williams told Artificial Lawyer that the core idea of ShareThing, the new app he is heading up, is to support communities of people, whether locally-based, global, or running along sector lines, to build peer-to-peer resource sharing initiatives that are part of the fast-growing Buy Nothing network.
ShareThing will be a mobile-first app that will complement the growing Buy Nothing groups around the world that now have over 1.5 million people involved, and currently utilise thousands of Facebook groups globally to organise their activity.
The core idea of the movement is that this is not about barter, or trading, but about gifting goods and services to a community and not asking for anything back. However, as the peer-to-peer community grows and gifts start to flow between the members everyone benefits. Moreover, it fosters a sense of connectedness and trust between people, which is in many ways what the movement is all about, i.e. it’s not just about an alternative to consumerism.
‘This isn’t about barter. This isn’t trading. There is no expectation you’ll get something in return for giving,’ he explained.
The move looks like quite a change from working at Litera, which he joined after the transaction management startup, dealWIP, that he co-founded closed down, but as Williams told this site, the change is all about being true to his vision of the world.
‘At Litera I tracked end-user experience and worked on ways to increase the number of people in an organisation using our products. It was very ‘human to human’ and we focused on the question: what makes someone invite someone else to use a piece of software?
‘This made me see how key trust is to get buy-in for legal tech. And then a lightbulb went off.’
This eureka moment was not about legal tech as such, but about how do you get a society that is fractured and lacking in inter-communal trust to break through barriers and come together?
Williams was already aware of the Buy Nothing movement, which was inspired by two friends, Rebecca Rockefeller and Liesl Clark, who created an experimental hyper-local gift economy on Bainbridge Island, Washington, in July, 2013. He’d had some thoughts about creating his own project, but instead decided to work directly with Buy Nothing to build the application, which will launch in May.
Williams noted that the goal will be to move about a quarter of the Facebook groups onto the app initially, and then hopefully far more. They will take advertising, but he added that the revenue from this will be ploughed back into the community.
He added that society still needed goods and services delivered in the current way, (and that no doubt included legal tech products), but this peer-to-peer approach could help change things for the better. ‘Capitalism isn’t totally broken, it’s just a little lost,’ he concluded.
So, could the world of legal tech get involved in this?
The simple answer is: yes.
In the legal and legal tech context we could perhaps see a coder offering to help someone else with a short project, or a lawyer wanting to offer some pro bono commercial advice to any tech company that would like it, or a larger tech company offering up some tech hardware to any startups that might want to collect it, for example.
What you share is up to you. The idea is the community defines itself and uses the app to make the gifts, with the group growing steadily and building interconnections. And as noted, this is not barter. You give, and maybe, or maybe not, at some point someone offers something that’s useful to you. And so the circle of giving keeps going, building a community as it goes.
Good luck to Tunji! If you’d like to know more about how to build your own peer-to-peer sharing community in the legal / legal tech world – or very far beyond it – then drop AL a line and we’ll pass on the message, or check out the pre-launch website for more details.
I am excited for this new collaboration and it’s potential for community building and freedom from Facebook.