It’s all about the “gift economy” Lily Cole tells Web Summit

Actress has started a gift-giving platform where users can exchange things from CV help to language tutorials

Snow White and the Huntsman actress Lily Cole

Snow White and the Huntsman actress Lily Cole

 

Snow White and the Huntsman actress Lily Cole is more interested in her “gift economy” start-up than her modelling career.

Cole has started an online community called impossible.com, a gift-giving platform where users can exchange things from CV help to language tutorials.

She called it a for-profit “social business” and is working on developing the business model.

She spoke on the main stage of the Web Summit this afternoon and waxed lyrical when asked how she came up with the idea.

“I was traveling with a friend four years ago and talking about the financial crash and how societies go into crisis when economies go into crisis. We become so dependent on money as a society, we lose the medium to exchange things.”

The idea developed from there. She has a start-up with a small team and can “count on one hand” the number of modelling jobs she has done in the past year.

“I do it occasionally to pay bills and shine a light on things,” she said.

Business is going well for her so far. Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales is an investor and advisor. “I was excited to meet him because Wikipedia is one of the biggest working gift economies. He immediately resonated with what I was trying to do,” she said.

If things go according to plan, the site’s users will soon be able to exchange paid-for products “with powerful stories behind them” and innovative supply chains.

She mentioned products made with wild rubber as an example. Recently she visited a wild rubber condom factory in South America.

“That’s a perfect example of the kinds of things we want to sell on the platform,” she said, noting that people who traditionally made a living from wild rubber are struggling to compete with cheaper plantation rubber.

“There are a huge number of really fascinating companies I’d like to champion and support through this nonmonetary gifting platform,” she said.

The site already has a global community, with users from 73 countries.

“Every time someone gives, someone receives. The community only works if people are doing both. I don’t think there’s anyone taking value without giving value and advice.”