Ello, the social network which promises to “never sell your data” has moved to reassure users of its bona fides by incorporating as a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC).
A Public Benefit Corporation has a charter which commits it to specific goals and values beyond mere profit. The charter is binding on the company, and remains in effect, even if the company is sold.
By locking in their values in this way, Ello appear to be answering critics who claimed that taking venture capital makes a sell-out inevitable. They’ve raised $5.5 million in Series A funding from a group of investors who are apparently fine with the whole Public Benefit thing. The investors include Fresh Tracks Capital who had already given them $435,000 seed funding in March.
In a letter to users, Ello’s founders and investors spelled out what this means:
There has been some speculation in the press since our launch 11 weeks ago that Ello will someday be forced to allow paid ads on our social network.
With virtually everybody else relying on ads to make money, some members of the tech elite are finding it hard to imagine there is a better way.
But 2014 is not 2004, and the world has changed.
To assure that Ello always remains ad-free, today Ello converted to a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC).
A Benefit Corporation is a new kind of for-profit company in the USA that exists to produce a benefit for society as a whole — not just to make money for its investors.
The Ello PBC charter states in the strongest legal terms possible that:
- Ello shall never make money from selling ads;
- Ello shall never make money from selling user data; and
- In the event that Ello is ever sold, the new owners will have to comply by these terms.
In other words, Ello exists for your benefit, and will never show ads or sell user data.
Simple, beautiful, and ad-free.
There is a better way.
We, as founders and investors in Ello, vow to support Ello’s mission and to abide by the terms of the Ello Charter.