Maximum Fun is becoming a co-op!
On March 20, 2023, we made the most momentous announcement in our history.
MaxFun will be converting to a 100% worker-owned cooperative in the summer of 2023.
Worker co-ops have been around since the Industrial Revolution, and take many forms. The common theme is that worker-owners collectively control the business. In MaxFun’s case, this control is going to take the form of worker-owners directly voting on major company decisions, and electing a Board of Directors from fellow-worker owners. As in the case of any company, the Board is responsible for steering the company’s strategy and overseeing management. The management of MaxFun will still be responsible for day-to-day decisions, but they will be accountable to a Board of worker-owners. Like any other owners of a business, worker-owners are also entitled to share in the prosperity of the cooperative, if it has a good year.
Nothing about our relationship with shows on the network is changing. Our management is staying in place, and Jesse is becoming a worker-owner alongside his colleagues.
Still, this is a monumental change, because of what it means for the long-term future of MaxFun.
The ways companies operate, the decisions that they make, and the culture that they espouse, are all a function of the priorities of the owners. Companies owned by investors looking for a financial return will make decisions that maximize near-term profits. This is how you maximize returns.
Worker-owners have different priorities. They want to feel good about the place where they work. They want to feel like the work that they do matters. They want to know that they and their colleagues are being treated fairly. They want the place where they work to be around for a long time.
Consequently, companies owned by their workers will operate differently from those owned by investors. And because the workers are in control, they can ensure that the company remains independent, and able to continue to practice and espouse its values in the long term.
Why is MaxFun becoming a cooperative?
Maximum Fun has always operated under the principle that doing what is right is more important than doing what is most profitable, and that the company should grow responsibly, for the long term. At first, that was a natural consequence of the fact that the company was Jesse’s life’s work. He wanted it to embody the things he cared about, and he wanted it to last.
Owning one’s work is also a tradition of the company, starting with the fact that creators on the network own their shows.
The employees of Maximum Fun will now be entrusted with upholding these values, as they come to own their own work too. Worker-ownership is a natural next step for a company that has always defined itself by what it means to people, rather than how much money it makes.
But at the same time, it feels incredibly important that we are taking this next step now, at a time when the podcasting industry is chaotic, and frankly scary. The last several years have seen an influx of investment into podcasting — literally billions of dollars. The last several months have seen the natural consequence of those speculative investments, when the market turned and prospects for a financial return faded: show cancellations, and layoffs.
We have operated MaxFun to survive boom-bust business cycles, and we have been through two so far. We avoid hype cycles and letdowns by focusing on what we do best: producing and partnering with shows that matter to our audience, and asking our audience to support those shows, so that they can continue to exist.
Operating as a cooperative will ensure that we continue our mission of bringing good things into the world, and that we do so in an equitable, ethical way. By supporting MaxFun now, you’re not only uplifting the shows that you love; you’re also supporting a business model that cares.
How you can help
If you like the direction we are heading in, and want to support us, here are some things you can do:
- Become a MaxFun member to support your favorite shows (as well as the operations of the co-op).
- Make a one-time contribution towards the running of the co-op.
- Tell your friends about what we’re doing and why you think it matters. We think this is a pretty big deal, we’re proud of it, and we think others should do it, too…but, we don’t have a big marketing budget. We need your help to spread the word. Tell your friends to listen to your favorite shows, too, while you’re at it.
When will you officially be a co-op?
We think we’ll have all of the paperwork finalized in time to officially become a co-op this summer. So unless something goes very unexpectedly sideways, the transition of ownership will occur in the next couple of months. We wanted to let everyone know about this by MaxFunDrive so that we could be transparent about the future of the company before folks made the decision to become members.
Will the shows I enjoy be affected in any way?
Nope! Nothing will change between Maximum Fun and the shows you love.
Who will make the decisions now?
The worker-owners will have a say in a lot of the big decisions. Our management team is staying in place, but now they’ll be overseen by a Board of Directors made up of five worker-owners that the co-op votes into leadership. The Board will head up planning and strategy for the co-op, and the worker-owners will get to vote on big issues.
Learn more about becoming a co-op
Project Equity https://project-equity.org/
L.A. Co-op Lab https://lacooplab.com/
California Center for Cooperative Development: https://www.cccd.coop/co-op-info/co-op-types/worker-co-ops
Directory of co-ops in the United States: https://www.usworker.coop/directory/
LA Times: His L.A.-based podcast company faced a crossroads. Now Jesse Thorn’s employees are owners (subscription may be required)
Tech Crunch: Podcast network Maximum Fun is becoming a worker-owned co-op
Vulture: The People’s Maximum Fun
Axios: Podcast network Maximum Fun to be worker-owned (subscription may be required)