Company structures for 'modest' development

This page aims to suggest how, even with relatively little income for relatively modest development, it could be possible for a small-ish 'production team' to continue to manage the PIElink, and some of Robin's other activities; and even to expand to develop more of the full potential.

'Modest' development here means the kind of development that we might envisage, with the PIE Abacus income as the principal income stream in the long run, and with some initial support from philanthropic funding to tide us over until that Abacus income (or even some other income source) kicks in

NB: For a considerably more ambitious - and for the moment clearly premature - business plan, you might also want to take a look at the 'expansionary' strategy page, HERE


Three models

Let's assume for the moment that the PIElink cannot continue without some kind of temporary injection of funds; and that for that reason alone it will be necessary for the company that takes forward the PIElink 'production team' role to be a 'not for profit' company.

There are then in principle three main ways - there are doubtless more -  in which we could imagine some future company coming forward to take on the bulk of the heavy lifting in carrying on Robin's work via the PIElink, and even extending it in ways that Robin on his own was unable to do.

These three are:

  • Creating an entirely new not-for-profit company
  • Including the PIElink within the existing work of an existing company
  • Creating a new dedicated or 'stand alone' division within an existing company. to focus specifically on this area of work.


A : Creating a wholly new company

In UK company law it is actually very easy to create a new company from scratch; and creating a not-for-profit company is hardly any different, at least in law.

In practice, though, creating any company with more than one director* requires a huge amount of preparation to agree who should be the directors and what their various roles might be; and for them to then agree between them what the purposes and procedures of the company should be; and only then do you begin to finalise initial plans, activities and budgets and a string of practicalities.

Although in principle there is some attraction to a fresh start and a dedicated purpose, it’s not somewhere we could easily get to in a hurry. It might nevertheless be a longer term ambition, with an interim stage to pass through.


B : Including PIEs and the PIElink as an activity within an existing company

In the short term it is much easier to see how an existing 'not for profit' company could take over the running of the PIElink, and with it the income stream for reinvestment of the income from the PIE Abacus, and the prospects of attracting further investment in the interim.

Robin has already anticipated this possibility and created a company - but only as a private limited company - that the Abacus income currently goes to. It's this company ('PIRAN Co Ltd') that, for the moment at least, has the contract with Opeus, the software people (HERE), and by agreement with Opeus this income can be quite simply redirected to any suitable company that does have 'not for profit' status.

In practice however the risk in this ‘add on’ approach is that the knowledge base, contacts and priorities of the existing 'host'  company gradually begin to colour the central vision and dominate the future development of the PIElink and then of PIEs, and much of the wider ambition (HERE) may be lost, or at best reined in.

The development of the advisory group - with a conscious attempt to have a wide range of interests represented - militates against this risk. But there is likely to be a tension built into this relationship that would be better avoided.

Any philanthropic funder might also be somewhat deterred if they felt that their funding was being used not for a new and innovative project, but to support the funds and extend the reach of an existing agency.


C : Establishing a 'stand alone' division within an existing company

The third option represents an attempt to minimise the weaknesses and build on the strengths of A and B.

As a 'stand alone' division of an existing company, with its own budget and contacts, the likelihood of the work being gradually subsumed under the priorities of the 'host' is greatly reduced; and with the advisory board (HERE) to support and inform the wider range, this seems a safer bet.

It also seems more likely that a stand alone division might be funded by a philanthropic funder or other agency.

If there is real value in model A, in the long run, model C provides an easier transition.


Production and 'out-sourcing'

It would surely be important that the company that replaces Robin has a real sense of what it needed in this field - even though they they have the advisory board to help them keep relevant. But when thinking of the kind of company that might take on the PIElink, and the necessary skill set, it is worth bearing in mind that this company does not need to have 'in house' all the skills and capacity to manage the 'production team' .

It is entirely possible for them to use the income (or grants) to 'buy in' the necessary skills from a secondary service company that does that kind of thing. That service company might manage some specific area of the PIElink's range; and can allow that range to grow.  But it is then not crucial that any 'bought in' services need to have the knowledge of the sector; skills in conference and other event management, for example, might be available from a range of sources.


  • PIRAN has one sole director - Robin

The current situation

And now a word for our sponsors :  HERE

An advisory group ( or 'editorial board') for the PIElink : HERE 

Ambition and modesty : HERE


Income via the PIE Abacus


FAQs - Costs and sustainability: HERE

Income via the vocational training model

Company structures and partnerships, and a future expansionary strategy :  HERE

Is this the future of vocational training? :  HERE

Is this the future of academic publishing : HERE

How audio-visuals can add value to academic publishing :   HERE

The homelessness sector as beneficiaries   :  HERE