A platform which allows businesses to offer their services in exchange for others is looking to expand its community outside of London.

Echo, which stands for Economy of Hours, allows anyone to offer their service in exchange for an ‘echo’, with one echo equalling one hour of their time they have given to someone else.

They can then spend their echoes on other people’s services, meaning no money is exchanged.

The firm was set up in the interest of start-ups, allowing them to get ahead in their business with little funds.

Now with over 5,000 members, the company is looking to expand outside of its current East London community by creating new hubs in other places in the UK.

Members can offer any creative services or classes, such as website design, photography, CV writing and career coaching, all offered at the same rate of echoes as ‘everybody’s time is valued equally’.

Echo logo

“I think when you do an echo exchange in contrast to a commercial or monetary exchange it’s a different kind of feeling,” director of operations Sarah Henderson told BusinessCloud.

“It has a side effect of creating a strong sense of relationship between people, it’s really good at building trust and relationships within communities and I think people find it connects them on more of a human level than a commercial transaction.

“Our members report to us that it feels like a community and something they really enjoy being part of, and quite complimentary alongside whatever their business or day job is.

“This is a really complimentary additional way of exchanging and building networks.”

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The firm started in 2013 as a small project in Hackney and is now based next to Here East, which uses echos to provide classes for start-ups based in the co-working space.

Henderson added: “There's the clear benefit of being able to access those services, but I think more than that, the start-ups that we work with tell us is that they really value the network and the opportunity to get their product or service out there in front of an audience.

“We find that a lot of people who initially connect through Echo might do an echo exchange and once that trusted relationship has been built they often go on to do commercial work with each other and we see that as a really positive outcome.

“I think if you're a new start-up it's a great way to build your network and raise your awareness and get a platform for what it is you're doing, and also test things out in a less high-risk environment.”

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The not-for-profit company is currently run by six people and has a mission of being a community interest company.

In terms of expansion, she said: "The goal for us is to look at where you could replicate what we've done to respond to the particular needs of another city. 

"Our vision to scale is not to scale Echo; we'll grow bigger, but we'll create hubs in different locations around the country that can respond to local needs and deliver a service of connecting up."