Power to the people

Over the last 6 months I’ve noticed a large number of business plans that are incorporating some form of “crowdsourcing” into their business models. Crowdsourcing, popularized by James Surowiecki excellent book The Wisdom of Crowds, seeks to harness the power of the masses with the idea that the “crowd” can often produce a better result than any given individual (in the classic crowdsouring example a large group tries to guess the number of gumballs in a jar; typically the average guess is closer to the right number than any individual guess – the crowd as a whole is better than even it’s smartest individual member). 

There are some great business ideas around this – particularly ones that truly take advantage of the wisdom of crowds (as opposed to those that just take advantage of the brute force of having large numbers of people at your disposal to push through a repetitive task – these can be interesting businesses as well but aren’t exactly what I’m talking about). I’ve been working on a business that uses these principals in some unique ways which I’ll write about soon (although for now the company is keeping the specifics of its business close). I’m curious what other crowdsourced ideas people have seen and liked out there.

  • pendolino

    interesting. im using aardvark and it seems to fit along with that model nicely although its more oriented towards routing one persons input to another but it does search for the best answer.

    • sethlevine

      i’m on aardvark as well. interesting example of a “force of the masses” business, although it doesn’t completely take advantage of the full wisdom of the crowds idea.

  • James

    We're building a open marketplace for ad creative that connects ad buyers with ad creators — http://adhack.com

    It isn't pure 'crowdsourcing' but it's opening the creative process to scale and participation from skilled individuals previously excluded.

    We've built a network of 400+ ad creators with portfolios ready to tackle any ad creative problem — TV, web, print, radio, display.

    The wisdom of the crowds is in the feedback on ads prior to purchase or major investment by ad buyers. They can see what works based on feedback or because it's the audience they want to reach who is creating the ads.

    • pendolino

      an interesting concept James. will take a look.

    • sethlevine

      interesting site, james. reminds me of zoopa. do you know those guys (seattle based)?

      • James

        Thanks, folks. Yes, Seth, I've seen Zoopa and they're doing some good work.

        It really feels like the notion of crowdsourcing is splitting. On one side are contest-driven engines. On the other side are collaboration platforms that enable participation.

        We're definitely way more aligned with the collaboration platform side of that split. From our experience, it creates way more durable value for both buyers and sellers.

        The contest-driven engines tend to work for high-passion industries / products but there's always the only-one-winner problem. And most of the participants don't win, which means it's not very rewarding for them.

        • sethlevine

          to me there’s a split between companies that leverage the crowd in a “law of large numbers” fashion (get a bunch of people working separately on a project) vs. those that are trying to leverage the “wisdom of the crowd” by facilitating collaboration and effectively a group answer to questions. one isn’t better than the other – just a different way of using group think…