Wednesday, June 30, 2010

uTest Adds Jim Savage to Its Board of Directors

BOSTON, MA, Jun 29, 2010 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) -- uTest, the world's largest software testing marketplace, today announced that Longworth Venture Partners Co-Founder Jim Savage has joined its board of directors. Longworth Venture Partners, a leading New England venture capital firm, was a lead investor in uTest's $5.2 million round of funding in late 2008.

Jim has more than 20 years of experience launching and growing high-growth internet and digital media companies. He has worked closely with a number of industry-leading firms, including Constant Contact, Grab Networks, and Softricity (acquired by Microsoft).

"Longworth was originally attracted to uTest because we recognized that the company sat at the intersection of several powerful trends, including crowdsourcing, on-demand models, and the era of apps," said Savage. "And in the past 18 months, I've witnessed the incredible traction they've achieved in the app testing market. I look forward to working closely with the management team to fully realize uTest's phenomenal potential."

"Jim has an outstanding track record in helping to guide and grow some of the most successful web companies in our industry," said Doron Reuveni, CEO of uTest. "Adding someone with Jim's vision, network and expertise to our board is an exciting step in uTest's evolution. We look forward to extending our leadership position in the software testing industry, and Jim will be instrumental in helping us achieve our future plans."

Before co-founding Longworth, Jim was CEO of PlanetAll Inc., a pioneering social networking service, which Jim directed from its first round of funding to its successful acquisition by Previously, Jim was a founding executive at ZDNet, a leading web media company, which enjoyed a successful IPO and was later acquired by CNET. Jim graduated from Harvard University.

Savage joins Doron Reuveni (CEO and Co-Founder of uTest), Travis Connors (Partner at Egan-Managed Capital), Joel Mesznik (Partner at Mesco Ltd) and Eric Groves (SVP of Market Development at Constant Contact) on the uTest Board of Directors.

About uTest, Inc. uTest is the world's largest marketplace for software testing services. The company provides real-world testing services through its community of 25,000+ professional testers from 165 countries around the world. More than 1,000 companies -- from web startups to global software leaders -- have joined the uTest marketplace to get their web, desktop and mobile applications tested. More information can be found at or the company's Software Testing Blog at

About Longworth Venture Partners Longworth Venture Partners is a Boston-based venture capital firm that invests in early-stage Internet, media, software and wireless companies. For over twenty years, the Longworth team has founded, built, and led investments in some of the most innovative and successful technology companies. The firm combines a proven track record of entrepreneurial and operating success with top venture investing performance to support entrepreneurs in building the next generation of technology leaders. For more information please visit
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Virgin America Flies With V&S on Web

V&S did not use crowdsourcing to create the campaign -- it crafted the work to enable crowdsourcing

Virgin America has rolled out a Web campaign created by crowdsourcing agency Victors & Spoils. The campaign is a promotion designed to draw attention to the carrier's expansion into Toronto, marking the first time the airline has flown outside the U.S. It is centered on a Web contest inviting users to submit video entries to be named "The Virgin America Toronto Provocateur." Contestants will be evaluated based on whether they have the "creativity, talent and vision" to represent the brand in Toronto. The position comes with perks that include free trips on Virgin America for a year. In a twist, V&S did not use crowdsourcing to create the campaign. Rather, it crafted the work to enable crowdsourcing. V&S co-founder Evan Fry said the shop would work both ways with clients to tap into the power of the crowd. "We're an ad agency built on crowdsourcing principles," he said. "We'll use the crowd to come up with ideas, or we'll come up with something that allows people to create ideas." The Boulder, Colo.-based agency bills itself as the first shop to rely on crowdsourcing to get work done. Earlier this month, it launched a TV campaign for Dish Network. The writer and art director on that project requested anonymity because they have day jobs at other agencies. V&S uses its internal database of over 1,000 creatives as a sort of outsourced creative department. For other work, it uses tools like crowdspring to run creative contests.
Critics claim this approach commoditizes creativity. Fry is sympathetic to those concerns, pointing out V&S prefers to pay all participants for their time and ideas.

"We don't like the work-for-free element of it," he said. I agree with people calling it an evil thing. I don't call it evil, but I see where they're coming from." But, he added, the growth of easy-to-use tech tools makes the democratization of creative services inevitable. "We're seeing a lot of interest from a lot of brands," he said. "We're getting a lot of curious brands who have agencies of record and want to do a project with us. They're interested in whether our approach is more nimble and cost effective." For this project, V&S kept the lion's share of the work in-house, with the concept and strategy handled by V&S staffers. The Web work was handled by an outside developer. V&S shot an intro video showing Virgin Group founder Richard Branson randomly dialing hotel guests, introducing himself and trying to get out his pitch for the Toronto ambassador position. Visitors can vote up or down on entries on the Virgin America campaign site, which V&S built on the Google Moderator platform, a free tool for user-contributed questions, ideas and feedback.
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Crowdfunding: Charles Armstrong, Trampoline Systems

Charles Armstrong spent several years studying how social networks operate in small island communities.

A chance encounter on the Isles of Scilly with the head of the San Francisco Stock Exchange led him to realise his research might have commercial potential.

His software company Trampoline Systems uses a revolutionary technique to raise money called "crowdfunding", seeking small amounts from a large number of investors.
Key advice

If you want to start a business, don't wait - do it now.

"People often think oh I need to go an MBA or something first, it's rubbish. The surest way to learn, discover if you like it, is to do it. And the sooner you do it the better because as our lives proceed we have more to lose."
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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Crowd-sourcing: The future of investment

by William T. Clifford, CEO of Spencer Trask & Co

In the aftermath of the economic meltdown, investment firms are under a more intense level of scrutiny than ever. And the private equity and venture capital sectors are working to efficiently transition out of a deep and widespread crisis through onerous legal and regulatory constraints.

Navigating a labyrinth of SEC laws that date back over 70 years, while pushing venture capital and private equity into the 21st Century requires the flexibility of a yogi, creativity of an artist and attention to detail of a corporate finance attorney. The combination of talents demanded by firms that will reshape the future of our industry is not unlike the unification of talents that enables portfolio companies to become tomorrow’s game-changers.

As the financial industry attempts to adapt to all this change, it’s worth looking at the future of the investment and how it can be used to optimize existing technologies. Along the way, can it also break down the barriers to solving the world’s most critical issues?

Social entrepreneurism has become widely adopted across many industries, but it’s a concept that deserves a second look from venture firms. Specifically, they should be looking at potential portfolio companies that have the potential to both improve the way people live today (and in the future) and yield profits for investors through the commercialization of these breakthrough offerings and strategies.

The most successful ventures are often the ones where the teams learn the importance of collaboration. A Harvard research study showed that complex problems are often solved by groups of people with expertise that is six disciplines away from the original focus of the problem. In other words, an outside perspective can be critical to success.

Public and private sectors can benefit from opening up the toughest challenges to the wisdom of the crowds – tapping the collective IQ of the community to find the perfectly prepared mind.

The Internet is one of the best tools for doing this. Online platforms tailored specifically for one-to-many and many-to-many competitions and collaborations can help solve previously intractable issues.

Investment firms need to embrace the willingness to employ strategies that include crowd sourcing and open-innovation. Often, the best solutions to the toughest challenges come most quickly from bright individuals that look at those issues with a fresh perspective.

Recognizing this and applying a methodology that lends itself to transparency and direct involvement of entrepreneurs and investors is an antidote to industry-wide skepticism. It’s just what today’s investors need in the post-meltdown/post-Madoff environment. Leveraging collaborative tools and practices for new venture acceleration yields not only transformative innovations, it also creates unprecedented transparency that investors increasingly demand.

This collaboration for innovation coupled with transparency delivers an optimized environment that produces outstanding returns – as well as an edge in the increasingly competitive global landscape.

The Internet and crowd sourcing platforms allow the brightest minds all over the world to communicate in real-time, forming a “global brain.” Forward-looking investment firms who embrace this have the opportunity to break traditional barriers of innovation and venture creation and achieve global missions at a formerly unheard of pace.

This is the venture model of the future.
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Big ideas and packed auditoriums

by Madhukar Kamath Managing Director and CEO, Mudra group

The Leo Burnett seminar about the collective mindset evolving every four years, akin to a generation gap every four years was very interesting. Clients sending out briefs into the cyberspace and getting back excellent stuff was highlighted by the excellent MOFILM session. Hearing from Soren Lund from Lego was an eye opener for me. Lego, a favourite of mine, has over 550,000 user generated videos on You Tube. Truly living up to its title of ‘Brain Food'!

The last two days have been packed. Nothing surprising, given the schedule, the names, the events, the functions and not to mention all the fun at 79 La Croisette, affectionately known as The Gutter Bar.

One thing is certain. The Cannes Festival this year has been ‘BIG'— in terms of both, ideas and learnings. The enthusiasm of the delegates also marks a turning point for the festival. Never before have I seen so many delegates troop in early in the morning and stay right through all the seminar sessions. Never. And it took a 27-year-old to pack the maximum number of people ever into the Debussy auditorium. A record that the Cannes authorities announced with glee at the Award shows later in the evening. After all when Mark Zuckerberg was in session, everybody wanted to be there.

From Zuckerberg's session, what stayed with me are two simple statements. He said that ‘Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) was funded when he was in mid-school'. And ‘everybody has friends and family'. Two statements that were simple, but absolutely self explanatory. He also spoke of Facebook's philosophy of ‘designing products around people' and ‘changing the world'. Later in the evening on Wednesday, he was awarded the ‘Media Person' of the year. The best question of the day was the one put forward by the interviewer who asked Mark, ‘what would you like to be when you grow up?' This brought the house down. In all, Zuckerberg's session was very enjoyable due to his passion and clarity of vision.

Since the Indian wins, non-wins and metals tally have been written about a great deal, I would only like to register my own disappointment and move on. Anyway, for me, the highlight of Wednesday evening's award show was the ‘Cyber Lions'. But before I write more about that, let me recommend the Grand Prix winning entry in Design from a small independent Brussels-based agency called Happiness. Their idea, ‘The IQ Fonts', is truly a big, big idea. Brilliantly executed.

Amalgam of technology

What came through again and again in the Cyber Lions category was the amalgam of technology with simple but big ideas. The Grand Prix for DDB Stockholm for VW Fun Theory and Weiden +Kennedy for Nike (NYSE:NKE) Chalkbot were truly deserving. The DDB London entry for Monopoly City Gameboard, TBWA Paris entry for Aides, Grey Barcelona for Pilot Pen, Mobile Dreams Factory Madrid for Ikea, The Sounds of Hamburg Philarmonic orchestra by Jung von Matt were my other favourites. Truly deserving winners.

Wednesday was another big day for celebrity speakers. Jon Landau, the producer of Avatar and Titanic, was excellent. His explanation of the technology that transformed the expressions of actors to what we saw in Avatar was a real revelation. Spike Jonze was up next, followed by Mark Zuckerberg. You couldn't have had a better morning.

While the Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) session was great for the techies and gadget geeks, the R/GA session was simple, straight forward and hard hitting. Dyed in the wool, stubborn and close-minded agencies could do well to wake up and smell the coffee. The need to re imagine brands, redesign teams and rearchitect is critical — the process was never more important. The message is clear. Change, or just be a part of the audience and watch the world go by. The Leo Burnett seminar about the collective mindset evolving every four years, akin to a generation gap every four years was very interesting. Clients sending out briefs into the cyberspace and getting back excellent stuff was highlighted by the excellent MOFILM session. Hearing from Soren Lund from Lego was an eye opener for me. Lego, a favourite of mine, has over 550,000 user generated videos on You Tube. Truly living up to its title of ‘Brain Food'!

The DDB seminar on Thursday truly highlighted the fact that mere content is of no use, it needs to be presented well too. The Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors showcase lived up to its top billing. We had a packed Grand Auditorium well in time for the start. I missed a few sessions due to a DDB Asia Pacific luncheon in pretty Moulin de Mougin. But I will get up to speed with the help of my colleagues. From what I hear, I missed a couple of good sessions. I mention this just to highlight the fact again that the goodies never seem to end. There is something different every hour. Today, Day 6 will feature sessions from Kimberly-Clark (NYSE:KMB) , AKQA, Naked etc. A full house guaranteed by the fact that we will also have Martin Sorell in conversation with Keith Weed, the new CMO of Unilever (NYSE:UL) -the Advertiser of the Year at Cannes this year, along with Maurice Levy with Bob McDonalds, the CEO of P &G, author-director Hermann Vaske and Yoko-Ono.
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The story behind our Ben Franklin experiment

On the surface (hopefully), our 4th of July issue of The Register Citizen this Sunday won’t look much different to the average reader.

Behind the scenes, the approach to how we are putting it together, and what it means for local journalism and the future of the traditional newspaper industry, represent a significant departure from the way we’ve done things at this newspaper and its predecessors (the Torrington Register and the Winsted Evening Citizen) for the past 120 years.

We’re calling it the “Ben Franklin Project,” and it’s no coincidence that it’s scheduled for Independence Day.We’re working on a revolution of our own.

Ben Franklin means we’ll be publishing online and in print using only free, open-source Web-based tools. It’s a big message to ourselves and to the software companies to whom we pay a lot of money to get a traditional print newspaper out the door. We can act like a start-up, and by establishing freedom from cost structures that are out of whack with the trend in print advertising dollars, we can put more money into the core mission of local journalism and sustain it for years to come.

Ben Franklin also means we are involving readers and the community at every stage of the process of local journalism. We are “crowdsourcing” stories, so that you know what we’re working on, you are involved in what direction the story takes, you are a source, and you suggest other sources. Downtown revitalization is the project we’re tackling, and you can get directly involved in the story as it unfolds at RegisterCitizen.Com.

Ben Franklin is a one-day experiment with decades of potential impact. Let us know what you think.
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Monday, June 28, 2010

Making Sense of China’s 100+ Groupon Clones

Twitter hit $1 billion valuation within 3 years. Facebook reached equal valuation with 2 years. It only took Groupon a year and a half. In April, a consortium led by Russian investment company DST invested $135 million on Groupon, making the valuation of Groupon shoot up to $1.35 billion.

The excitement has lead to many Groupon-clones in China. This market is already overheated and much crazier than people expected. Reports say there are between 100 and 200 Groupon-clones in the market already. Some of them already raised a large bucket of money, and several deals are around $5 million. RenRen, the leading Chinese social network, launched its own group purchase site called Nuomi, and it only took hours for 152,095 users to buy an offer for 2 movie tickets, 2 cokes, 1 box of popcorn and 1 Häagen-Dazs ice cream.

But what are the odds of survival for the Chinese clones?

1. Group Purchase, New and Old business model. If you think sites like Tudou, Youku are copycats of YouTube and Renren, Kaixin001 are copycats of Facebook, I can understand that because there were no video-sharing sites, social networks sites similar to those western services in China. But the Groupon model isn’t 100% new for China. Group Purchase (in Chinese it’s called Tuan Gou) is hugely popular in China especially in home improvement/home decoration market where thousands of people got connected online and buy the same products together in street shops in order to get a good bulk-discount.

I met the co-founder of the leading group buy service site weeks ago. He said his company is expecting rmb 50 million after-tax income and getting ready for an IPO. So the consumer education cost for Groupon model is nearly zero. It is an ‘old’ model, but one that has ‘new’ features to Chinese consumers since the purchases are online and there’s the ‘deal of the day’ strategy. No one ever made the online group purchase experience so easy in China.

2. An easier model to survive? Unlike video-sharing, social networks, Twitter models which are all about burning money to build its user-base at the beginning, Groupon clones are making cash-flow since the first day. And the Groupon model focuses on one deal in one city. In China, it’s not difficult to find a deal and the Internet in China is very geographically-based. It should be relatively easier for those startups to survive.

However, if you have many targeting the same market, then it’s all about how to do the marketing in the end. Can you offer better share with those merchants? Do you have enough money to reach more industry sectors and grow faster? Surviving is one thing, at some point, you may also need huge money to burn. (Why did Groupon raise such amount of $$$ even when it’s already hot!!)

3. Better Service or Better Price? I’ve read some feedback from some Chinese Groupon users complaining about the service. ‘Cheap price does not mean we also accept cheap service’, they said. Groupon can offer you good price, but they can not guarantee whether or not the merchants are able to offer mass customers the service with the good quality. When your users come to you only for cheaper price, be careful, because that might also imply the customer loyalty is low. Especially in China, your customer can quickly move to another one with cheaper price or a big one with better service guaranteed.

4. Happy or Sad story in the end? Startups vs. Big guys. This is typically a sad story in China. When Web giants see interesting new business models, instead of partnering with you or acquiring yours, they launch something on their own. Renren’s Nuomi has shown its super power with huge user base. Taobao, has launched its Groupon service on, and Dianpin (the leading Yelp-like service) has also launched its

They have not started heavy promotion yet, but they are watching the market until they are fully ready and the market is more mature. So why are Chinese VCs still rushing for those startups? How do they expect these sites to exit one day? A few very lucky ones could take the lead in the end with enough money to burn, or one of them could be acquired by Groupon if it comes to China one day? I’m not so sure.

5. Innovation or just Interesting? The Groupons’ Aggregator There are so many Groupon services in China, and I am assuming there are more to come. So the question becomes, where to efficiently find the best deals on each service. The answer is obvious; we need a search engine. Now we see the sites such as,, to aggregate and navigate Groupon services. I don’t know what kind of partnerships are involved, but it’s smart, isn’t it? At least, it perfectly fits for overcrowded Chinese market.
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New York Prep School Crowdsourcing Google Ads For Less With Trada

June 24, 2010 9:00 AM EDT

Winston Preparatory School, a co-ed day school with campuses in New York City and Norwalk, Conn., is using Trada to crowdsource pay per click marketing campaigns and reach parents for ten times less than its anticipated cost.

(PRWEB) June 24, 2010 -- Winston Preparatory School, a co-ed day school with campuses in New York City and Norwalk, Conn., is using Trada to crowdsource pay per click (PPC) marketing campaigns and reach parents for ten times less than its anticipated cost.

Trada is a PPC marketplace allowing advertisers to leverage the skills of hundreds of the best PPC experts in the world. Winston Prep offers an individualized education for sixth through 12th grade students with learning differences such as dyslexia, nonverbal learning disabilities, expressive or receptive language disorders and attention deficit problems.

Winston Prep’s plan called for the school to extend its reach beyond its existing community. Parents of children with learning disabilities are active online, so it made sense to advertise on the web. But the costs for paid search advertisements on Google – where people bid for ad placement in an open marketplace -- were high. And it didn’t make sense to employ a full-time paid search expert to bring the costs down. In addition, Winston Prep needed to make sure ads ran only in the locations near the two campuses in New York and Connecticut.

In October 2009, Winston Preparatory School launched a paid search campaign in the Trada marketplace, leveraging the skills of more than 500 certified paid search experts, known as optimizers. Trada automatically geo-targeted the campaign to New York City and Norwalk, Connecticut to ensure only prospective parents living near the schools would see the ads. Within one week, the optimizers generated thousands of keywords and hundreds of ads to generate inbound leads from parents of kids interested in attending the school. Within a month, the optimizers were able to lower the conversion cost – the price the school paid for a parent to click on an ad and fill out a form – from Winston Prep’s original target of $60 to six dollars.

“Trada brings a level of expertise to our PPC that we could never have achieved on our own – and it’s easy! Best of all, Trada’s optimizers have lowed our conversion cost to a tenth of what we had initially been willing to pay,” said Kristin Wisemiller, Director of Admissions at Winston Prep.

“Winston Prep shows how pioneering educational institutions can reach new communities using paid search and how Trada’s experts can help make the effort affordable. We’re looking forward to more schools following their great example,” said Niel Robertson, Trada founder and CEO.

Winston Preparatory Campaign Statistics Optimizers working campaign: 18 Keywords in campaign: 12027 Ads in campaign: 58 Impressions: 859107 Clicks (visits to site): 7027 Conversions (interested parents): 715 Conversion rate: 10% Cost per conversion: $6 Original target cost per conversion: $60

About Trada Based in Boulder, Colo., Trada is revolutionizing the way agencies, advertisers and pay-per-click experts build and manage PPC marketing campaigns. Trada has developed the first PPC marketplace that allows agencies and in-house advertisers to leverage the skills of hundreds of the best PPC experts in the world, who in turn earn money risk free by generating low-cost clicks and conversions for advertisers. For more information, visit
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Friday, June 25, 2010

You Too Can Fund a TV Show

In tough economic times, creators have to get a little more creative about funding their projects. Witness the success of Diaspora’s efforts on and Jill Sobule’s recent donor-backed album. Filmmakers Josh Bernhard and Bracey Smith are now attempting to fund the development of a TV series, Pioneer One, through individual donors. They’ve successfully raised $6,000 for the pilot episode (available on Vodo), and are hoping to raise an additional $20,000 for the next three episodes. (HT: Daniel Gaglio)
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Kickstarter Conundrum: Money Changes Everything... But What If It Doesn't Let You Change Enough?

Let me start out by saying that I'm a huge fan of what Kickstarter has put in place. They've more or less built up a simple and easy to use platform to allow all kinds of creative folks a way to "fan fund" a variety of projects (music, books, software, performance art, movies, etc...) by using a "tiered" support model. If you're not familiar with the site, it lets people setup a project with a funding "goal" and a deadline. Then, they can set up a series of tiers for how people can fund the project, with promises to get back certain things in response to those tiers. This is the model we've spoken about a few times in the past -- such as what Jill Sobule did a couple years ago to fund her album.

While I definitely believe this sort of model can make a lot of sense in certain areas, I don't think it's right for everyone, and it certainly can create some potential problems -- especially if the content creator doesn't live up to expectations. Kickstarter got a lot of publicity back in May when one of its projects, called Diaspora, for a "distributed" social network got covered in the NY Times at the same time as there was a lot of fuss about privacy concerns on Facebook. That resulted in the project -- which had only been seeking $10,000 to let four college kids work on this project over the summer -- raising over $100,000.

Now, many have looked at this as showing off the power of Kickstarter (though, others might argue it really showed off the power of the NY Times). However, Clay Shirky pointed us to a critique of the Diaspora/Kickstarter "success" that points out that it could actually end up being bad for both Kickstarter and Diaspora:

It is kinda alarming as this pressure to deliver something by the end of the summer something so complex is not necessarily going to help them. The open source community have been trying to develop peer to peer web solutions for ages. There are many reasons why we have not seen a strong distributed social web yet. Some of these reasons are technical, other are social, it's not impossible, but also not trivial.

It is not unlikely that Diaspora would fail to deliver on it's promised milestone by the end of the summer. This should not be a big deal for an Open Source project with developers scratching their own itch. But in this case, the Facebook users frustration, Diaspora's media attention and the actual $$$,$$$ make this an itch shared by many many more users and only 4 students are given the scratcher.

To some extent, I also wonder if the research Daniel Pink talks about in Drive can also come into play. By adding more money to the mix, it may actually make it more difficult for the developers to build something as good as they might have otherwise. Now they have so many more expectations and so much more attention that it makes it that much more difficult to live up to expectations, even if they actually can achieve what they initially set out to achieve.

The other thing that might make this tricky is the same point I've made a bunch of times about the difference between ideas and execution. One of the things you quickly learn at a startup is that the initial idea is meaningless. Once you get to work on executing, that idea will change daily (if not more often). You may have a general idea, but reality gets in the way, and you adjust and adjust and adjust. Often, what comes out in the end is entirely different than what you set out to do, but that might not be a problem. It's quite rare for a project to set out towards a specific point and end up at that point.

For most startups, there's flexibility there. As the execution happens, they can shift course along the way. But in a situation like this, where thousands of people have donated with specific expectations, changing course is difficult, if not impossible, even if it turns out to be the most important thing for the project itself. If they do change course along the way, for the good of the project, suddenly people may get upset about a sort of "bait-and-switch." This doesn't mean that I don't like the Kickstarter model in general. But I can see where it could cause trouble in certain situations. For things like an album, where the deliverables are clear and understandable, it can work fine. But for a software development project, it could be a lot more complex, and there can be some serious pitfalls. Combine that with having a project massively overfunded, and it could lead to trouble.
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Can Crowd Funding Help "Seize the Power"?

by Abe Scwartz Huffington Post

Recently, an aspiring filmmaker who I never met in person (though who friended me on Facebook) sent me an invite to contribute money to a feature film he wanted to make. It wasn't a personalized invite. There was no trailer to view. Just a few paragraphs about a fairly generic-sounding story and asking for cash. This irritated me. There was nothing compelling. It wasn't even a sales pitch. It was a dude with a bullhorn in one hand and an upside down hat in another. "Stuff cash in here so I can be an artist!"

I couldn't help but think this guy was a new media douchebag. I didn't say it to him; instead I wrote back and asked if there was a teaser trailer to view, what contributing would translate to for investors, etc.

He never got back to me. I lost no sleep over this.

Anyway, I attended an excellent 2-day event at LA Film Festival last weekend called "Seize the Power: A Marketing and (DIY)stribution Symposium." (IndieWire wrote a great recap here.) It was highly worthwhile for indie filmmakers and aspiring indie filmmakers. I consider myself both, as I have one ultra-low budget feature under my belt, and I'm looking to direct/produce more.

It was a real treat to be in such close proximity to Ted Hope, Peter Broderick, and other humble kings of the film marketing world. Nothing gets the brain cells percolating like hearing respected experts in a field you love discuss current and future trends. Maybe I'm a nerd, but this is exactly how I like to spend my weekends.

Peter Broderick and Yancey Strickler (co-founder of Kickstarter) did superb jobs at explaining to the audience what crowd funding is all about.

I still had questions, and I asked plenty from the crowd during the two days. Since the weekend, I've been borderline neurotically obsessing over the notion of crowd funding and what it can mean for truly independent filmmakers looking to get their passion projects off the ground.

I am all for anything that can help empower independent filmmakers, but I think we need to be careful if we're going to be embracing crowd funding sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo en masse.

I consider crowd funding online an exciting and new means, but not an end to attracting attention to our projects. Crowd funding is a tremendous marketing tool, but that's really what it is: a tool. A great tool for reaching out, finding your audience, and scoring money to get your project off the ground. (According to Broderick, the $ shouldn't come first here, and I completely agree.)

If we go in with any sense of entitlement, lack of follow-through, or weakness, crowd funding will probably not enable us to "seize the power."

Our crowd funding campaigns need to be thought out like real advertising, marketing, and PR campaigns in 2010. They need to be compelling, not new media douche-y, half-assed, or desperate; or we run the risk of being seen as a group of lame, delusional, selfish, wannabe-artists.

I think if you're trying to score money to produce a feature film, you should at least have a quality teaser trailer. And that requires flexing some production muscle. You don't have to break the bank, either. This excellent teaser trailer for "Cemetary Junction" from Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, and Ralph Fiennes, was a big hit at the Golden Trailer awards a couple of weeks back and could serve as a solid example.

Are you offering incentives for contributors? Could a $10 donation mean a digital download of your feature once it's completed? Could $20 mean a signed DVD and poster? Are you planning to donate money to a charity related to your project? What makes your project worth funding?

Also, why do you need XX,XXX amount of money? Production tools have never been cheaper. You might need less than you think. Find out what you really need. Budget your project. (Maybe even upload the spreadsheet of the production budget as an image for potential contributors to see?)

Crowd funding really is a great tool to show what you can bring to the table, not to beg for scraps. If all that's separating you from making it happen is some start up $, show why you deserve it.

The idea, which I didn't come up with, of D.I.Y. indie filmmakers essentially needing to sack up and "open the lemonade stand" is a great one. But if you're asking for money to finance lemons, sugar, filtered water, a table and chairs... well, it's just lame. Sorry. Offer at least a Dixie-cup sized free sample of your delicious lemonade, and tell your audience about your brand and why it's an awesome alternative to Minute Maid. Communicate with the people who are interested in your brand and be you, the antithesis of spam. Am I missing anything? (Please let me know if I am, because I want to know.)

My first feature film cost little to make, and I wasn't in tune to crowd funding when I went about attaining financing. I only needed low 5-figures to cover all expenses, but I still put together a teaser trailer before asking anyone for money. (Seriously, it's awkward asking for money. Make the best case possible!) Fortunately, I got my project financed.

If I need to embrace crowd funding to get my next feature off the ground, I will, and with zero shame. Promise I'll do my best to give you something awesome and not come off as clutter in your life, either.

Here's my DIY approach to getting a first project out there, sans crowd funding:

My first feature, Bad Batch, is a dark comedy about 3 college students who can't handle a pot brownie high one night. Cinematical said it "has an early Kevin Smith or Richard Linklater vibe, and lends itself to the small screen."

You can check out the trailer and watch the full feature for free, in 3 sitcom-length parts, for FREE. If you like it and want to consume more, the movie costs $4.20 download. (DVD's and t-shirts are also available.)

It's not the easiest time to be an indie-filmmaker, but since when is anything worthwhile meant to be easy? Let's empower our own projects and seize some real power.
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Myoo Uses Crowdsourcing For Sustainability Solutions

A windmill, a solar-powered dome, and dryer hidden behind a piece of art are just some of the dozens of ideas that people have for air-drying their clothes instead of tossing them in the dryer. These ideas have been uploaded as part of a new crowdsourcing contest: The winner takes home $4,500 in prizes and corporate sponsor Levi's gets new insight into how its consumers think about saving water and energy. Behind the challenge is Myoo Create, a new company that works with brands to launching sustainability-focused crowdsourcing challenges that engage consumers and spur innovation.

Launching in April of this year, Myoo Create (that's "me + you") has ties to another crowdsourcing company, Jovoto, who hosted the recent Starbucks Beta Cup challenge that ended last week. Jovoto works with companies on business-innovation focused ideas, running contests that range from product naming to brand development. But as more companies came to Jovoto with more challenges related to environmental and social change, they saw the need for a distinct community, just as Myoo Create was launching. So Jovoto shared their platform and technology with Myoo Create in a fruitful, timely partnership. Myoo Create also benefits from funding provided by Adventure Ecology, a company best known for its sailing endeavors on the plastic-bottle boat Plastiki.

Although there are other corporate-sponsored crowdsourcing sites like Innocentive, which recently launched a challenge to contain the Gulf oil spill, and can offer up to $1 million in prizes, Myoo Create is the first community dedicated specifically to sustainability-related challenges. Crowdsourcing has been heralded as a way to help companies tap marketplace solutions faster, but it's especially valuable when it comes to helping companies solve challenges around waste, packaging or materials, where consumers often want change to come more quickly, too, says Myoo Create's Rebecca Petzel. "Myoo Create allows organizations to increase the pace and effectiveness of innovation towards sustainability by harnessing the global brain."

An example of how Myoo Create works can be seen in its current challenge issued by Levi's, which went live June 1. The fashion retailer came to them after surveying their supply chain and realizing that over 50% of the environmental impact of their jeans happens after they've left their stores--during the phase when consumers were washing and drying their jeans. This was no longer a message about Levi's products, it needed to be a message that urged consumers to modify their behavior. Myoo Create helped Levi's workshop their concern into a challenge that was engaging and entertaining for its audience--find a better way to air-dry jeans--and Levi's wrapped it into a larger campaign named Care to Air.

boukie1984's concept for Levi's hides clotheslines behind The Climb-Line

On the outset, this challenge might seem too frivolous to advance any kind of social change; besides, a standard clothesline has worked just fine for most jean-washers throughout history. But Petzel says that the contest is not just about producing an actual air dryer product, it's also to get Levi's fans thinking about the issues. "We've had people come to us and say, I'm not sure we need to redesign the clothesline, but we need to be reminded to air dry, so thank you for that,'" she says. Plus, many of the solutions make air-drying more attractive, addressing an all-too-real challenge that many people face in their neighborhoods: Clotheslines are actually outlawed by many homeowners' associations.

Although she agrees that this challenge is on the lighthearted side, Petzel says to watch the site for Myoo Create to address much more complex issues to come. Some ideas Myoo Creates are really interested in are supporting the fashion industry's Better Cotton initiative and coming up with solutions for removing the excessive hanger waste in clothing stores, she says. "The process of getting a garment off a truck and onto shelves is a really wasteful process and no one has been able to find a solution."

Myoo Create works much like any other online community: Users create profiles and upload their work so it can be shown publicly. The way the community is structured, Myoo helps to engage its members in an open-source, constructive way that encourages sharing. Members can comment on other people's solutions, and Myoo's platform allows people to improve and re-upload their submissions based on feedback. Members can vote up their favorite ideas, and those who comment frequently can be named Most Valuable Community Member, receving up to $500 for providing help to the community.

The Bamboo Mat Air Dry system for small spaces, designed by kavish_sekhri

One issue that's important for a crowdsourcing process to address is ownership. At Myoo Create, users upload their work as a non-exclusive agreement that allows their work to be shared and distributed. Creative Commons is used on Myoo Create's site, but for each challenge they have to address the needs of their clients on a case-by-case basis to find different agreements that legally work for each of them. Winning ideas can be put into production by the company or sometimes its up to the creative to actually implement it. But Myoo Create's users are also unique since the motivation behind most people's contributions isn't fame or prizes but the fact that they can use their skills to help. "We are empowering creatives on a whole new scale by allowing anyone a voice at the table to help shape better organizations," says Petzel.

Myoo Create's entrance into the market also represents a changing shift in the conversation between consumers and brands. A study by the consumer research group Cone showed that not only do consumers want to have an active role in determining their favorite brands' decisions, they expect them to listen to them. This becomes especially critical around sustainability issues where about 80% of consumers say they have ideas for companies to improve their policies, says Petzel. "The numbers highlight the opportunity for Myoo Create, and an open, innovative crowd-sourcing community 100% dedicated to helping organizations open up about the tough challenges facing us all."

Crowdsourcing also drives brand loyalty. According to the same study, consumers said they would be 60% more likely to buy a company's products and services if the company incorporated their ideas. By getting the word out that these companies are trying to improve their sustainability efforts, it makes consumers get the sense that a company wants to change and want to be a part of it. Perhaps most importantly, consumers can also hold companies publicly accountable to actually implement new policies, says Petzel. "We make it far more attractive and viable for organizations to commit to tackling their sustainability challenges."


The most popular and talked about stories of the week.


If you have a design and sustainability story to share, let us know about it! Check out the Designers Accord Web site. And follow us on Twitter @designersaccord to hear what the Designers Accord community is thinking about.
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Social game currency increasingly popular for crowdsourcing payments

Social game players are used to doing virtual work (i.e. harvesting fake crops) for virtual money (i.e. Farmville cash). But that concept has taken a strange twist recently: players exchanging real work for virtual cash.

The fake-money-for-real-work idea is becoming increasingly popular, according to a recent San Francisco Chronicle profile on crowdsourcing company Crowdflower. The company offers its proprietary Swag Bucks as payment for a variety of menial, hard-to-automate tasks such as verifying and categorizing search results or evaluating tweets as "positive" or "negative."

Those Swag Bucks can then be exchanged for everything from cash and gift cards to, increasingly, virtual currency for use in social games. In fact, CrowdFlower CEO Lukas Biewald says he expects virtual currency payments to reach $1 million this year -- up from a mere $50,000 last year.

That's a bit surprising, since the company's virtual currency offers aren't nearly the best deals on offer. For the same "Swag Buck" price as a $10 Farmville gift card, you could get almost $15 in PayPal cash or over $20 in Amazon gift cards. The fact that more people are taking the social gaming currency instead says something about the addictive appeal of these games, I think.

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HOW TO: Crowdsource Funds for Causes, Creativity and Startups

Selling candy bars or applying for a bank loan is so 20th century. Now, there are more ways than ever to raise money thanks the to Internet. A huge market of do-it-yourself crowdsourcing websites has made fundraising easier and more effective.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a techie to access all of these great resources. Even the most adamant technophobe can get online and start raising money. Below, we profile some of the most useful ways to raise money for your charity or creative project.

If celebrities don’t have to bake brownies or stand outside of grocery stores, why should the rest of us? That’s precisely why Edward Norton and Shauna Robertson started Crowdrise, a personal foundation platform that allows users to raise money and organize volunteer efforts.

Each Crowdrise template gives everyday philanthropists a hub to showcase their charity, do social media outreach, display photos, and update contributors on the project’s progress. Crowdrise also features a recurring payment system, team pages (good for marathons), and personalized URLS. To incentivize active membership, Crowdrise gives away prizes to the most active members.

Crowdrise still keeps a sense of humor. It’s tagline is “If you don’t give back, no one will like you,” and the website is peppered with chuckles, such as Will Farrell holding a bottle of “Sexy Tan” sun screen. Norton explained at last the recent Mashable Media Summit that this was a deliberate attempt to move beyond the dry and utilitarian modes of traditional fundraising.

Crowdrise has other, star-studded alternatives. Citizen Effect, another celebrity-endorsed crowdsourcing fundraiser focuses on a few select charities. is built for K-12 educators, and recently experimented with group-buying innovator Groupon. Honorable mentions go to, givezooks and

Kickstarter specializes in helping aspiring creatives fund small scale projects, usually between $500 – $20,000. To incentivize contributions, each project offers a tiered reward system. For example, $20 donated to an indie movie may get a donor an autographed copy of the movie. $5,000 could get that donor listed in the opening credits as an “executive producer.”

Kickstarter campaigns can be a fascinating mix of online savvy and old-fashioned door-to-door salesmanship. Take Jesse Genet, a 22-year-old Southern Californian with an industrial manufacturing degree and the hope that she could revolutionize the fashion printing business. To raise over $12,000, Genet offered deep discounts on chic wallets and purses to Kickstarter contributors and promoted her wares at popular meetups for LA locals. Genet almost missed her financial goal but, through a flurry of frantic Facebook status updates, barely pushed herself over the top.

Kickstarter is currently in beta, and is screening all proposals.

Kickstarter alternatives include, IndieGoGo and Pledge Music and Sellaband are similar services for musicians, and is for investigative journalists.

Given the entrepreneurial spirit of the web, crowdfunding websites for startups should be everywhere. However, equity is generally heavily regulated by federal governments and can include everything from disclosure requirements to minimum wealth for investors. Additionally, each country has its own regulatory laws, further complicating the issue. In response, entrepreneurial crowdfunders have started to look outside the box.

In order to entice serious investors, crowdfunding website GrowVC created a social networking platform for investors and entrepreneurs to find and communicate with one another. For those who want invest more than the $1,200 limit of their particular community fund, GrowVC encourages members to conduct negotiations outside their website. GrowVC receives no money from investments made or facilitated outside of the community fund.

“Generally, unless you were friends with the founders [of websites such as Google (Google) of Facebook], or a wealthy sophisticated investor networked in the VC community, those opportunities would never be made available to you — GrowVC changes that, all you need to do is be there,” wrote CINTEP director, Nick Christy, in an e-mail. His company has taken full advantage of online crowdsourcing opportunities.

Additionally, GrowVC founder Valto Loikannen maintains that the community fund acts as a kind of spotlight for successful companies. “The community fund acts as an ‘activator’ for bigger investments, similar to the ‘Like’ function in blogs,” Loikannen wrote.

Profounder offers another option for startup crowdfunding. While the site hasn’t officially been launched, clients will be able to submit pitches, invite friends, conduct transactions online, and manage their investor community online (including repayments, rewards, and regular updates). Founded by Kiva co-founder
Jessica Jackley, and with a strong suite of advisers, such as LinkedIn (LinkedIn) chairman Reid Hoffman and Prosper CEO Chris Larsen, it looks like Profounder is set to take on the startup crowdfunding market sometime this fall.
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Monday, June 21, 2010

O.C. startup tries crowdsourcing to raise money

When a couple of Orange County computer experts starting looking for money to create a social media platform for cooks, the response from investors and lenders was less than enthusiastic. In fact, it was non existent.

So former UC Irvine computer science major Daniel Quach and IT manager Sophorn Tim turned to a nontraditional fund-raising tool that couldn't exist without the Internet. They posted their pitch on Kickstarter.

Kickstarter, a 14-month-old website, allows people to post for up to 90 days a description of their creative project or business venture and how much money they need to do it.

Those who raise the money they need pay Kickstarter; those who don't pay nothing.

Quach and Tim's concept is based in Garden Grove. Their goal is to raise $25,000 in 45 days ending 1 a.m. July 27.

The idea is to let HowCookingWorks participants to upload recipes, videos, cooking classes and ask questions or share information about cooking. Instruction might be as simple as how to use a paring knift to step-by-step preparation of specific recipes.

"When I had to learn to cook, it was hard," Quach said. "There are a lot of recipe sites out there but they don't reach you how to cook. When I tried to follow a recipe's instructions, it didn't turn out the way it was planned.

"A social network for cooking can draw people who want to learn and people who know how and want to share with others. They can learn about food, learn from others and build strong bonds with other cooks."

Quach quit his job to create the beta site for Quach grew up in Santa Ana and Tim grew up in Long Beach.

Angel investors were unmoved by the idea, Quach said. "It was humbling. They said unless you can prove your model, they wouldn't invest. They wanted to see guaranteed returns on their money."

To attract pledges to their Kickstarter effort, Quach and Tim are offering goodies for each pledge. For example:

* A $5 pledge gets Quach's DVD "How to Cook Asian Food"
* $25 gets the DVD, and a Forschner paring knife
* $200 gets the DVD, two Forschner paring knives, a 10-inch Forschner chef knife and a HowCookingWorks branded apron
* $500 gets all the above plus a second edition DVD of How to Cook Asian Food, an 8-inch Forschner chef knife and knife sharpener.

As of Saturday, 22 supporters had pledged $665 with 37 days to go.
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Friday, June 18, 2010

SCORE column: Source the crowd for business strategies

When a SCORE client needed a business name, students of Paul Lotto, a SCORE volunteer and marketing/business teacher at Ashwaubenon High School, put together a list of creative possibilities. We didn't realize it at the time, but this was a prime example of crowdsourcing, one of the newest and cheapest business strategies.

Crowdsourcing allows an entrepreneur to complete projects or jobs inexpensively by leveraging groups of people to come up with solutions.

Using LinkedIn, a member of the Marketing and PR Innovators Group started an online discussion.

"Please help me come up with a tagline for my music company," Jeff Gold requested. "The name of my company is Jeff Gold Music, and I compose and produce music that is great for relaxation. I'm not quite as good with words and I have struggled with a good tagline."

In response, ideas have been coming in for months. In fact, more than 350 people have responded with their recommendations. There are so many good taglines that it will be difficult for Gold to select the best. What he has done is obtain exceptional assistance at no cost. The savings are huge.

This is just one of the strategies that can be employed. There are some sites that help entrepreneurs get their businesses going without the cost of employees. Some to consider include:

99 Designs: This site offers graphic design work to a broad network of artists and designer who compete to submit the best idea. The entrepreneur offers a payment price for the best logo and picks a favorite from the submissions.

Kickstarter: This is a funding platform for artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians, journalists, and more. You name the amount of money you need to do something; people in turn pledge amounts in support of this project or business. If you receive enough pledges, your donors' payments are processed and you receive the full amount.

TopCoder: Runs competitions with prizes that enable participants to compete for the best software, development and employment services solutions.

Trada: A search engine marketing and optimization company that lets the crowd pick the best keywords for your company or campaign.

Jigsaw: Provides leads in the industries you are targeting by allowing you to upload contact information in exchange for the ability to download other people's contact information.

LiveOps: If you aren't ready to hire sales people, this company specializes in call center outsourcing.

InnoCentive: As your business grows, this company allows you to outsource research and development to discover the latest new product or service.

Samasource: A socially responsible site, this will enable your business to send microtasks to youth, refugees, and women in developing countries.
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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Who Wants Your Microlending Dollars? These Local Businesses Do

A barbecue truck. A food documentary. An artisan cheese maker. These are all Bay Area food projects seeking startup funding online.

A few weeks back, Chow's Roxanne Webber wrote a great piece about Kickstarter and Indiegogo, two websites that allow small businesses or artists to advertise for microfinancing to get a project or business off the ground. Webber quoted Kickstarter founder Yancey Strickler as saying that food projects succeed "66 percent of the time, when the site average is about 50 percent."

Case in point: Mission Street Food founder Anthony Myint, whose successful Kickstarter campaign SFoodie chronicled ― the $12,000 he raised (repayable via gift certificates once the restaurant opens) wasn't nearly enough to renovate the space he leased, but it let bigger-bucks lenders know how eager San Franciscans were to support him. In May, Little City Gardens raised even more ― $20,000 ― and both Dessert Labs and Bacon Camp overshot more modest goals. (Not all of the microlending has taken place online. Todd Spitzer finally, officially opened Remedy Oakland in Temescal this week; he raised thousands of dollars to finish the construction on his space by offering customers a prepayment plan.)

So who's next? SFoodie pored over Kickstarter and Indiegogo looking for local projects. We found a few:

Project: Rib Whip
Looking for: Seed money to purchase a smoker and pay for permits to start up a Midwestern barbecue truck (truck not included)
Raised: $1,530 out of $15,000
Days to go: 27

Project: Delphinium Cheese Co.
Looking for: Seed money to turn a cheese-making hobby into a business, which will offer bicycle delivery of the owner's handmade, organic-milk cheeses to East Bay subscribers
Raised: $1,300, exceeding $1,200 goal
Days to go: 15

Project: From the Ground Up
Looking for: funding for feature-length documentary about the modern victory garden movement
Raised: $50 out of $5,000
Days to go: 9

Project: Gavin's Mom for Juice!
Looking for: start-up costs to develop low-sugar, high-juice fruit and vegetable drink for kids
Raised: 0 out of $5,000
Days to go: 58

Not all the fundraising efforts succeed. A local baker named Will Hammond failed to raise start-up money to bake his grandma's sweet-potato pies. And, in non-food realms, SFoodie is distraught that the butoh swimsuit calendar may never be published. But we'll be curious to see what other businesses raise money this way.
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Live-Blogging Future of News and Civic Media moving from Crowdsourcing to Crowdbuilding

After the announcement of the Knight News Challenge winners came the first "plenary session" at the Future of News and Civic Media Conference. The topic is "Crowdbuilding," with the following panelists:

Chris Csikszentmihalyi is director of the MIT Center for Future Civic Media.

Gabriella Coleman is an anthropologist who studies the ethics of online collaboration.

Karim Lakhani is an assistant professor at Harvard Business School who studies distributed innovation systems.

Chris Csikszentmihalyi, MIT: The term crowdsourcing has been to the detriment of the news business. "Debian" is a collaborative GNU/Linus release that is powerful enough for space shuttles.

Coleman: Debian founded in 1993, with thousands of pieces of software. Has more people working on it than any free software. There's a "social contract," a "constitution" and "free software guidelines." [Plays clip about following the rules of the constitution.]

Openness is about transparency and code but it's not open to all participation. People think hackers are free-wheeling libertarians, but with any large software projects, their problem-solving skills go into institution building. The membership enter a gateway that all developers must pass through, which is three steps and is a long process that takes months. You might be hooked up with a German mentor who makes you answer 60 questions. They check a new person's identity and checks on technical expertise.

Gabriella Coleman and Karim Lakhani

So why was this created? The project followed a crowd logic. Debian became really popular in the late 1990s, so there was an influx of new developers. So people wanted to include commercial software to start competing with other Linux developers. That disturbed the older members, so they stopped accepting members for more than one year.

We can reach clarity on how to build stable and ethical institutions from the ground up, using this as an example. One of the pitfalls from Debian and Wikipedia is that it's difficult to have open-endedness and freedom but still have rules and red tape. Virtual projects are also marked by apathy as well as flame wars. With projects that are demanding, flame wars come up constantly.

Journalism has always had a strong ethical element. Clay Shirky has argued that the Internet has facilitated group creation. And he's right. It's mind-boggling. He treats it as a net political gain, but I think it has a downside. With the proliferation of so many groups you're competing with members and there's a problem with fragmentation. Every group doesn't need to do everything. There's a limit to the proliferation of project. Collaboration is more important than ever before.

Q: How do you get people involved in projects?

Coleman: Some people are only slightly interested but then get ethically on board. With Debian you don't have to be into the ethical questions to get involved. Projects should be interesting on their own outside of the ethics.

Lakhani, Harvard Business School: Two brothers from Indiana created a Super Bowl ad for Doritos, from a contest that had 1,900 entries. Two ads from the contest were in Top 10 USA Today rankings. Now this has become the regular ad strategy for Pepsi.

Joy's Law haunts innovation efforts. "No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work somewhere else." -- Bill Joy, Sun Microsystems

Here's an example at MIT: Bob Langer, who is very smart and is the expert for tissue engineering. The fact is that the nature of knowledge is that it's highly distributed -- it's unevenly distributed in society. Eric von Hippel said, "Knowledge is sticky."

You start with 1,900 ideas, and then they get filtered and funneled down to the best ideas. We want "extreme value," the one killer idea, not the average value of everything. Most organizations are struggling with how to get distributed knowledge and then figure out how to filter them. You can do it through competition with a diversity of approaches. Contributions tend to be substitutes, as in the Apple app store.

With collaboration, you can get contributions that range from mix & match to co-productions. Can be driven by intrinsic motivations.

Out in the world, there are firms doing collaborations and contests. Here's a company that's doing it very well: Threadless. The idea is to design a T-shirt and become famous. You upload your design, and then they get voted on, from 0 to 5.

Threadless community: 500,000 members; 800 designs per week submitted; 55,000 people have submitted design; 50 million votes made.

Lakhani: The core work for the company is being done outside the firm. And even choosing the designs comes from the community. Out of 800 new designs, they only make 7 each week. So it's very hard to win. Knowledge is out there, so you can enable a set of customers to generate and vote on the best ideas.

Why do people participate? Most people in a contest will lose. It's non-rational behavior. There's a range of motivations: They feel creative; it's fun, building a skill; doing what you want to do; increasing their knowledge. Open source people volunteer an average of 14 hours per week of work.

Q: For people who just got a News Challenge grant, how could you pare down lessons learned to share with them?

Coleman: It depends on the nature of the project. There are all sorts of virtual projects that have innovated in interesting ways. There's a need out there to connect projects, either technically or not technically. I don't see a lot of groups that exist to do that.

Lakhani: There should be a push for transparency. You have a self-archiving history of the project. Put everything on a public email list. With Apache Group, you almost need to show people "candies" or bite-sized things they can accomplish. You will get power distribution, where fewer people do most of the work. You need to just accept that. Competitions and open source often focus on results and not credentials.

Q: What about incentives? If you have $10,000 for a contest, how do you spread that around?

Lakhani: I'm all for allowing for smaller prizes. NASA had a contest where winners got to see a shuttle launch.
Demos of MIT Future of Civic Media Projects

Now comes some demos of student projects. First up is Rick Borovoy, who is showing off Homeless Neighbors. Talks about seeing people sell homeless paper called "Spare Change."

Borovoy: So we wanted to build home pages for the sellers of the papers. So we put a sticker on the paper, which points to the seller's home page. Sticker says, "Peaches is your Spare Change News Vendor. Check out her home page!" [Shows her home page.]

There's also a ChipIn widget that has helped her raise $160 so far for a career development program. Someone tweeted her page and it got a couple hundred hits on it. The sticker is probably the most transformative part about this. Changed her relationship to customers, it personalizes it. This week, the vendors agreed on a question to ask people, and there's an online poll.

We wanted to build a community around the vendors.

Next project: One thing about Boston is that it's hard to find everything. So I wanted to do something about this. What if we could crowdsource better signs and get the government to put up those signs. I went to government and got a pretty tepid response.

But I was walking around Kendall Square and saw lots of private property signs, so maybe there's an opportunity there. Lo and behold, it started to work. Got a pilot project going with the Mass. College of Art. We got a sign for the Avenue of the Arts, and put it up there, on private property.

Now we're going to crowdsource suggestions for future signs. And the government is now interested in helping us.

Next up is the Junkyard Jumbotron. How can you create a spectacle without a big cost? Our idea was to stitch a bunch of laptops together in an ad hoc display. Takes a picture of the array of laptops and then email it to the special address. This is a live demo with eight laptops.

The system then parses it, and sends the image to all the laptops.
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Does Crowdsourcing Threaten Your Job (or Offer New Opportunity)?

by Niel Robertson, CEO, Trada

Crowdsourcing mobilizes crowds to help solve problems, from cleaning BP's oil spill to marketing your company effectively. That's great for the organization with the problem, but is it good for you? Or, as critics contend, is crowdsourcing a threat to your profession that you should resist?

My experience is that it depends. The new trend in crowdsourcing coordinating expert crowds to attack tasks requiring specialized knowledge. For example, uTest organizes software-testers, Local Motors organizes car designers, InnoCentive matches scientists to research efforts and BountyJobs matches headhunters with positions that require domain expertise (such as Pathologist's Assistant or Swimwear Technical Designer). These expert crowdsourcing sites don't commoditize your work by sending it to the general masses; instead, they provide you with a new way to get compensated for your expertise.

Here's why: the best sites cut out the overhead and let you focus on what you do best. The best sites also reward you for results.

Say you're a headhunter. In addition to the work you perform, your hourly rate covers other things such as customer acquisition (sales and marketing), customer retention (customer support, billing, collections) and general overhead.

The new expert crowdsourcing sites reduce overhead costs by bringing customers and experts together and automating service, support and billing. You get paid directly for the results of your expertise, and you can apply more of your effort to solving the main problem rather than finding customers and managing operations. The setup is attractive to freelancers or other small business people who love exercising their specialty more than they love managing general business tasks.

This newer model of expert crowdsourcing is still developing, and some sites offer better incentives than others. The model I prefer is a collaborative compensation model, which is different than the more commonly-known contest model used for some TV ads. In a contest model, participants respond to a request for submissions, but only one or two winners win the job and its rewards. In a collaborative model, contributors each earn compensation based on their performance toward a final result.

uTest is a good example of the collaborative model. Its software testers get paid for performance by writing test cases or finding bugs based on those test cases. If the task is to find software bugs, some find many, some only a few. But chances are high that most find something. The performance-based payout rates uTest experts earn can rival the effective earning rate they would make as freelancers. And customers win because they get a collaborative result from many participants while paying only for results.

The crowdsourcing movement is young and the underlying models are evolving quickly. The practice is stratifying into two distinct types: crowds of experts and general crowds that simply enjoy participating. In the participation model, the crowd may accept winner-take-all prizes or even simple participatory reward. For experts, the long term question is "will crowdsourcing pay well for my expertise?"

My prediction is that soon, if not already, the answer is yes.
Reposted with permission by Niel Robertson
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Crowdsourcing: Driving the future of Logo Design in UK

Some people allege that crowdsourcing is “evil” and logo design contest are “bad”, but simply making proclamations against a concept means drawing a bleak picture of the subject. Before opposing any contest, let alone logo design contest, one should realize that contests are not obligatory or binding on the participants. On the contrary, they are voluntary and solely on the willingness of the contestants. Designers who wish to show their mettle and earn a quick buck enter into logo design contests on their own free will.

Before coming to any conclusions, let us analyze the crowdsourcing issue in a balanced way. Let us look at both the benefits and drawbacks of crowdsourcing.

Benefits of Crowdsourcing
• Crowdsourcing provides a platform for logo designers to demonstrate their talent
• It gives an equal opportunity for designers from all parts of the world to compete
• It brings the emerging and promising logo designers into the limelight
• It creates an environment of competition, which in turn yields higher quality of logo designs
• Crowdsourcing is a prompt and convenient way of carrying out logo design transactions
• It provides a chance for designers in the third world countries with insignificant portfolio to earn a living
• Serves as a social hub for designers to get acquainted with their counterparts and learn
• It benefits designers in the long-run, with possibility of further projects once their design is selected.
• A practical and feasible option for companies with budget constraints

Drawbacks of Crowdsourcing:
• Crowdsourcing usually yields only one winner and the rest of the designer feel neglected
• Although it is a low-cost solution for companies, it may compromise on quality of logo design due to time constraints.
• Preferences of the winning design are made solely on the basis of client’s decision.
• It is believed that crowdsourcing devaluates the prices of logo designs.
• Crowdsourcing may involve legal concerns as there is a possibility that the logo design violates copyright and trademark issues.
• Since logo design contests are time-bound, they may produce low quality of logo designs in haste.

How is crowdsourcing serving logo design in UK?
There are numerous examples to suffice that crowdsourcing is playing a vital role in the field of logo design in UK. The latest case in point is the logo design contest initiated by Greenpeace UK to redesign the BP logo. Designers of all ages and experiences are thrilled to join this contest, even though it does not entail any prize money.
Another case in point is the recent EU organic logo redesign obtained through an online contest. The contest adjudicated the best three logo designs, each with respective prize money. The winner received €6,000, while the runners-up collected €3,500 and €2,500 respectively.

Initiating the rising trend:
One of the major reasons for criticism and reprisal against logo design contest and other crowdsourcing sites is that it undermines the well-established logo designers and their potential work. Frankly speaking, being intimidated by competition is not a satisfactory rationale for opposing new trends. Irrespective of what crowdsourcing antagonist feel, it is a proven fact that logo design contests are a rising trend and a useful and bright prospect for emerging logo designers.
Keeping in view the emerging trends, we here at, have initiated our very own logo design contest site where designers are invited to participate and earn.
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Sunday, June 13, 2010

This video was made in 2007

Casaleggio Associati ( develops strategies for companies who want to invest in the Net and produces Reports on the digital economy.
The company's objective is to develop a Net culture through original studies, articles, books, newsletters, seminars and through the creation of brainstorming and focus groups.
Casaleggio Associati defines the structure, purpose and implementation process for sustainable and profitable business models for the use of the Net and identifies web marketing strategies through the study of the target of reference, the message to be conveyed and the channels to be used.
Casaleggio Associati assists companies in the development of the Intranet that allows each individual company user to access the processes and information through a dedicated profiled portal.
Finally, it identifies social networking techniques for companies that operate in the “relationship business” (such as CRM, sales processes, Intranet marketing, etc.) and develops social network applications for the analysis, management and direction of relationships.
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Dear Arianna Huffington: We Wrote Your Five-Word Speech

Arianna Huffington needs a five-word speech to give at the Webby Awards, and she's soliciting suggestions on her blog. I've got one: "Crowdsourcing everything, including this speech." Got something better? Put on your thinking cap, and help us help Arianna.

Arianna explains her dilemma:

As is the tradition at the Webbys, award winners only get five words for their acceptance speeches. Last year, mine was: "I didn't kill newspapers... okay?" [...] I need to decide what this year's speech should be, and would love your input. Submit your five-word speech in the comments section.

Former Gawker blogger Alex Pareene started a Twitter trend to help Arianna, #5wordariannaspeech, and we think it's a great idea. ("@pareene, we're still using you.") Let's double down on Arianna's crowdsource. Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling:
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Vocus Acquires Crowdsourcing HARO's Free Social Media News Service

Today, Peter Shankman, the hard-working matchmaker of reporters and sources, and self-proclaimed 'adventurist' sold his company HARO (Help A Reporter Out) to Vocus, an on-demand software company
. A true success story - what outgrew its confines as a small Facebook group, HARO's Web site and newsletter service has expanded exponentially to a mailing list of 100k+ journalists and experts.
HARO, dissimilar to other journalists' resource sites that either charge a fee or are part of a bidding auction, is a completely free service that has become the de-facto standard for journalists looking for sources on a deadline. I personally have used the service a number of times and have never been disappointed in the results. According the the Web site, HARO is currently the largest free source repository in the world, sending out over 1,200 queries from worldwide media each week. Based on the premise, "everyone is an expert at something," the site is not only used by journalists but also those that specialize in various industries, run charities, invest in hobbies, green initiatives - the list goes on, an on.
Vocus CMO Bill Wagner in a Mashable report, characterized HARO as being "in line with where social media is taking public relations - the old world of PR is changing and it's not coming back." He values the new acquisition as an opportunity for both HARO and Vocus to continue to break down barriers and directly connect newsmakers with sources, essentially turning the process of tradition PR "on its ear."

Dan Martelli, seasoned blogger and executive editor for Technorati, see HARO as a "great test case for those online services that are looking for high adoption quickly." He notes that had Shankman chose to monetize the service, it would have never worked. "This move wouldn't have happened if HARO was launched as a pay service from the outset. The social aspect of the service simply made it accessible to everyone — agency types, client side execs, non-profits and the like," he says.

“HARO is a journalist-driven model for sourcing stories that is more in keeping with today’s social approach toRick RudmanRick Rudman relationship building,” said Rick Rudman, president and CEO, Vocus. “As a free service, HARO is a perfect on-ramp to the Vocus suite for new customers and complements our existing product portfolio.”

One of the most exciting things to happen to PR is social media. It's opened p the opportunity for the news industry's storytellers and networkers to conduct their jobs a more direct fashion - reaching influencers in ways never before possible, and extending reach well beyond traditional PR. HARO is a thought-leader in moving the boundaries of this new tradition forward.
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Thursday, June 10, 2010

More Validity to Social Business Intelligence: Crowdcast Raises $6 Million

Crowdcast has raised $6 million from Menlo Partners in a deal that spells well for a new generation of companies with crowdsourcing and business intelligence offerings.

Crowdcast is also receiving a follow on investment form Alsop-Louie Partners. The funding will support expanded sales and marketing efforts. It will also serve to expand Crowdsource integrations with third parties.

Crowdcast applies risk management principles and crowdsourcing techniques to gain insights from employees. Questions are posed to employs who provide answers along with bets about what they feel is the probable outcome. The betting is intended to force respondents to look at an issue, apply logic to the issue, judge the different factors and make a decision.

Executives can immediately look at the results to make decisions.

Crowdcast is currently partners with SAP BusinessObjects and other companies with risk management solutions.

Crowdcast is in a competitive space. Social business intelligence has crossover with other categories such as predictive analytics. Competitors include companies like IBM, SAS and Tibco.These companies use more traditional methods for aggregating and analyzing data to help managers make business decisions. It's plausible, though, that Crowdcast could be a viable offering in conjunction with these types of services.
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Monday, June 7, 2010

Crowdsourcing manga licenses

Ed Chavez, the marketing director for manga publisher Vertical, Inc., came into the business from the fan side—he ran one of the first manga podcast blogs, MangaCast, back in the day—and he has shown a knack so far for picking books that get fans excited, like Twin Spica, Peepo Choo, and Chi's Sweet Home. So when Ed gets on Twitter, he's not just touting his company's latest release ("Tell me what you like best about Title X!!"), he is asking people what they want—and sometimes explaining why they can't have it.

It's licensing time again, so Ed is accepting suggestions from the public, and his former intern Ko Ransom compiled the Twitter conversation into a single page. It makes fascinating reading for those who are fascinated by the ins and outs of manga licensing. For one thing, many titles are off limits because the Japanese publisher has exclusive deals with American licensors; since Shueisha and Shogakukan own Viz Media, for instance, don't look for Vertical to be publishing any of their titles.

There are other constraints as well: Ed won't consider long series, 18+ titles (bookstores won't carry them) or 4-koma manga. And while he would love to publish Saint Young Men, a comedy manga about Jesus and Buddha living together in a Tokyo apartment, the chances of that look slim for now. "i've asked its editor and he has said it will not be published in the US at this time. not until the readership changes here," Ed says. But if that ever does happen, he added, the editor wants him to be the one. If nothing else, the conversation is a reminder that there are plenty of good manga out there waiting to be brought to English-speaking audiences—if only we can persuade Ed (and his counterparts elsewhere) to license them.
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Crowdsourcing website welcomes designer number 15,000 and launches hybird design crowdsourcing model

Design contest website DesignCrowd ( - a leading design crowdsourcing service - has just launched a new 'hybrid' crowdsourcing model. Customers who post design contests on DesignCrowd can now select, invite and pay specific graphic designers to submit designs to their project and, at the same time, keep their project open and receive scores of designs and ideas from around the world.

The new model - inspired by the concept of a 'mini crowd' - allows businesses to find designers with portfolios they like, or designers they've used before, and invite them to work on their project. Alec Lynch, Managing Director of DesignCrowd says, "Essentially, it's the best of both worlds. You get to combine the openness of crowdsourcing with the benefits of traditional design outsourcing where you get to hand pick designers that suit your project. What we're now offering is crowdsourcing where multiple people get paid." Lynch says DesignCrowd is constantly seeking to improve the crowdsourcing model and believes the new hybrid system will increase the quality of the output and reduce the risk for designers.

DesignCrowd Grows to 15,000 Designers
DesignCrowd has also just welcomed its 15000th graphic designer and has launched a brand new Graphic Designer Directory. Businesses will now be able to browse DesignCrowd's 15,000+ graphic designers from around the world and then pick and choose their favourites. DesignCrowd's directory includes both geographic categories such as Graphic Design India, Graphic Design Australia, Graphic Design UK as well as product specific categories including Logo Designers, Flyer Designers, Web Page Designers, Icon Designers and Banner Ad Designers.

DesignCrowd CEO Alec Lynch says "we are very proud of not only the size of our design community and its growth but also the quality and caliber of designers". Lynch expects DesignCrowd's community to grow to 100,000 designers within the next twelve months.

About DesignCrowd
DesignCrowd is a leading design crowdsourcing marketplace for everything from online logo design and stationery design to illustration and flyer design.
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