Interviews

Crowdsourcing Week: The Rise of the Crowd Economy

Is crowdsourcing necessarily a global activity? Or are there regional nuances/differences? For example, crowdfunding may have different legal implications in the US compared to, say, Singapore or elsewhere. How do we address these?

Crowdsourcing in a nutshell is all about communities with a common focus — geography is only one aspect. There are bound to be regional diversity based on participants and goals. That being said, crowd power certainly has global implications. There’s so much to tap into on a global scale as social productivity enhances our communications. The Internet is changing the way we do things and in the coming years, different industries, organizations and governments across the globe will face a whole new ways of doing things as mobile, technology, and the wisdom of the crowd converges.

Yes, there are nuances and differences, and that’s why highlighting these conversations through our summits and conferences in strategic places across the globe is important to us. And we’re working with partners who share the same vision in rallying the crowd economy — which is requiring a rethink on all levels. But lessons can be shared, best practices can be adopted. With all the differences there is a need to create some common language in the crowd economy as you will find out the underlying core within global communities is not that different after all. For example, Europe is much more complex than the United States especially in legal policies related to crowdfunding, with EU working for 28 countries – where we need to take different approach in different regions, but even with that startup finance 101 is the same worldwide. We need to seek similarities and adopt what works.

In Asia and Singapore, it’s difficult to implement the same crowdsourcing or crowdfunding models from US and Europe. We can’t just copy and move forward. We need to “localize” the model, build it differently that fits each region with more context, explanation, and monitoring. We have to respect native language capabilities and cultural differences.

How about trends in open-source? Microsoft recently announced open-sourcing its .Net platform. Will this be helpful to the software development community? How about companies (like Microsoft) that open-source their products or product development?

Absolutely, it will be helpful. Moreover, proprietary software companies like IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, I think, are being obligated to go open source as the need of the hour to generate the next generation of high performance computing needed for big data applications.  Also the other reason is simply economical — open source can offer at a cheap price, scalability and reliability that proprietary software cannot achieve.

Ultimately, contrary to the old thinking, open source does not hinder business but actually enhances it. Consider Elon Musk and his quest to make the engineering behind Tesla completely open source. If we ask the question – why he did that when he could hold the market edge for electric cars a bit longer? The answer is simple. Electric cars need the infrastructure to keep them going and make them attractive to buyers – like charging stations, more efficient and greener batteries. More electric cars on the road will help speed up infrastructure offerings, bringing more Teslas on the road, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and lowering emissions (which I think is the real reason Elon Musk released the patents).

What are the most interesting crowdsourcing success stories, so far?

They’re quite numerous. Aside from Uber’s peer-to-peer ride-sharing, LEGO, and 99Designs, here are some interesting collaborations that come to mind.

An example that highlights the need for external innovation even among Fortune 500  is definitely GE’s partnership with Quirky, a crowd design platform, to produce Aros, a Wi-Fi connected air conditioner aimed at energy-conscious consumers. The Virgin Group had a recent tie-up with CircleUp, a crowdfunding platform to identify new snacks and drinks that could be served on its flights.

The Crowdsourced Star Wars Remake film “Empire Strikes Back Uncut” is a fan creativity collaboration of artistic and creative fans; this uncut 2-hour movie are made of insanely-creative-cartoonish-amateurish graphics collated together to tell the story – makes you miss your childhood days. One stellar example of crowdfunding success is the The Coolest Cooler Project, which was the most successful Kickstarter project ever, raising nearly $13 million in less than 2 months, shattering its modest $50K goal. The inventor, Ryan Grepper, struck a chord with backers when he re-invented the humble cooler with every necessity imaginable (a blender, waterproof bluetooth speaker, USB charger, cutting board and bottle opener) to take your party to the next level!

Any trends we should look forward to in the near future? How about the long-term future of crowdsourcing?

The convergence of Internet-of-Things, connected crowds and disruptive ideas will bring infinite collaboration in the future – from crowdsourced data to language translations and news. Crowdsourcing will create whole new ways to get things done from different industries, governments, non-profit and for-profit organizations. Trends to watch out this year include applications for crowdsourced data for smart devices, including wearables, connected cars and more. Big brands, specifically, Fortune 500 companies will sync with crowd economy for product developments and new offerings; crowdsourced language and translation services and technologies will proliferate. 2015 will see cheaper and more efficient ways to get into the publishing industry for authors.

I am personally very excited about the peer-to-peer lending aspect of crowd finance that is gaining traction – propelling successful platforms like Lending Club and OnDeck towards an IPO. With investors finding it easier to understand the need for debt in comparison to speculating success of an early stage startup, these loans achieve returns quicker as loans get repaid faster and the market promise is huge. Crowdsourced logistics are also poised to come into focus with large retailers like Walmart toying with the idea of turning their customers into crowd shippers, a distinct possibility in the near future.

In the near future we will see regulation and policies gearing up to the changes brought about by networked and connected crowds – whether it is sharing resources or finance. We are going to see a huge economic potential for not only corporations but also employment opportunities emerge for populations increasing connected to the Internet. All these trends and more will take centerstage at Crowdsourcing Week Global in Singapore, April 20-24, the meeting place for the global crowdsourcing community.

Featured image credit: Diversity / Shutterstock