By CARA LI
What has leasing out an apartment on AirBnB, carpooling with complete strangers via Uber, and vetting articles on Wikipedia have in common? If you have done any or all of the above, then consciously or otherwise, you have been an accessory to the process known as crowdsourcing.
For a success story closer to home, consider the Malaysian-based start-up Kaodim, an online service marketplace. The start-up monetises by tapping into the talent and potential of the users, connecting service providers to those who seek it.
This is the fundamental precept upon which crowdsourcing is based; reining in resources from the (often online) masses to provide solutions to problems. These resources can take the form of funds, information, services, or insights.
For start-ups in Malaysia and elsewhere, these resources can be precious commodities in lessening the strain of limited assets which most face in the beginning.
Whether your start-up is basing its entire operation on crowdsourcing, or if you are simply trying to generate fresh ideas and barge through a progress blockage, the crowd is a relatively accessible area of potential that start-ups can look into.
However, crowdsourcing is not automatically a walk in the orchard while harvesting the ripe fruits of knowledge. Without the suitable framework and sustainable models, crowdsourcing can be more of groping around in the dark.
Here are three valuable pointers to aid your start-up in efficient crowdsourcing:
1. Give the crowd a reason to care
When the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared in 2014, thousands of volunteers pledged to scour all 1,235 sq miles of satellite images provided by DigitalGlobe, a Colorado firm with one of the world’s most advanced commercial satellite networks.
The good Samaritan in all of us can be persuaded to action if it’s clear that our efforts can make a difference. However, if your start-up is intrinsically commercial, or lacks an urgent objective, then you may have difficulty in spawning the same wave of enthusiasm.
Crowdsourcing is a game played mostly with monetary incentives. Today the scene is awash with large cash prizes.
Seeing as most start-ups launch with limited funds at their disposal, galvanising the crowd to come forward and contribute can be an expensive process.
However, if you can craft your request in a way that resonates with the masses, then your start-up’s call to action will be an impactful one.
Ultimately, people need to see how they can benefit with real value, and sometimes your unflinching passion in your start-up alone is insufficient in showing this.
2. Give the crowd a window of transparency
Former Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) chief executive officer, Badlisham Ghazali, once made an excellent point: the Malaysian public is a wary one. He was referring to mistrust stemming from the absence of a firm communication channel in crowdsourcing.
Although his words stretch to encompass nationwide crowdsourcing and not start-ups per se, it is actually one of the most important factors that can turn the tables.
The average Malaysian is savvy in detecting scams, and it is common for someone to snap into high alert mode when presented with something unfamiliar.
Who are you? Who do you represent? Why should I trust you, especially since you’re not an established name in the industry?
Opening a communication channel to lay out all your cards is very important when crowdsourcing in Malaysia.
There is a cultural fear of ‘losing face’ ingrained in many Asian countries, and this could explain why some start-ups choose to shun excessive publicity. What if the crowdsourcing effort turns out to be a flop?
However, investing the effort in working out a right balance between exposure and privacy can give you the upper hand when compared to other start-ups, who continue to extensively muffle their crowdsourcing pursuits.
3. Tailor your outreach to your target crowd
Even though it’s technically ‘crowd’-sourcing, what really matters is the result your start-up seeks in every headhunting attempt. Do you prize quantity over quality, or vice versa? Are you looking for customised, in-depth solutions, or a multitude of perspectives which can be further developed?
People may often think that by keeping crowdsourcing messages general, they can cast a wide net and attract more responses. In reality, this is not much different from gold miners who squat arduously panning the dust, sporadically coming across a single precious nugget.
Well-meaning amateurs with an interest in the industry often come forth with their thoughts. While this is heartening to see for fledgling start-ups, it should be kept to feedback sessions and not crowdsourcing attempts.
More time will need to be diverted into filtering out the multitude of ideas, and this puts an unnecessary strain on manpower.
On the other hand, a well-structured search that defines the problem at the relevant level will unearth diamonds in the rough – appropriate, employable ideas which your start-up can actually consider.
Different sectors of crowdsourcing targets include professionals, aspiring professionals, amateurs, and customers.
Depending on how much weight your start-up places on experience, talent, diversity, and enthusiasm, customising your message to the chosen sector will bring you closer to a successful crowdsourcing attempt.
Will crowdsourcing be effective for your start-up?
Whether you seek industrial acumen or manual undertakings, the magic of crowdsourcing lies in numbers. The mediocre makes people work for them; but the truly successful one makes people want to work for them.
Crowdsourcing largely draws people who are compelled to step forward because their motives are in sync with your start-up’s aspirations.
Therefore, you’ll be relieved to learn that the ultimate key to unraveling the process is actually something all can achieve – knowing the needs and wants so that you can form rudimentary human connections.