Thursday, 9 June 2016

Crowdsourcing to Get Ideas, and Perhaps Save Money!

Lee Mayer discovered the benefits of crowdsourcing after she had moved to a new home in Denver from New York City and struggled for three months to find an interior decorator who would work within her budget. Then, she met a decorator who wasn’t booking enough business. And with that, an online interior design site called Havenly — offering services that were affordable for everyone — was born.

Some of the easy money making ideas are inspired by others, or so the wisdom of the crowd goes. That is leading more entrepreneurs to tap into other people’s brains — rather than just their pocketbooks — to test new products, set pricing and bring ideas to market faster.

But before Ms. Mayer took any steps to set up the company, she turned to the crowd for advice, sending out thousands of survey forms to answer one crucial question: Would people pay for this decorating service? Before quitting her job as a business strategist and spending thousands on a new venture, Ms. Mayer wanted some sign that the venture would succeed.

“You want to make sure other people believe what you believe,” said Ms. Mayer, who has an M.B.A. from Harvard and has worked as a consultant. “That takes some risk out of it.”

Ms. Mayer, now chief executive of Havenly, has been turning to the masses for answers ever since, including testing her pricing, products and website design. (The interior decorator who didn’t have enough clients is now her design director.) Development is costly, reasoned Ms. Mayer, who even learned coding to start the site, so it’s important to make choices that are as right as possible.

“Crowdsourcing is fast, cheap and scruffy,” she said, “especially when you need to move quickly.”

While well-established crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo dip into people’s pockets, crowdsourcing taps into their brains. Experts say that turning to the masses can even yield sharper answers than other methods.

“Crowdsourcing has replaced focus groups,” said Chris Hicken, president of UserTesting, a company based in Mountain View, Calif., that specializes in sifting through the ideas of crowds on behalf of online businesses. “It’s faster and a lot cheaper. Innovation is going so fast that we need faster answers.”

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