Entrepreneur

The lazy CEO’s 10-step guide to crowdsourcing every business task

Lukas Biewald (pictured left) is cofounder and chief executive of CrowdFlower, a startup that helps businesses crowdsource small tasks. Vaughn Hester (pictured below) is an account manager/analyst at CrowdFlower.

Whether you are starting a new company or are just the laziest CEO ever, there’s great news for you — the explosion in crowdsourcing strategies and solutions means you might be able to get started without any full-time employees! If you have projects or jobs that need to be completed quickly and inexpensively, here are some tips for getting the crowd to do your heavy lifting:

  1. You need a name for your business. One iPhone developer put the task of naming his e-reader out to the crowd through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, and $27.50 and 500 responses later came up with the name iReadFast. That’s even cheaper than the Silicon Valley tradition of getting a few friends together with a few cases of beer before godaddy.com crushes your dreams.
  2. Now your great new name needs an eye-catching logo. 99 Designs helps companies crowdsource graphic design work to a broad network of artists and designers who compete to submit the best idea. You offer a payment price for the best logo, then pick the one you like best from the submissions.
  3. Once you cover those basics, you probably need lots of money. Immediately. Crowdsource your funding with Kickstarter, a funding platform for artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians, journalists, inventors, explorers 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 processesed and you receive the full amount. You can incentivize your crowdfunders in creative ways with items like t-shirts, books, etc.
  4. In the digital age, you will probably need code development or programming. TopCoder claims to have been crowdsourcing since 2001, before there was a name for this phenomenon. It runs competitions with prizes that enable participants to compete for the best software, development and employment services solutions. To make an amazing webpage, oDesk can connect you with a web developer (or any other sort of freelancer you may seek). Its tools enable you to view progress on the project as work is completed.
  5. No product will be successful without customers – and that means marketing. Go to Trada, a search engine marketing and optimization company that lets the crowd pick the best keywords for your company or campaign.
  6. With your website and your AdWords account, you have a solid online presence. Find leads in the industries you are targeting with Jigsaw (recently acquired by Salesforce.com). It lets people upload contact information in exchange for the ability to download other people’s contact information. If you want all the phone numbers of all the execs, there’s a way to make it happen. Jigsaw has what it claims to be the world’s largest database of contact information.
  7. Now that you have these leads, it’s time to take a good look in the mirror and decide whether or not you really want to call them all. Chances are you don’t, which is right about when you want to visit LiveOps. The company specializes in call center outsourcing where you can set the script that you want “your” sales people to use. It has thousands of people (many of whom are stay at home mothers) in the United States who make the calls from their own homes.
  8. In the inevitable event that your customers get angry, use Get Satisfaction, where they can help each other. Get Satisfaction gives your customers a place to ask questions and voice complaints about your product. Often, your customer is the best person to respond to an issue another customer is having.
  9. Now that you have a healthy business you need to make sure that you invest in R&D to stay ahead of the competition. This is the point at which you want to visit InnoCentive, a company that allows you to outsource research and development of any kind. It lets you set bounties for the discovery of new things. This could range from a new compression algorithm to a new drug.
  10. By now you are undoubtedly big enough and prosperous enough to have your own corporate social responsibility efforts. Samasource lets you send microtasks to youth, refugees and women in developing countries. Your rich friends who are iPhone/iPad users can support this via GiveWork (iTunes link), an app developed with CrowdFlower that allows users to donate their time to charity by double checking the work done by Samasource workers.

Crowdsourcing isn’t just a buzzword –- it’s an effective way for companies to get started fast and iterate quickly with less overhead. All of these companies offer a service with less upfront commitment than traditional outsourcing -– and that advantage really shines when it comes to early stage companies.


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