Crowdsourcing - Examples

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See: Crowdsourcing for general treatment


Crowdsourcing examples at

Crowdsourcing Examples has seperate tables for the following categories:

  1. Individual businesses or sites that channel the power of online crowds
  2. Brand-sponsored initiatives or forums that depend on crowdsourcing. (included those that are no longer active)
  3. Brand initiatives that allow users to customise their products
  4. Brand-sponsored competitions/challenges focussed on crowdsourcing

The three first examples below are from the Business Week article [1]

Swarm of Angels


"This British open source film project takes on Hollywood's traditional business model, aiming to create cult cinema for the digital age. Subscribers—the "angel" investors that "swarm" to create the site's name—pay roughly $50 (£25) each to join. The site aims to draw 50,000 angels to create a film with a $1.8 million budget. Eventually, the community will vote to decide which film will be made." (


"This Foster City (Calif.)-based online retailer lets members create, buy, and sell merchandise. Entrepreneurs Fred Durham and Maheesh Jain founded the site in 1999 to let members—the site reports 2.5 million—transform their artwork and ideas into new products and sell them through an online storefront with no up-front costs or inventory to manage. Members can also personalize their own gifts by adding touches to one of 80 available products. sets a base price on products and takes care of printing, packaging, processing payments, and customer service; sellers decide how much to charge for their products." (

Crowdsourcing and Sustainability

Matthew Yeomans:

"In early January, Verizon announced a new sustainability project called Powerful Answers. Created to raise awareness of the wireless network's new 4G service, the centrepiece of the project is a $10m (£6.3m) challenge for entrepreneurs, individuals and companies to generate innovative ideas in the healthcare, education and sustainability sectors.

If you think this sounds a lot like GE's Ecomagination and Huggie's Moms Inspired or even Heineken Ideas Brewery, Sony Futurescape or WWF Green Ideas, you'd be right. All these very smart sustainability projects embrace crowdsourcing as a mobilising and marketing tool, which taps into the "wisdom of the crowd" to demonstrate just how much each company needs the insight and input of its social media community to realise its sustainability goals. Activists like Greenpeace have also used a form of crowdsourcing to hammer multinationals like oil company Shell.

The allure of crowdsourcing for sustainability and CSR communications has long proven irresistible to both companies and activists despite some spectacular failures." (

Crowdsourcing Platforms


"This French startup plans to use crowds to develop and bring to market tangible, inexpensive, electronic devices such as CD players, joysticks for video games, and Web cams. The community will handle all aspects of the product cycle—its design, features, technical specifications, even post-purchase customer support." (


Freelancer was founded in Sweden as in 2004. I first wrote about it in 2005 in an overview of the space. For many years it was the dominant online services exchange in Europe, and one of the top three globally. In May 2009 it was bought by Australian company Ignition Networks, which also acquired the domain The company is run by veteran tech entrepreneur Matt Barrie, who most recently founded and ran specialty processor firm Sensory Networks Inc.


99designs has clients set a design brief and budget, and then provide feedback to designers during the design phase, ultimately selecting a winner who is awarded the full budget. It has been very successful though its model has many detractors in the design community. I wrote a post titled 9 practical steps to getting great outsourced design on 99designs reflecting on my experiences using the site.


DesignCrowd began life as DesignBay, using a similar prize-driven model to 99designs. Late last year it acquired the US company DesignCrowd and adopted its name. DesignCrowd is using more nuanced approaches to awarding prizes, including giving second place prizes and participation payments.


Commentary of last three from

See also: Cambrian House; and Kluster

More examples

The article mentions Innocentive as an example of the process.

"YourEncore, for example, allows companies to find and hire retired scientists for one-off assignments. NineSigma is an online marketplace for innovations, matching seeker companies with solvers in a marketplace similar to InnoCentive."

Rent A Coder [2]


Netflix, the online video rental service, uses crowdsourcing techniques to improve the software algorithms used to offer customer video recommendations. The team or individual that achieves key software goals will receive $1 million.

Eli Lily and DuPont have tapped online networks of researchers and technical experts, awarding cash prizes to people who can solve vexing R&D problems.

Cambrian House lets the public submit ideas for software products, vote on them, and collect royalties if a participant's ideas are incorporated into products. allows amateur and professional photographers, illustrators, and videographers to upload their work and earn royalties when their images are bought and downloaded. The company was acquired for $50 million by Getty Images. lets online members submit T-shirt designs and vote on which ones should be produced.

Specialized Crowdsourcing Examples wiki: "Anjali Ramachandran, a strategist at London-based digital agency Made by Many, posted a wiki with 135 companies currently engaging in some form of crowdsourcing. It's a great start, and Anjali is asking us all to help expand it. Such efforts are crucial to the maturation and understanding of crowdsourcing." [3]

Motivational Approaches to Crowdsourcing

By Derek Smith, Mohammad Mehdi et al.:

"Three examples of motivational approaches in crowdsourcing are provided below.


"Some companies have used crowdsourcing to engage customers to shape the future of a business segment. An example is Lufthansa's Air Cargo Innovation Challenge for Customer Service. Lufthansa was looking for creative ideas about the future form and function of customer service as it related to cargo and in particular the touch points between a customer and Lufthansa customer service representatives. Lufthansa also seized the opportunity to find “out of the box ideas” from the crowd. Members registered to join this crowdsourcing community and created a pool of ideas for consideration by a corporate jury. The motivational drivers used by Lufthansa to motivate the crowd were three different prizes that included training in a flight simulator located at the Frankfurt International Airport and different amounts of air miles (i.e., points to be redeemed against future passenger flights). The top three ideas provided customer insight into a certification program to create trust and loyalty, a CargoTRIS idea to educate people about Lufthansa Cargo, and a CargoPedia idea to build a cargo knowledge base with specific knowledge." (


"Crowdsourcing can also engage customers to participate in the design of a product. An example is Bombardier's innovation contest, which sought ideas relating to the future of train interiors. Bombardier was looking for innovative features to be incorporated into the interior based upon insight from leisure passengers, business travelers, and everyday passengers. Participants registered to join this crowdsourcing community and a corporate jury considered the submissions. The motivational drivers selected by Bombardier for the top 10 submissions in two categories were different levels of cash prizes from 2,000 Euros to 200 Euros as well as Netbook computers. The two categories related to the coach interior and a new seat design. The winning designs provided focus to Bombardier, insight into the passenger needs, and a high level of innovation for the next train product." (


"Crowdsourcing can also engage members from the public to participate in scientific research in situations where funding and staff are limited. Zooniverse is an online science and research site that applies crowdsourcing to citizen-based science projects in a number of different categories. One project relates to studying photos from Mars to determine weather patterns. The group of researchers on this project was too small to effectively review the multitude of images in the photo library while remaining within the time constraints and scope of the project. Volunteers are assisting the researchers with visual identification of particular features on the images such as “fans” and “blotches” on the Martian surface, which are indicative of wind direction and speed. The primary motivational driver for the volunteers is being allowed access to amazing satellite images from Mars. As of January 2013, over 60,000 volunteers had reviewed and reported on more than 3 million photos." (

Some Case Studies

Examples from an article at

Proctor & Gamble

"During a 2002 Proctor & Gamble brainstorming session, a company manager had a flash of inspiration: Why not print text or images on Pringles potato chips? Great idea, but there was a catch: no one at P&G knew how to do it. To find the expertise it needed, P&G tapped into RTC North, a network of European scientists, and found a small bakery in Bologna, Italy, run by a professor who had invented a technology that uses ink-jet techniques to print pictures on pastries. By licensing the technology, P&G was able to launch the new Pringles Prints chips in less than a year—and at a fraction of the cost of doing it in-house. Indeed, after decades of rarely looking outside its own walls for ways to improve brands like Pringles and Crest, P&G now taps the brainpower of scientists around the world by using crowdsource research networks like and The result: 40 percent of the company's new innovations now come from outside P&G, up from 10 percent in 2000."

O'Reilly Media

How do you know if your products receive adequate placement on store shelves? Executives at O'Reilly Media, a privately held company best known for publishing technical manuals, heard anecdotal stories that its books were difficult to find in big chain bookstores. Sending teams of market researchers from store to store would have been prohibitively expensive, so the company instead turned to an online user group devoted to its books. O'Reilly sent email to members of the group, soliciting volunteers to visit local booksellers and submit monthly reports of what titles were on the shelves. Some 500 people volunteered, and 75 of those happened to live near bookstores that were of particular interest to O'Reilly execs. For three months, the volunteers submitted spreadsheets to the company, along with anecdotal impressions of their experiences inside the stores. In return, O'Reilly gave the volunteers free books. "It answered our question: Are bookstore chains doing a decent job getting our books on the shelves?" says Sara Winge, O'Reilly spokeswoman. "Turns out, the stores were doing a pretty good job, but that was a very hard question to answer without having volunteers who were willing to actually go see for themselves."

Examples of Failures

Graham Hill:

"The first of these is Dell with its Ideastorm programme. Anyone can come up with a computer-related idea, post it on the Ideastorm website, vote for the best ideas, comment about them and hopefully, see them implemented. Sounds great. Why not harness ideas from customers? And why not get customers to vote for them to cut programme staff costs. Unfortunately, crowdsourcing has a number of serious problems. The first problem is that customers, even large numbers of them, typically produce average, unremarkable, incremental innovations, rather than the step-change innovations that companies hope for. Although 12,483 ideas have been posted on the website since Ideastorm started in February 2007, only 366 have been implemented to-date, a miserly 2.9% of the total. And most of the implemented ideas provide only incremental improvements to Dell's business. To its credit, Dell says that Ideastorm is intended as an extension of its relationship with its customers, rather than just as a source of product ideas. Just as well, as Ideastorm is a failure as a source of winning new innovations.

The second example is Starbucks with its My Starbucks Idea. Similar to Ideastorm, My Starbucks Idea allows any registered customer to post an idea, vote for the best ideas, comment on them and see them implemented. Or not as the case may be. My Starbucks Idea, despite receiving over 75,653 ideas, has only implemented 315 ideas to-date, an even more miserly 0.4% of the total. You wouldn't think that having ideas to improve a coffee-house chain would be all that difficult to implement. But the low rate of implementation illustrates the second problem with crowdsourcing; that customers have no idea of how the business works, what business capabilities it has and thus, no idea whether even the simplest of ideas can realistically be implemented, (let alone whether they will turn a profit)." (