Vator Box


Can CrowdFlower become a Thunder Lizard?

Super angel Mike Maples is our guest host analyzing the labor crowdsourcing startup

Innovation series by Bambi Francisco Roizen
June 1, 2010
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For many years, companies have looked overseas for "cheap" labor. Today, that labor can be next door, or anywhere in the country or around the world. Importantly, it can be accessed by companies - big and small - thanks to crowdsourcing efforts by startups, such as CrowdFlower. While crowdsourcing has been around for sometime, the "wave of crowdsourcing has yet to be defined," according to Mike Maples, a venture capitalist at Floodgate, an early-stage VC firm seeking to put $500,000 to work in promising startups.

In the latest episode of Vator Box, Mike was our guest host analyzing CrowdFlower, a provider of labor-on-demand for simple tasks. CrowdFlower, which raised $5 million in funding in January from Bessemer Ventures and Trinity Ventures, lets companies tap into a labor pool, consisting of marginalized people from  refugees in Kenya to someone down the block with a college degree, to accomplish menial jobs, such as checking user-generated content to ensure it doesn't violate copyright policies to finding out drink specials at various bars.

Here's some of our highlights, after watching founder and CEO Lukas Biewald give his pitch:

Pitch: Lucas comes across as genuine, humble and not too salesy. He has an "authentic voice." As Mike puts it: “You almost feel like they wouldn’t ever be able to do anything else, but what they’re doing… I really found that to be a virtue of this idea."

Novelty: The idea is somewhat novelty, but in the context of earth-changing ideas, it has the danger of being just an incremental improvement to what is already out in the market, given the number of other companies already in this space - Amazon's Mechanical Turk, and oDesk, to name a few.

On the flipside, CrowdFlower is one of those businesses in which there are dramatic increases in learning at scale. That learning and understanding, which is built through the transactions on the platform, creates the valuable proprietary specific knowledge around crowdsourcing and harnessing the wealth of networks. 

The market is not that crowded with newcomers, but one company - ReadyForce, which recently raised $12 million - appears ready to compete head on.

Final words from Mike, "The companies that get formed early in the wave – are important... The wave of crowdsourcing hasn’t been defined. If these guys hit their stride, they can be important. They can be Thunder Lizards."


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