Archive for the ‘Crowd Economy’ Category

Crowd Companies: The Year in Review and Planning for 2015


Crowd Companies Logo

It’s the end of the year. This post is a reflection of the Collaborative Economy market and Crowd Companies in 2014, as well as a look towards what lies ahead.

The Collaborative Economy was a leading business topic of 2014. Over the past year, the Collaborative Economy movement has gained more attention from mainstream media, seen incredible pushback from the incumbents like taxi companies and obtained tremendous amounts of funding, while some startups created situations that left them exposed to intense scrutiny. Meanwhile, adoption by the public was forecasted to double (my findings on WSJ), it expanded into nearly every aspect of society, and shows no signs of decline. It truly is a movement in every regard.

Crowd Companies, has experienced over 100% growth. The council I founded, Crowd Companies, is now one year old, and we’ve also shown notable growth. We’re a membership for visionary leaders of innovative at large, established companies who want to embrace this movement – not be disrupted by it. We connect our members to a community of peers, industry experts and startups who are ready to partner. We host in-person and online events, and provide an archive of resources. If you work at a large company and want to learn more about our services, email me at

The company has grown (see about page) and I’m joined by two full time team members, Angus Nelson, head of Member Success, Julie Viola head of Operations (with whom I previously worked for about four years), Laura from Zirtual, who leads coordination and special projects, and a host of other continuing business partners from our network and beyond.

Crowd Companies 2014, by the numbers, we’ve:

To scale, We’ve used as many Crowd Services, ourselves
We were busy trying to build a scalable business. To the best of our ability, we have tried to live the movement of access over ownership, on-demand services and tapping the crowd. We have been able to be efficient because we also live this movement as much as possible. We use co-working spaces like Breather and the Impact Hub on demand, tap ridesharing, stay at Airbnbs, use crowd-based services like Cloudpeeps, oDesk, Crowdspring, Shapeways and others. The Wall Street Journal invited me to share how we use crowd services.

2015 Plans
We’ll be expanding the website to feature the successes our members have had in the market.

  • We will continue to publish industry-leading research and documents that can be referenced by the industry as a whole.
  • I will be speaking at a number of conferences, including the Swiss Economic Forum, Ouishare Festival, and the Collaborative Economy conference. I’m available to be booked through APB Speakers Bureau.
  • We already have more than five events planned for our members, and we’re considering some which could be open to the public.
  • We are growing in Europe and are planning a member event there in Q2.
  • We are planning to hear case studies of consulting firms who’ve deployed with large brands in this market, to help tell your story.

If you’d like to understand where we believe 2015 is headed, and if you know of innovative leaders at large corporations that want to join the council, we look forward to connecting with you, please contact me at – thank you!

To best illustrate some of our physical events –see gallery, below:

Crowd Companies Spring Summit, SF 2014
Above: Crowd Companies Spring Summit, SF 2014, a focus on sharing economy and maker movement, hosted by member Autodesk

Private Tour of Shapeways 3D printing factory
Above: Private tour of Shapeways, a 3D printing factory

Crowd Companies Fall Summit, NY, 2014
Above: Crowd Companies Fall Summit, NY, 2014, hosted by member Polycom

Council Members share their perspective
Above: Council Members from top brands share their perspective, Fall Summit.

Crowd Companies Immersion Tours at Techshop, SF
Above: Crowd Companies Immersion Tours at Techshop with CEO Mark Hatch, SF

We're all connected, led by Angus Nelson
Above: We’re all connected, led by Angus Nelson, head of member success

Crowd Companies Meets Techshop, Brit&Co, TypeA, CustomMade, Shapeways
Above: Crowd Companies members meet Techshop, Brit&Co, TypeAMachines, Custom Made, Shapeways and other startups

Crowd Companies Fall Summit 2014
Above: Crowd Companies Fall Summit 2014, a focus on retail and future of finance hosted by member Polycom.

Touring Shapeways 3D Printing Factory
Above: Touring Shapeways 3D Printing Factory

Crowd Companies Team
Above: The team: Angus, Jeremiah, Julie (not featured are our many partners, contractors and crowd-based providers)

WSJ Essay: The Ups and Downs of Crowd-Based Resources


Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 4.28.36 AM

Below is my most recent essay to the WSJ Accelerator series, a dedicated section for the the fast-moving business audience. In this essay, I explore how we’re drinking our own champagne at Crowd Companies, by exploring and adopting crowd-based services.

The Ups and Downs of Crowd-Based Resources

Entrepreneurs today have no shortage of crowd-based services to augment their business models. Most people are probably familiar with Lyft and Uber, the ridesharing transportation services, but a large and dynamic industry of crowdsourced tools has emerged to help manage many aspects of running a business.

I’m currently experimenting with, adopting and using a number of shared services for all areas of my business. My company logo and design work, for instance, was mostly crowdsourced, using services such as crowdSPRING. Our research and content efforts are often augmented using companies like Elance-oDesk to hire experts on demand.

Our company’s social media accounts are handled by community managers from CloudPeeps. Prior, I’ve hosted company events at an Airbnb property, crowdsourced food from Feastly chefs and used photographers from TaskRabbit.

For company operations, rather than having a typically expensive long-term lease in San Francisco, we utilize co-working spots at the Impact Hub, LiquidSpace and Breather. I coordinate my schedule and events using virtual assistants from Zirtual. I depend on Shyp for shipping items on demand.

While we have full-time employees, often our independent, on-demand folks become core parts of our team. We even list our virtual assistant on our company website because she is often our key point-of-contact for our partners and customers.

From my experiences, here are some of the positives of using crowdsourced services to help manage your business:

  • On-demand and cost-effective services. Why have a four-year lease when you are not going to be there all the time, or a full-time employee when you’ll only be working with them as needed? These services enable you to tap into dependable resources quickly, and allow you to only pay for what you need.
  • Access to global, specialized talent. As the world moves to a freelance economy, we’ll see more specialized workers for tasks and projects become available on demand. Hiring, training and managing specialized workers isn’t practical — ‘sharing’ them enables both optimized utilization and talent when you need it.
  • Less administrative overhead. One of the upsides of sharing models is to allow the burden of management, taxes and benefits to be shifted to the startups that offer the services. Some crowd-based companies make their employees full time and others classify them as 1099 contractors. Since performance is rated, clients can simply and easily change workers, using the same sharing service, if their work style isn’t matching company needs.

But crowdsourced services are not perfect. Here are some of the negatives I’ve noticed:

  • New challenges. Using shared services has its own management and communication challenges. Managing crowd-based services can be more time consuming and may require patience, as you have to teach these providers your needs. In some global, online workplaces adjustments must be made for differences in culture. Crowd-based creative services, like Tongal, offer ancillary services to help clients manage the many moving parts.
  • Quality can be sub-par. The old adage of “you get what you pay for” is often accurate in the crowdsourced market, especially if you don’t properly manage the services you use. Global and local marketplaces have overachievers and underachievers — it’s the law of probability. Your entire management team must be clear on goals, onboarding and clarity of communication in order to operate effectively.
  • Debate over treatment of workers and globalization. Right now, there’s a debate over how ridesharing drivers and freelancers should be treated. Some don’t earn health and retirement benefits, and they often don’t have a voice with regulators. Expect new advocacy groups like and the Freelancers Union to fight for the growing number of on-demand workers.

Now that we’ve explored the ups and downs, it’s important to prepare your company for these crowdsourced services. First, ensure that your institutional knowledge and business strategy are kept close to the chest and are your core skills. Then develop skills to manage crowd-based services by preparing clear goals and business metrics for real-time feedback and success.

Now your startup can efficiently and professionally tap crowd services for your business.

Mr. Owyang is the founder and chief catalyst of Crowd Companies, an association for large brands in the collaborative economy. He lives in Silicon Valley.

Timeline: Corporations in the Collaborative Economy (Ver 2, Oct 2014)


The longest graphic in the history of my career is embedded below, some mobile devices may not properly render.

As the Crowd Economy Rises, Brands Seek to Collaborate
We’ve been tracking corporations in the Collaborative Economy, and released version 1.0 in April, 2014. Now, as we approach the Crowd Companies members-summit in NY next week, we’ll be dissecting and analyzing the different deployments large companies are rolling out to participate in sharing, marketplaces, as well as co-innovation with makers. The scope? This collaborative or crowd based economy continues to rise (study, and daily numbers), and therefore corporations are adapting their business models to adjust to this peer-to-peer commerce movement.

Below Graphic: Frequency of Deployments
Since our initial tracking in Feb 2013, the frequency continues to increase. Since April 2014, we’ve found 27 new case examples, some that were before April 2014, but most were after. We’ve updated the following frequency chart to show the consistent deployment. It appears March was a slow month in terms of deployment (we do see a lot of conferences that month) and we saw a heap of deployments in August, which were due to Uber’s API partnership with several brands. We only counted the large brands like United, Hyatt, and Starbucks for the Uber API deal, as some of the others were smaller startups.
Frequency of Corporations in the Collaborative Economy Ver 2.0 (Oct 2014)

Below Graphic: Timeline Shows Each Deployment
The below timeline contains many of the deals, partnerships, deployments of corporations in the collaborative economy, using the same data set used in the above frequency chart. A great deal of these deployments are partnerships with startups, but we’re seeing many companies launch their own initiatives, which is a signal of corporations starting to invest more in these programs. There’s over 30 deployments in 2014 only, and most are partnerships, aside from Verizon launching a sharing service, starting with cars, and Walmart enabling game exchange.

The Future? Tracking will be Challenging as APIs Accelerate Exponential Adoption
It is my assumption that it will be nearly impossible to track this in just a few quarters. Since Uber has launched an API, expect Lyft and Airbnb to follow suit –resulting in Facebook-app-platform like adoption across the industry.