Crowdsourcing is a multifaceted creature, one that can put the power of automation and the flexibility of distributed work into the backbone of your start-up. Here are five simple ways you can use crowdsourcing accelerate your startup:
1. Raise Some Moola with Equity, Debt, Donation or Pre-sales Based Crowdfunding
Crowdfunding is a new way to raise money online that is gaining popularity. Through an online open call, along with a proper fundraising campaign, your start-up can finance anything from a new product to the creation of the start-up itself.
Platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Rockethub have helped launch donation-based platforms into the limelight. On these platforms, you can pre-sell a product that doesn't yet exist, or just ask people for money who want to see you do something, like write a children's book.
Currently illegal in the U.S., but perfectly legal in parts of Europe, equity-based crowdfunding is where people buy an ownership stake in your business. This means that for as little as 20 Euros, the average Joe could become an investor in your company. How cool would that be?! But if you take this route, make sure you can handle the overhead that comes with managing a potentially large group of investors. Check out Symbid, one of the leaders in this space.
There are two ways to legally crowdfund your for-profit startup in the U.S. The first is to do a debt raise using social lending sites like LendingClub or Prosper. Downside: this creates a loan that you have to start paying back immediately and that may hold you personally liable for the loan if the business fails (check the terms). The second is to simply ask for a donation and offer no premiums. Offering premiums puts you within the legal definition of offering a security for sale.
Another possibility for the more risk tolerant is to pre-sell a yet to be developed product. This lies in a legal gray area in the U.S., but is popular on Kickstarter. Whatever the case, be sure to crowdfund your startup according to the applicable laws in your area and also see Shareable's excellent article on crowdfunding and the law.
One of the myriad Kickstarter projects seeking funding. Photo credit: Inha Leex Hale. Used under Creative Commons license.
2. Generate Ideas
Sites like Idea Offer and Jig can give start-ups a great place to go when they are stuck for ideas. The premise here is that there are dozens of great sites to go and ask both open-ended and specific questions to get great, human feedback.
3. Get Your Name & Your Logo
Need a new name for your company or product? Try sites like Naming Force where people compete for a small cash prize to find the ideal name for you once you describe what you need. Need a logo? If you are a nonproit, you can request one for free from Sparked, if not, get it from a contest site like Design Crowd or 99Designs for a great price.
Some of the Maker Faire Africa logo entries from the logo contest at 99designs.com. Photo credit: Erik Hersman. Used under Creative Commons license.
4. Speed Up Your Tasks/ Relieve Your Workflow
Did you just spend all day looking up e-mail addresses for all of the hardware stores in Nebraska to send your new plunger invention ad copy to? Well, you didn’t have to do that. Did you have a virtual assistant do it for $30? You didn’t have to do that, either. Microtasking sites like Clickworker let you hire microworkers for pennies per task. This means, if you can effectively break-up a task like the aforementioned Nebraska search, you could be finished within two hours or less than $10. Also consider TaskRabbit where you can hire someone nearby to do a task for you, like buy office supplies or deliver a prototype.
5. Test Your Site Before Launching
Why wait for your website to have users to test it? Just pay the crowd to use your new system and gain some great insight. Use sites like Member Mob and get a crash course by watching 100 people use your site as members and users. Or look for bugs with sites like Utest or Usertesting.
6. BONUS: Get Users Before You Go Live With LaunchRock.
These are just six ready-made crowdsourcing solutions for you to consider to accelerate your start-up. To take it to the next level, learn what crowdsourcing is all about and consider incorporating it into your business model.