Editor’s note: Alec Lynch is the founder and CEO of DesignCrowd, an Australia-based design crowdsourcing service that recently launched in India, Singapore, and the Philippines. Follow him on Twitter @aleclynch.
When most people think of crowdsourcing, they think of websites like iStockphoto, Mechanical Turk, Threadless, or Wikipedia. Others might think of Greenpeace crowdsourcing Shell Oil ad ideas or Marissa Mayer crowdsourcing her baby’s name. Some might even think of Lil Wayne’s crowdsourced collaboration with Mountain Dew (“DEWeezy”). But not many people think of Asia. The truth is, crowdsourcing in Asia is secretly booming, and Asia has quietly assumed a leadership role in the space.
Many politicians, economists and thought leaders are suggesting that we are entering “the Asian century.” While many large countries, such as the U.S., have struggled in recent years with recession and high unemployment, many Asian economies have given the global financial crisis a pimp slap and just kept on growing. In a sign of things to come, President Obama visited Asia on a three-country tour just two weeks after he was re-elected.
As these macroeconomic trends unfold, one emerging online industry that is already booming in Asia – and accelerating – is crowdsourcing, a new type of outsourcing (think “outsourcing on steroids”) that involves outsourcing tasks, such as logo design, via an open and normally large group of people known as “the crowd.”
I’m lucky that I get to see this trend first-hand. I operate a crowdsourcing site in Australia, and from where I sit, there has been an explosion of crowdsourcing activity in China, India, and Australia – a trend that many people outside the region are not aware of.
While the rise of crowdsourcing in Asia is not widely written about or discussed, the reality is that Asia is embracing crowdsourcing like no other region, with many of the world’s largest or leading crowdsourcing sites either based in the Asia Pacific region or powered by users from Asian countries. In this article, I highlight 5 things you didn’t know about crowdsourcing in Asia, illustrating the secret crowdsourcing boom unfolding in the continent.
Chinese-language outsourcing/crowdsourcing service Zhubajie, which uses a similar model as Elance.com’s, claims to have 7.6 million workers. If this is true, it would mean that Zhubajie, despite having a cartoon pig as its mascot, is the largest online outsourcing/crowdsourcing site in the world by some margin, having more “workers” than Freelancer.com (6.5 million users) and Elance.com (2 million users) combined. Zhubajie’s might even be the largest employer in the world, as it has more workers than the U.S. Department of Defense, which has 3.2 million employees.
While these comparisons aren’t apples to apples — workers on crowdsourcing sites are not full-time employees — I think you get the picture. Zhubajie is big.
Zhubajie is not the only crowdsourcing site in China; there are dozens (Epweike.com, 680.com and Taskcn.com to name a few). In fact, crowdsourcing has become so prevalent in China, they have coined their own word to describe it: “Witkey.” Despite this, Zhubajie and Witkey have not rated a single mention in TechCrunch or any similar publication – making them Asia’s best-kept crowdsourcing secret.
While China may have the largest crowdsourcing site – India is arguably benefiting more from crowdsourcing from an economic perspective than any other country in the world.
English-speaking crowdsourcing sites tend to be dominated by power users from India. For example, more than half of the top 25 earners on Elance.com are from India. The top three Indian users on Elance have taken home $17 million in total and more than $4 million in the last 12 months. At an average of more than $1 million each in the last year, these Indian power users took home more than 40 times the the median salary of an American worker.
The average salary in India is $1,410 — per year. So when an Indian worker can earn $10,000 in a month through crowdsourcing, it should be no surprise that India loves it. Combine this with the fact that India is the second-most populous country in the world, as well the second-largest source of English speakers, and the reasons crowdsourcing use in India has exploded are clear.
Other countries from Asia and Eastern Europe also have large user bases frequenting crowdsourcing sites. But India is clearly the “King of Crowdsourcing,” and the country has completely embraced this new form of outsourcing (even the Indian government recently crowdsourced the design of the currency symbol – the rupee ).
The bottom line is that a lot of money (perhaps the lion’s share) passing through western crowdsourcing sites is actually flowing to India and Asia. While Chinese websites help Chinese workers earn money from Chinese businesses, Indian workers are exporting their services overseas — bringing in money from North American, UK, and Australian businesses, and, as a result, growing India’s economy. All in all, India is arguably the single-biggest user (and beneficiary) of online crowdsourcing services.
Here’s the exciting part: Asia is just warming up. The use of crowdsourcing in the continent will quadruple in the next five years.
Most people don’t realize that three of the five largest English-speaking populations in the world are based in Asia (India, Pakistan, and the Philippines) but the majority of these people — potential crowdsourcing users, that are hungry for work — are yet to come online. Internet penetration in Asia is 27.5 percent compared to 79 percent in the U.S. In India alone, just 12 percent of the population has Internet access, although this equates to 137 million people.
The percentages, though in sharp contrast, translate into 1.1 billion Internet users in Asia and 274 million users in North America. In addition, Asian users already dominate crowdsourcing sites. Imagine what will happen when the rest of the population comes online? If Internet penetration in Asia doubles in the next five years, and the uptake of crowdsourcing by these Asian Internet users doubles, then the volume of crowdsourcing in Asia will quadruple.
But it’s easy to focus on the mind-boggling worker/consumer numbers coming out of Asia and forget the business-to-business side of the market. India has 26 million small and micro businesses — more than the UK, Canada, and Australia combined. So the opportunity to harness the supply and demand for crowdsourcing services in Asia, which, remember, is about to quadruple, is huge.
Australia (part of the Asia Pacific or “Australasia” region), which is normally noted for its beaches, boxing kangaroos and made-up words like “crikey,” has become a global hub for crowdsourcing. In fact, crowdsourcing Down Under is on fire, with websites consistently punching above their weight and assuming market leadership in multiple crowdsourcing verticals.
For example, Australia’s Freelancer.com appears to have overtaken Elance and oDesk on most measures to be the No. 1 online outsourcing site outside of China. Envato’s Themeforest.net is the largest WordPress theme marketplace in the world and attracts more visitors each month than iStockphoto (yet it is just 1 of Envato’s 7 marketplaces)! Australia’s Kaggle, which specializes in data science crowdsourcing, appears to now be larger than InnoCentive and currently has the single-largest, open crowdsourcing project in the world (a $3 million data analysis contest to predict patients who will be admitted to the hospital within one year). Australia also dominates the design crowdsourcing space, with the two largest players originating Down Under, No. 2 of which is my company, DesignCrowd.
People sometimes ask me: “Why have so many top crowdsourcing sites come out of Australia?” Maybe it’s a coincidence; maybe it’s a rare example of Australia realizing its potential in tech; or maybe it’s been helped by Australia’s proximity (and affinity) with Asia. Either way, Australia appears to be taking a leading and global role in crowdsourcing and is perfectly positioned to capitalize on any crowdsourcing boom (whether it be North American or Asian or worldwide).
While the main game for crowdsourcing services continues to be the disruption of traditional industries, such as the graphic design or photography industries, an interesting sub-plot is the race among crowdsourcing sites for Asia. Shutterstock and iStockphoto have launched Japanese, Chinese, and Korean versions of their sites. Last month, we launched DesignCrowd in India, Singapore, and the Philippines.
Another, more interesting trend is that Asian crowdsourcing websites are now coming to English-speaking markets. China’s Zhubajie has discretely launched Witmart.com, an English version of its service that allows U.S. businesses to access their 7.6 million Chinese workers. It is not a very popular service, but it is an interesting development and part of a secret crowdsourcing race to expand into Asia (and vice versa).
Crowdsourcing in Asia is booming and it’s not going to slow down any time soon. The rise of crowdsourcing in Asia is set to continue and, in my opinion, more people should be capitalizing on this opportunity.
If you are thinking about launching your own crowdsourcing venture, working at a crowdsourcing company or investing in a crowdsourcing business, think global and think big. Think India and China. Think Australia and the Philippines. Forget Lil Wayne – think Gangnam Style. Crowdsourcing is booming in Asia and around the world and the opportunity is a global one.
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Jelli, the crowdsourced social radio platform, is today announcing $9 million in additional funding, in a round led by new investors Intel Capital and Relay Ventures. The round also saw participation from existing investor First Round Capital, as well as individuals including Roger Ames, former Chairman of EMI Music.
Related to the funding news, Jelli also detailed its growth over the past year, saying that it has expanded its user base by 250% to reach 2 million listeners per month, and it has expanded its lineup of station partners, and is now delivering 500% more radio ad impressions than it did a year ago.
The startup first launched back in 2009, then calling itself a “Digg for streaming music,” as it allows users to vote up or down the tracks they want to hear. Unlike Pandora, which is focused more on delivering personalized stations for individual users, Jelli brings listeners together to program stations together, in a more collaborative way. But what’s really clever is that the music users vote on isn’t just played in the app for other mobile listeners, it’s also broadcast on terrestrial radio through partnerships Jelli has with affiliate stations.
In March, Jelli reported partnerships in 20 markets across the U.S., including Philadelphia (94.5 WPST), Atlanta (96.1 WKLS), Minneapolis (102.1 KEEY), Las Vegas (96.7 KYLI, 94.5 KXLI) and others. Today, that lineup has expanded to 70 radio stations, Jelli founder and CEO Michael Dougherty tells us this morning. ”We are now running 60 million terrestrial radio spot impressions a month – up 500% from a year ago,” he says. That’s about 30 spots heard per listener per month, he explains. Many of Jelli’s partner stations have since seen increases in ratings, revenue, online traffic and Facebook Page likes as a result of their adoption of the service.
The Jelli application is available on desktop and web, as well as on both iPhone and Android. “Android has been huge for us,” says Dougherty. “Jelli for Android is about 50% of total usage, with Jelli for iPhone at 30%, and web/desktop at 20%.” The company recently updated its iOS app to version 2.4, introducing several improvements learned from the Android experience which may impact iOS usage going forward. A new web/desktop experience is also now in the works.
With the additional funding, the company will focus on continued product development, and specifically its Ad Platform, with an emphasis on engagement, targeting, and analytics for agency partners. Jelli is also hiring in sales and marketing, and planning to expand outside the U.S. Dougherty says that plans are already underway with international partners, but he can’t share the details on those efforts just yet.
Jelli is one of several new companies Intel has invested in, the firm revealed today. At the organization’s two-day Global Summit in California, Intel announced it had invested a total of $40 million in 10 startups, including Jelli, content sharing platform Box, content distributor Hungama.com, game developer LIFO Interactive, mobile proximity platform NewAer, e-payment platform PagPop, cloud service provider Tier 3, 3D game developer Transmension, integrated circuit design shop FocalTech and mobile advertising provider UUCun. Financial details of each investment were not disclosed.
Open Ocean, the VC fund led by former MySQL and Nokia execs, is investing $1.3 million in Stockholm, Sweden-based startup Truecaller — maker of the crowdsourced phone directory app and online white pages service that lets you look up unknown phone numbers and match them with names.
The Series A funding comes from Open Ocean’s Fund Three fund which focuses on community and open source software ventures.
“Truecaller is a perfect fit for Open Ocean Fund Three’s investment focus, developing a rapidly scalable business on the basis of a crowdsourcing strategy and high virality,” says Ralf Wahlsten Open Ocean Partner in a statement. “We believe that Truecaller is positioned to be the leading service in the global mobile white pages industry.”
Truecaller offers a phone directory app on the Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Phone mobile platforms, and also a free phone number search on its website.
Truecaller said it intends to use the Series A funds to expand its footprint in “key markets” — specifically North America, Asia and the Middle East.
“With the new funding and strong support from Open Ocean we will be able to further strengthen our expansion in key markets, and realize our vision to change the way people search and connect to each other on both a local and global level,” added Alan Mamedi, CEO of Truecaller, in a statement.
The startup, which was founded in 2009, claims it’s experiencing exponential growth — which is pretty handy when your product leans on crowdsourced data to grow.
Some of Truecaller’s directory data comes from users sharing the names and numbers in their contacts’ books — though it stresses this is an entirely opt-in process (you can also unlist your number from their database if it’s found its way in via the crowdsourced backdoor).
The rest of the directory data comes from a more traditional route of partnering with white/yellow pages companies around the world. The advantage of using crowdsourcing as a directory data source is that it can offer better phone number look ups in countries where there are no reliable directory services to partner with, the company says on its blog. (It cites India as an example.)
Open Ocean’s other investments include SkySQL, WOT, MoSyn, Ironstar Helsinki and Zentyal.
View original post here: Open Ocean Invests $1.3M To Push Crowdsourced Directory Truecaller’s Global Reach
MobileWorks launched last summer with a simple, yet big mission: Build a viable alternative for Amazon Mechanical Turk and in so doing create a motivated, happy and accurate virtual workforce. While Mechanical Turk has its appeal, as a way to hire cheap labor to complete basic tasks through an online, crowdsourced marketplace, but the system is set up in such a way that workers tend to be anonymous, underpaid, don’t have much incentive to do good work, and largely ignored by Amazon.
MobileWorks set out with a different approach (and a social mission) — to pay workers fair wages and create a collaborative online work environment in which microwork would become less anonymous and more like a self-organizing virtual office. The startup believes that this approach can lower the cost of obtaining quality work or results, pay fewer workers more and, in so doing, enable non-enterprise (i.e. smaller companies) to tap into the benefits of crowdsourcing.
So far it seems to be working, as the company announced today that its workers have collectively completed one million commercial tasks since launch. What’s more, companies have effectively outsourced five continuous years of work in the last year by hiring its cloud-based crowd, which the team believes is a testament to how much businesses can accomplish by collaborating with a virtual labor pool.
This traction, although not mind-numbing, provides some early validation for the startup’s approach and has attracted investors, leading to the startup raising a sizable seed round earlier this year. Although the co-founders remained tight-lipped about numbers, we did learn that its investor roster included names like Andreessen Horowitz, Recruit Strategic Partners, Bee Partners, FirstLight Ventures, Hub Ventures, Y Combinator and SV Angel.
But why are investors interested in MobileWorks — and just what kind of work does its virtual workforce do exactly? Well, out of those aforementioned million tasks, unsurprisingly the majority came from data-intensive tasks like lead generation, online data collection, content moderation and video and audio analysis.
However, according to MobileWorks co-founder Anand Kulkarni, while tasks were predominantly data-intensive, the startup has begun to see a wider range of inbound work, with its crowd now having worked on tasks ranging from managing a Twitter account to digitizing stacks of business cards. And the benefit, in MobileWorks’ conception, is that its quality-driven, virtual workforce allows businesses to afford the kind of outsourced labor they wouldn’t were they to hire workers in-house.
In fact, many of MobileWorks’ business clients — the users of those first million tasks — were startups that built entire products while using MobileWorks’ labor force. Jessica Mah, the young CEO of Indinero (the company which has been dubbed “The Mint.com for small business”) said that MobileWorks had become the backbone of a few of its major products.
A feature of its iOS app, for example, requires that it reliably convert information from photos of receipts into digital form. While tedious, an important task for Indinero to do (and do well) in order to offer superior functionality or features than the next app. Of course, for small teams, this kind of stuff distracts from more crucial jobs, so being able to outsource to MobileWorks is huge, Mah says.
Interestingly, while MobileWorks has found its way to what appears to be a workable model, this isn’t where it started out. When it graduated from Y Combinator last summer, MobileWorks had built a service specifically for developers. The model was similar to that of Mechanical Turk, with the main difference being that it was composed of highly-screened workers and used algorithms to ensure quality. But it was API-only.
The team found that its model wasn’t as appealing to developers as it was to SMBs and businesses, who were more interested in the product itself. Today, MobileWorks has built a cloud labor service for business that it believes to be the opposite of Mechanical Turk philosophically. The idea being that treating people better and making online work less anonymous and more like a virtual office is a win-win for everyone involved.
As part of this, the startup has launched a new web interface that business users can use directly. Its new technology routes tasks to the workers in the crowd best-suited for that kind of work enabling companies to get good answers just by asking a few workers.
In pushing its social mission, MobileWorks gives workers incentives to do good work under their real names, set prices that pay them fair rates, offer opportunities for skill development and advancement and enable them to choose the tasks they enjoy the most. Another fundamental part of its social mission is promoting self-organization — both because it’s a fundamental right (of the employee) but also because it helps the bottom line.
MobileWorks automatically identifies its brainiest members and calls on them to manage the rest of the crowd, with the top one percent of the workforce being able to review everybody’s performance, train workers, hire and fire, and review answers. It’s potentially dangerous, but it also has a lot of advantages. The brainier members of the crowd don’t feel like they’re bored or being held down, others get a sense of the opportunity for upward mobility. What’s more, the crowd is just much more likely to be content and produce good work if it’s policing and monitoring itself, instead of feeling like Big Brother is watching. And that’s good for business.
On the flip side, the value for its clients is inherent in virtualization. MobileWorks removes the need for companies to sink cash into heavy development or custom-made enterprise solutions or millions of drones for their data entry and so on. The goal then is to allow businesses to just sign on and send work through its web interface, then kick back and take solace in the confidence that the job will be done right.
Naturally, this model has proven far more useful for startups than developers, which was MobileWorks’ initial focus, because all they have to do is just post work in a few lines of code and trust the crowd will get it done — why the company has seen so many startups looking to subcontract their labor requirements with MobileWorks.
Although the startup’s scope has changed, what Jason pointed out last year remains true. There’s plenty of room for improvement in this space, and there are a lot of underprivileged, underemployed workers out there in developing parts of the world who can be trained to be effective workers within MobileWorks’ framework — which, in turn, can help lift them up.
But, as always with crowdsourced labor, it all comes down to ensuring quality. If the startup can use its algorithms to boost quality and find ways to optimize processing and completion of those manual tasks, its user base could be seeing quite a few additions in the near-term.
For more, find MobileWorks here.
It’s not a spelling mistake, it’s a typo. That’s my line and I’m sticking to it. But what if proofreading, along with copywriting and translation, could be offered akin to a Software-as-a-Service, API included? That’s the ambitious aim of TextMaster which this week uncloaked its technology stack to enable third-parties to start building apps that integrate the full functionality of its service.
TextMaster offers a platform for content creators to crowdsource their copywriting, translation and proofreading needs via its community of ‘professionals’ who have each gone through a quality vetting process and are paid per-word. One way to think of the service is a Mechanical Turk for a very specific niche, while the bigger vision is to disrupt the respective copywriting, translation and proofreading industries. As an example, the translation industry is thought to be a $20B market.
Launched six months ago, TextMaster says that its platform has processed 6.5 million words by over 22,000 translators, copywriters, and proofreaders for more than 2,000 customers, while those doing the work tend to be journalists, writers, teachers and students.
Its customers range from e-commerce companies, bloggers, advertising and communication agencies, and editors. “Potentially any company can need our services to translate a website or to write a brochure or a newsletter”, says co-founder and CEO Benoît Laurent.
But of course, with an API that existing apps and new ones can tap into, that customer base could grow significantly, presuming there is developer interest. The types of apps that Laurent envisages include integration with blogging platforms like WordPress, Dotclear, Typepad, etc., or an email client. In addition, the company is soon to release an iPhone ‘dictaphone’ app that will offer transcription of audio files “within minutes”, which takes the startup into a whole different space.
The company is also in contact with “many global platforms”, says Laurent, such as e-commerce, and vacation rental sites, in order to remove the language barrier to using these services. To date, TextMaster is available in 8 languages and 5 countries: France, Germany, USA, UK and Spain.
The Brussels-headquartered company was founded in June 2011 by Benoît Laurent (CEO), Alexandre Ponsin (CTO), Thibaud Elzière (Product & Strategy) and Quentin Nickmans (Advisor).
See the original post: TextMaster Rolls Out API For Its Copywriting, Translation And Proofreading Platform