The last session of the 1st day at TechCrunch40 was about crowdsourcing.
Note: for a full round-up of the day's action at TC40, check out Allen Stern's sterling effort at Center Networks.
Cake Financial is a financial sharing platform backed by Ron Conway. It allows people to share portfolios and real time transactions with others. The site can be integrated with services such as E*Trade and Charles Schwab. This sharing feature allows you to chart yourself against other people and the market normals. You see what your friends are doing, you get notified in real time, and so on. So it's financials, enriched with social networking features.
All members are ranked as silver, golden member etc. You can see everyones portfolios - and whether they are risky, moderately risky or safe.
My question: isn't this private information that you'd rather keep to yourself. Plus this may result in gaming and legal problems. However, since this business deals directly with money, it can create real addiction among its users and virally spread. So it may be a great success.
DocStoc is the "YouTube of documents." It allows you to share professional documents via a widely accepted and embeddable Flash interface. It offers basic features like categories and search. As a result, you can search for "venture capital companies in california" and you get the documents you want - full of contact info. Special ranking algorithms are based on user trustability. You can set documents to be private or public, and set whatever license you want. The site also includes other social networking elements, such as messaging and comments.
TeachThePeople's goal is to be the "ebay for education" [Ed: what was Bernard saying about Concept Extrapolation yesterday? ;-) ]. You can create classes on topics you are an expert at, then teach them and earn revenues. The example that the founders gave was:
Say you are Mark Andreessen, you are a great entrepreneur who has built many big companies and successfully exited - in that case, many people would like to learn from you, know your secret. By creating a "university" on this network, you share your knowledge and earn revenues. You can also set up a management team, assign assistants (in this instance, Jason Calacanis and Michael Arrington).
The site gives every teacher 5GB of storage space. It has advanced features such as discussion boards, Q&A, live chat, etc. It really seems to be a great platform for this purpose. The company says Y! Groups and others are great for communicating, but they can't specialize on topics such as guitar courses, Salesforce teachings etc. They say: you must be good at something, so why not monetize it.
CrowdSpirit is an electronic products crowdsourcing site from France. You post an idea, people vote; if your product gets many votes, it goes to a marketplace where "fans" and "partners" may join you in purchasing and/or selling.
For me, this was the weakest idea of the event so far. Why would anyone want to share their ideas with an untrusted community, when the idea is not defendable?
So far in computing history we've had the personal pc, personal printing - now we get personal manufacturing. Personal manufacturing actually started with the likes of CafePress, but Ponoko takes it one step further. It allows you to make toys from .eps formatted Adobe Illustrator files. I don't think the public can easily get started with this advanced program, but the company claims it is easy.
How it works: you set up material type, color, and so on; then your product gets manufactured and shipped to you. You can even sell it in a marketplace and earn money.
The idea is good, but the market may be small and it will probably be way too hard for the average user to get started with it.
Edited by Richard MacManus