Israeli start-up has lots of faith in the crowd

Israeli start-up has lots of faith in the crowd

CrowdAdvisor believes that business wisdom lies not with experts, but with groups

Crowd in a Berlin park in 2009 (Photo credit: CC BY-SA Sundve/Flickr)
Crowd in a Berlin park in 2009 (Photo credit: CC BY-SA Sundve/Flickr)

CrowdAdviser, a new Israeli start-up, crowdsources business advice to a group of experts, rewarding the best tips with a monetary reward.

Businesses seeking advice can ask an expert — or, better yet, a crowd of experts, according to Guy Simon, CEO of CrowdAdviser. “There are experts in many fields, but that’s all they are — experts, not prophets,” said Simon. “Often you can get better results and better advice from a group than from a single individual, as knowledgeable as they are.”

CrowdAdviser aims to bring that philosophy to the world. Designed with small and medium businesses in mind, CrowdAdviser provides a platform for users to ask questions and get them answered by self-styled experts (or anyone else). Businesses offer rewards (usually money) to those who answer their questions. The prize goes to the “best” adviser, as decided by the company that posed the question. Businesses are free to use all the advice they got, even if they did not think it was “best.”

Simon believes that this method is superior to the traditional expert/guru model that most businesses utilize. “Often, a business will hire an expert in order to solve one or more problems that they have been facing, whether it is an inability to increase sales, not knowing how to develop a product and many others,” said Simon. “They usually hire an expert in these matters, based on that individual’s experience and record.

“But what works for one company might not work for another,” continued Simon. “We’ve seen how, quite often, an expert with a sterling reputation is unable to make a dent in a company’s problem because everyone’s issues and problems are different, even if they appear to be similar to others’.” He added that “the better and more successful an adviser, the more he or she will charge for services. Often that is beyond the financial capabilities of many start-ups and small companies.”

Instead of spending large sums of money for the point of view of an individual expert, Simon suggests spending a small amount to get opinions from many different people. “In the last few years, world-top brands such as Intel, Walmart, Starbucks, Dell and others have created brand value by using the wisdom of the crowd to refine their existing offers, drive innovation and bring products to the market in new and exciting ways. We are making this available for small businesses now, too.”

Those seeking advice set up a “challenge,” which in CrowdAdviser lingo is a specific question or issue, and name a set “reward” — payment — for the advice they like best. Once the challenge is online, “the crowd,” which consists of people who sign up with the site can apply to participate in the challenge. There are no qualifications on expertise, experience or anything else required to register. The individual or business posing the challenge can choose the demographics of the crowd they want to answer the challenge — based on gender, location, profession and more. The challenger puts up a dollar for each enrolled participant. The money is paid to the individual chosen by the challenger.

All those answering the challenge are eligible to win. Even if they do not, they get exposure on CrowdAdviser’s site, which makes it more likely that someone will recruit them for future challenges, said Simon. “If they show they have good ideas and understand the issues, they will build up their rating on the site, which challengers will notice when they choose their crowd.”

Why would anyone want to get opinions from “unqualified” people? Because very often unqualified people turn out to have the right advice. “If you were doing market research, you would want to hear from your potential customer base, not necessarily from an expert in marketing,” said Simon. Besides opinions, customers get analytics and demographics on who is recommending what, to get a better handle on how to use the generated data. That alone, said Simon, was worth a great deal more money than what the average CrowdAdviser customer could expect to pay for a “challenge.”

“The whole point of the wisdom of crowds philosophy is to include the ideas and opinions of the ‘everyman,’ and not just experts. In our pilot program, which has been going on for several months, several dozen companies that used the system expressed satisfaction with the results,” Simon said.

Simon admits that CrowdAdviser is employing a bit of an unorthodox approach to business, though he notes there are plenty of online forums where users can pose questions and get advice from all and sundry. Those forums are usually free; asking people to pay for unproven crowd wisdom is another matter.

Simon believes that small businesses will recognize CrowdAdviser’s value. “It’s true you can join forums or even search Google for answers,” he said. “But anyone who posts questions on forums knows that getting straight answers is notoriously difficult — and whatever answers you find on Google will be geared to solving someone else’s problem, not yours. We have the only platform that provides incentives for the crowd to use its wisdom to help you.”

Check out a promotional video for CrowdAdviser:

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