Strategy

Collaborative creation: How to crowdsource your business

Cara Waters /

Hfeature-collab-200ave you heard of collaborative creation? It’s the latest business model but it’s also as old as the hills.

Collaborative creation goes back as far as the Oxford English dictionary, which was created through submissions from interested parties from across the UK in the 19th century.

The movie industry has always used this model, for each new movie project, it brings on writers, directors, actors and crew.

All these people come together to make the movie and once that movie is over they move on to another movie.

It’s also the same model used for open source software such as Linux and Open Office but increased access to technology means collaborative creation is a model that can be used by more and more businesses.

To show how you how crowdsourcing could help your business we’ve taken a look at three Australian businesses – Plexus, Genero.tv and SitePoint – which have built their businesses around the concept of collaborative creation.

Plexus: Employment boundaries are changing

Plexus is a “new-model” law firm which has a pool of lawyers which it draws from as work becomes available either directly for clients or through law firms.

The business was established by Andrew Mellett and Andrew Meagher two years ago and now has a turnover of more than $5 million a year.

Mellett told SmartCompany the overarching trend of collaborative creation is that the boundaries about employment are going to change over the next five to 10 years.

He says in some industries that has already happened and who works for whom is less and less relevant.

“We are seeing in the legal industry that the change is happening, if companies can bring people in and deliver on projects for demand and then send them off when they are no longer needed then it means they can more dynamically respond to the market,” he says.

“Plexus is taking advantage of that trend and giving law firms a more flexible resource base than they were used to.”

Mellett says there are a number of forces driving the move towards more collaborative creation in business.

“There are a lot of people out there who want work to fit with their life and not life to fit with their work. The number one driver of employment in Australia is not compensation, it is work life balance,” he says.

“The IT industry has been all over this for 20 years and what I think is going to happen is people will band together in different formations to solve different problems more rapidly and I think you will see that on an individual level and on another level, businesses will band together to solve problems or to create great product.”

Mellett says collaborative creation is both a new trend and an old trend as it has been happening in various industries for a long time.

“It’s just because of technology, people are able to do this more effectively now than ever before so the trend will accelerate,” he says.

Genero.tv: Allows connections all around the world

Genero.tv launched in 2009 and connects musicians and record labels with filmmakers around the world.

The business raised just under $1 million in funding at the start of the year and is currently seeking another round of funding.

Mick Entwistle, co-founder and owner of Genero.tv, says the business is built on a crowdsourcing model and for any one song, 50 to 400 videos are made.

“The model is a model where it is allowing record labels from all over the world to connect with film makers from all corners of the world and to generate a lot of different ideas and a whole lot of content for the same sort of money,” he says.

Filmmakers only get directly paid if their film is selected to be used but Entwistle says the business allows filmmakers to get noticed by the record labels who then often provide other work.

“The labels pay us a fee to run it all and we set up the page and then we moderate all the video content and make sure there are no copyright or legal issues, then we shortlist the videos down,” he says.

“Most of the clients we work with are in the creative hubs, London, New York, Berlin and Paris, and then we do a lot of work for Australian companies as well but our filmmakers are in all corners of the globe.

Entwistle came up with the idea for Genero.tv around seven years ago when he was sitting at short film festival Tropfest and thinking that a similar thing could be done with music videos as was done for short films.

“It doesn’t matter where these people are in the world, they often don’t have offices as it doesn’t really come into consideration; they are freelance video directors who can work from anywhere.

“It doesn’t matter that the person requiring the content is based in an American company or a French company; they can get content from all around the world. We recently did a campaign for Miller beer, which is a very American company, but the people they selected were from Majorca, it’s all about breaking down barriers.”

Genero.tv is now using the same model to expand into filmmakers making advertisements or short films for brands and ad agencies.

Sitepoint: Pioneering crowdsourced business

Mark Harbottle was a pioneer in the area of collaborative creation by founding businesses including 99designs, the largest online marketplace for crowdsourced graphic design services in the world and Flippa.com, which sells websites.

SitePoint turns over well in excess of $30 million a year and Harbottle started off his business by building communities and then gradually monetised his community.

“Crowdsourcing basically means drawing on a large group of people to help you produce result, rather than relying on a single company or freelancer,” he told SmartCompany previously.

Using collaborative creation or crowdsourcing for design takes most of the risk out of procuring design services for business.

For a relatively small amount of money you can sample literally dozens of different design concepts, from thousands of designers.

“The main advantage of crowdsourcing is that innovative ideas can be explored at relatively little cost,” Harbottle says.

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Cara Waters

Cara Waters is a former SmartCompany editor. Previously, Cara was a senior reporter for the Financial Times' website and worked for The Sunday Times in London.

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