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Thursday, 24 May 2012

[Gazette Profile] Changing the Crowdfunding Model with START.ac

Crowdfunding continues to grow exponentially with more platforms offering resources and support, as well as governments passing laws to make it more accessible. Both private sector businesses and third sector organisations are benefiting from the support of the crowd. A new platform, START.ac launched on 15th May 2012, aims to change the current crowdfunding model that will  blend commercial projects with altruistic goals. 


START.ac was founded by Rod Turner, a seasoned entrepreneur who played a key role in the formation of highly successful start-ups including software developers Symantec (brainchild of Norton Antivirus software) and the popular search engine AskJeeves. Over the last year or so Rod has called upon his extensive knowledge to develop a new crowdfunding platform aimed at helping start-up businesses and technological ventures. The platform offers an assortment of unique features which include;

  • The Inside Track TM enables funders to engage with projects they support
  • CrowdAudition TM encourages the START.ac TM community to get involved offering feedback on projects up for submission as well as their selection
  • START.ac TM offers a mentoring programme for project owners offering guidance and support from seasoned entrepreneurs and market leaders
  • CrowdAccelerator TM benefits funded projects with continued dedicated involvement from the mentors
  • STARTBusinessRewards TM offers rewards to project supporters based on company milestones.
The site's biggest addition however is the altruistic model aimed at supporting worthy causes. Project drivers looking for funding are generally charged 5% of their funding target, operating on the all or nothing model, for commercial projects but no charge will be made for non-profit ventures. Users can also opt to pay 6% of the funds raised of which 1% will be placed in the Pay it Forward Fund, with 25% of the total funds being allocated to the Pay it Forward Foundation and 75% to charities as voted by members. In the event of a large scale disaster such as a tsunami or earthquake special projects can be set up free of charge to raise funds for any foundations best suited to helping with relief efforts. 
    The VC model is outdated. Investments are highly concentrated in Silicon Valley and similar VC clubs at the expense of 90% of the start-up opportunity across the US and around the world. In addition, current crowdfunding platforms are too narrowly focused in scope and geography. START.ac will democratise the industry in a way that is not yet being addressed. - Rod Turner, Co-founder & CEO START.ac 
START.ac, with its evolutionary model looks set to change the future of crowdfunding. Prior to launch the site's Facebook page had already received over 10,000 followers and word quickly spread over other social media sites including LinkedIn, Google + and Twitter. The future for crowdfunding lies in START.ac's goal to make virtualized funds, advice and resources available to support up and coming entrepreneurs to realise their maximum potential. This goal to aide entrepreneurs at a time when the world's economies are still teetering on the blink is equal to START.ac's altruistic commitment to effectively help those less fortunate. 

Friday, 18 May 2012

Crowdsourced Investigators WeGoLook Come to The UK

The likelihood of falling victim to Internet fraud can be a deterrent to shopping on-line, or it might simply be a case of needing to travel to verify that the purchase is as described. With so many reports of Internet scams and stories of millions falling foul to such tricks, crowdsourcing offers a solution to restore that lost confidence. WeGoLook offers customers the services of its crowd of investigators or "lookers" to allay fears with site visits, observations and fully personalised cost effective reports, irrespective of location. The platform already boasts a community over 7000 US based lookers, and the founders are now looking to bring their unique service to the UK.

WeGoLook was founded in Oklahoma City by Mark Caywood, Robin Smith and Mat Smith in 2010. The idea for this service came about after co-founder Mark Caywood's unsettling and expensive experience of purchasing goods from a well known bidding site. Anyone who has made a purchase online be it through bidding sites, online classified or trade sites, or any other platform can call upon one WeGoLook's verified investigators to do any of the following;

  • verify the existence and condition of sellers' property
  • provide visual confirmation which can include where appropriate a working demonstration
  • verify condition of rental property prior to signing tenancy agreement and paying deposit
  • purchase tickets on customers' behalf
  • arrange to collect and ship purchased items
  • attend events/seminars on customers' behalf and make detailed notes
  • other claim/items to be verified can also include antiques, pets, vehicles on eBay, and even on-line dates
Once the task is completed the looker then provides a full report of their findings complete with photographic and video evidence. The customer can then make an informed decision thus minimising falling foul of scams and misrepresentation. WeGoLook's move to the UK is perfectly timed with the upcoming Olympic games.

The 2012 Olympic games is sure to attract thousands of visitors to London, making it a target rich environments for potential con artists and fraudsters. The games will create be a big demand for affordable accommodation, souvenirs, and of course tickets to the games. To counter this problem WeGoLook have launched their "London Looks" service with verified UK based lookers ready to offer their unique service to visitors and citizens alike.  For more information about WeGoLook and their UK services then click here to visit their website.


Acknowledgements; Thanks to Lawrence Suss at WeGoLook

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Leading Provider of Crowdsourced Images Goes Global

Regular visitors to the Gazette, as well as avid followers of crowdsourcing developments might recall reading about ImageBrief. The Australian based platform enables customers to crowdsource images from its global community of registered photographers, making it easier and cost effective than trawling through a vast library of image stocks. Since then ImageBrief has expanded operations to become an internationally recognised crowdsourcing service with image providers and buyers from over 100 countries using the service. 


ImageBrief challenges the conventional means of acquiring images over the web. Online stock libraries can provide an almost unlimited source of royalty free images. It can however be time consuming searching the libraries for the right image, be it for a website, blog, or even print publication, and sometimes the rights to those images can be limiting. ImageBrief puts buyers in touch with photographers, who then browse through their catalogues and agree a price for the image or even multiple images. It is a simple and cost effective system for the buyer but is also a means for photographers to earn a living. 

Since its launch, ImageBrief has expanded operations to London, and Cape Town in South Africa, doubling its community of registered photographers with many more applying to be accepted. Amongst them, one of Australia's leading magazine publishing houses, ACP Magazines is already contributing their vast stock of images to meet buyer briefs. Altogether this not only increases the range of available images but also the quality for potential buyers. 
Our agency and publishing customers love the ease of licensing images via ImageBrief.Less than a month after expanding into London, we’re finding creatives in one of the world’s most heralded creative cities are embracing the model over the traditional stock libraries, and have started briefing in their image  needs via ImageBrief. They’re finding fresh, unique shots which haven’t been seen before, and because they can define their budget and usage terms up-front, they are in complete control of the process. - Simon Moss, CEO ImageBrief



ImageBrief has become globally recognised as a leading provider of crowdsourced images with Australia's prominent business magazine BRW recognising it as one of the ten startups to watch. In addition to increase its crowd of photographers thereby increasing range for buyers, ImageBrief will soon be expanding operations to the US officially with an official launch to be featured at the New York Photo Festival later this month.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Need a Crowdsourced Service, Feedback or Advice? Then Bounty It

Whether you are looking for fresh logo & design ideas, need someone to perform a service or promote your social media page, BountyIt can offer a one stop port of call for a variety of crowdsourcing services. The platform was devised by two young entrepreneurs and has only been operating for a few months but already its user led philosophy is generating mass appeal enabling customers to utilise crowdsourcing to its fullest potential. 


BountyIt was founded by Clifford Bernstein and Andrew Rosenau, and launched in November 2011. Clifford is a finance graduate from Loyola Marymount Univeristy, with experience working in the property sector. In addition Clifford has ventured into various on-line enterprises including ThisStuffRules.com, an on-line catalogue of fringe goods and gadgets. Andrew graduated with a BSc in Chemistry and has worked in drug design and optimisation before helping create BountyIT and is currently in his final year of Law School with focus on the complex work of Intellectual Property Law. Despite only in operation for six months, BountyIT has attracted a large following;
"People started using it for ways that we didn't even really expect, so we are trying to be very versatile at this point and really see where "the crowd" takes us.  We feel that this is a very adaptable platform and we have chosen a couple target markets which we feel work the best" - Clifford Bernstein, Co-founder
BountyIt essentially acts as a noticeboard for crowdsourcing services offered or required once users have registered. They can then post a call for a service to be carried out which fall into four categories; feedback, service wanted, service offered, promotion, by simply posting a call/brief and setting a price or "bounty" for the task at hand. This brief can feature almost any situation needing input from the crowd whether it be design suggestions, a microtask to be performed, or promoting social media pages, with terms and prices agreed as required. Once the user has the most favourable solution the bounty is paid according to terms.

Although it is early days for this startup, BountyIt continues to build and enjoy considerable user growth as crowdsourcing becomes used more widely. Tapping into this demand Clifford and Andrew look set to continue building the user based making the platform accessible and user friendly for bounty posters and responders respectively.


Image Credits;  Chinnian

Monday, 7 May 2012

Make the Bristol Mayor Work for Us

It was a disappointing turnout on Thursday 3rd May for the referendum to vote yes or no for a Bristol Mayor. Apparently only 24% actually bothered to vote and although it resulted in a win for the yes campaign it was thanks to only 13% of registered voters. With very few people showing any interest in the referendum one has to wonder just what the future holds for the upcoming mayoral elections whenever they might be.

Whether it is voting in local and general elections, or a referendum, I take the right to vote seriously. For decades here in the UK  we fought for the right to vote, but even in the 21st century various governments of other nations deny their citizens that one inalienable right that should be available to all either by decree, or intimidation with view to steering elections in their favour. It galls me that here in the UK this right which is denied to so many and had to be fought for is cast aside for trivial apathetic excuses. The importance of voting for people to run the local and national affairs is why I voted yes for a Bristol Mayor. It is irrelevant now whether you voted no or stayed away altogether, the city has been given an historic opportunity to have a say in how it is run and by whom, and to hold that person accountable if they fail to live up to their promises.



I once joked on Twitter that the appeal of a Bristol mayor is we could have our very own "Red" Ken Livingstone. From everything I have read plus a couple of visits to our fair capital indicated to me that he was doing a grand job, clean streets, efficient transport (never once encountered a late tube train) and plenty of police on patrol. It was certainly safe to roam the streets late at night. This is what Bristol needs and deserves of its first mayor. Of course I also stated that the downside is that Bristol stands an equal chance of electing its own Boris, a thought that still sends shivers down my spine.   However what it does emphasize is that if Bristol citizens want what's best for the city then it is important to get off the sidelines, shrug off our usual political cynicism and start taking an interest in local politics.

Now that we have this remarkable opportunity what is needed is a mayor who really will put Bristol first. For me this means that they should;
  • not be affiliated to any political party. I am an avid Labour supporter but would be hesitant in backing a Labour candidate for Mayor. A partisan mayor will take his/her orders from the party hierarchy which is not always conducive to what is best for the city

  • in no way serve or be supported by big businesses. Let's face it when politics and business team up ordinary people and small businesses lose out. An elected official with support from big businesses will most definitely have their interests at heart. We know all too well what happens when a business is keen to secure prime property and has the means to bypass or overturn planning regulations

  • be Bristol residents. Now this might seem a little xenophobic (for want of a better term) but it is important for Bristol's mayor to be from Bristol, or lived here long enough to know the city very well.
It doesn't matter now if you voted yes or no, or just sat on the apathetic sidelines, this is the system of local government that we now have and to get the best changes for the city it is vital to get involved.

Image Credits BackBoris2012

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Brussels To Host European Open Innovation Summit

If you are unsure how to generate business success through open innovation, some of the commercial world's leading innovators will be sharing their knowledge to answer those questions. Organised by the World Research Group, the European Open Innovation Summit will be held in Brussels on 23rd and 24th May, for interested delegates to learn all about open innovation strategies and how to implement them into everyday business operations. 


World Research Group is an American based conference and training development company that helps individuals and organisation make better use of the latest business strategies and solutions to achieve their goals. To date the group has held over 50 annual events providing face to face learning opportunities for greater learning and sharing of knowledge and best practises as well as a networking environment for like minded people and experts. With the Open Innovation Summit, the group have pulled together leading authorities from blue chip high profile names such as Nokia, Glaxo Smith Kline and Philips, amongst others to share their challenges and successes with open innovation.

The summit will feature a special presentation entitled "Jumping on the Open Innovation Band Wagon; Oh What a Tune it Plays" by Mike Rainone, award winning columnist for Product Design and Development magazine. With over 20 years experience in this area, Mike will discuss the advantages and drawbacks of open innovation, and the challenges it has presented in both US and European markets. Other prominent speakers featuring at the conference include; 
  • Nicole Russell, Manager, Open Innovation, GlaxoSmithKline
  • Todd Boone, Director, Open Innovation, Psion
  • Nicolas Bry, Senior VP, Innovation Marketing Group, Orange VallĂ©e
  • Jason Berns, Director, Open Innovation, Under Armour
  • Katja van der Wal, Director, Open Innovation, Philips Consumer Lifestyle
  • Kamel Chida, Associate Director, Open Innovation Europe, General Mills
Many aspects of open innovation will be covered by speakers over the two day schedule, examining the issues through various methods such as;

  • keynote address on how open innovation can be used effectively despite the current   financial climate
  • case studies featuring Lego and Nokia, and their successes thanks to effective use of crowdsourcing and open innovation
  • panel discussions on developing and promoting a culture of open innovation
  • live debate on the viability of a market for open innovation platforms
  • discussion on the integral role social media plays on driving and influence open innovation ventures.


In addition to the activities there will be allotted breaks for networking opportunities. For more information about the summit and to register visit the World Research Group website's events calendar or click here.

Image Credits; love2dreamfish