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CrowdSourcing Repetitive Tasks: CrowdFlower Founder Lukas Biewald (Part 7)

Posted on Wednesday, Oct 5th 2011

Sramana: Would you talk some about the CEO transition? When did you bring in Woody Hobbs?

Lukas Biewald: We brought him in a couple of months ago. The business had grown and we were selling to bigger and bigger customers and were eyeing finance, healthcare, and other industries that I had no experience with. I felt like I was not the best possible person in the world to be CEO. Woody had been CEO of several companies and had sold one for over $500 million.

Sramana: How did you pick him?

Lukas Biewald: We had a search going for six months. We saw a lot of candidates who did not seem that exciting. He came in and loved the business we were doing. He had also run a company in Africa, so he had an interesting mix of experience that I did not have. The team is very fired up to have him. We know he can take our team to 1,000 people. Giving up control was a bit scary for me.

The thing that was the most important to me is that he really loved the company. That is how I have made all of my senior hires. CrowdFlower is not adding to his resume. He has run bigger companies in the past. He really believes in the mission that we are doing. It has made my life much less stressful.

Sramana: When you at your one million contributors, how much money does one individual make by working with CrowdFlower?

Lukas Biewald: By its very nature and size, our population has diverse metrics. There are a few people who do tons of work. The 95/5 rule would probably be the most applicable.

Sramana: Can people who invest and work hard via your platform make a living?

Lukas Biewald: It depends on which country they are living in. If they are living in a developing country, they can make a rather good living. In the U.S. it is part-time work. Sometimes it is a stay-at-home mom who wants some additional income. We have a lot of disabled people who have a hard time leaving the house. There is a wide range of motives for people who do this work. If we put up a job that is fun, it really increases people’s desire to do that job.

I feel that crowdsourcing has a wide range. I call what we do enterprise crowdsourcing because we do real work for enterprises. The fact is that all ranges of croudsourcing harness people’s desire to be productive. People all over the world share that desire and the Internet let’s people become productive members. Some people that work find it magical that they are able to make an impact by fixing a map. They are contributing to a greater portion of society. That is why we try so hard to show people the impact of what we do.

When it comes to people, we also have to judge the quality of your work. If you are really bad, we will block you. However if you just get a couple items wrong every now and then we can handle that. We will tell you if we think you got it wrong and every now and then when we tell someone with an incredibly high accuracy score that we think they got it wrong they get incredibly mad. They will find my home phone number and call me up. My number used to be on the Internet because as an entrepreneur I wanted to be accessible. Some of my investors came in as cold calls. I had hide my phone number because I had so many calls starting to come in.

Sramana: I have a lot of interest in development economics. That is one of the reasons I started 1M/1M. I think it would be interesting for you to pair your enterprise contracts with developing economy organizations. Is that something you are seeing already?

Lukas Biewald: I love development economics as well. We have worked with Samasource. Leila and I have known each other since Samasource was one person and CrowdFlower was two people. It has been cool to watch the industry grow together. They worked out of our office for a while, and we send them work when it is appropriate.

We made an iPhone app together where we have people in the U.S. checking the work done in other countries to help our customers feel more comfortable about the quality. We did not pay the people in the U.S., we just used that to make the hourly rate higher. Giving people access to jobs is very powerful. I went with Leila to Haiti after the earthquake and helped with translation work. It was amazing for me to see how badly people wanted jobs. We had 80 people show up to jobs in suits and ties. When they were reading the instruction manuals and power went out, they pulled out their cell phones to keep reading the instruction manuals. Crowdsourcing is meritocratic. I hope as we grow we will continue to send more and more work.

Sramana: This has been a fantastic story. Congratulations, and best of luck as you press forward.

This segment is part 7 in the series : CrowdSourcing Repetitive Tasks: CrowdFlower Founder Lukas Biewald
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