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Serial Entrepreneur from Alberta, Canada: Michael Sikorsky, CEO of Robots and Pencils (Part 6)

Posted on Saturday, Dec 5th 2015

Sramana Mitra: I got it. How many people did you have in the company that you were essentially renting out?

Michael Sikorsky: It was very fast. It went from 0 to 65 people in nine months.

Sramana Mitra: Then you sold the company to whom?

Michael Sikorsky: To my business partner. It was almost like an accident. Again, you can almost see the pattern. I was like, “I don’t want to be at this company. I don’t know what I’m going to do. How about I try this idea?” I just wasn’t super passionate about it.

Sramana Mitra: It’s a very common idea that these various offshore firms are doing. You can put a little lipstick on that but it is not a great business.

Michael Sikorsky: No, it’s not.

Sramana Mitra: What year does that bring us up to?

Michael Sikorsky: Probably around 2004.

Sramana Mitra: What happens next?

Michael Sikorsky: Then I had this idea of saying, “I want to go back and build some type of a software product. I started another company. This time, we went back and raised financing. Obviously, I was an investor again in my own company. We hadn’t started this company started when there was this idea of crowdsourcing. A month after an article on crowdsourcing came out on Wired, we basically built a crowdsourcing platform.

Sramana Mitra: What were you crowdsourcing?

Michael Sikorsky: At this time, we built a software platform. There are two types. If you go to the website, it’s called Chaordix. They’re helping companies figure out whatever their right audiences are and pulling out wisdom that is sitting inside their community. Behind the scenes in the community, we had tools like the Wisdom Workbench. I’m Proctor & Gamble. If I talk to consumers, my product hit rates are like 8 out of 10. If I don’t talk to them, it’s 3 out of 10. I’m IBM. I got all these amazing ideas sitting inside my staff. How do I liberate those ideas?

We basically took this idea of wisdom of crowds, and how you would build a tool or platform such that you can come and start asking really smart questions to different communities and help stakeholders of those communities who have better insights. The whole point of calling that company Chaordix was because of Dee Hock, the founder of Visa. He wrote about how the next set of businesses would be a blend of chaos and order. We’re basically saying that we believe that all these new businesses will somehow blend some type of central command with some type of distributed stuff. Imagine Uber. There is a central processing and there is all these independent agents.

Dee Hock coined that term and it always struck me that this is a natural outcome of what’s going to happen in the Internet economy. Chaordix was if you think back to Linux, we wanted to build a crowdsourcing operating system so anyone can answer lots of different questions from their community.

Sramana Mitra: Were you selling the platform to various companies?

Michael Sikorsky: Yes. It’s still going on today. I left it to start Robots and Pencils. They eventually took venture funding from a Vancouver firm.

Sramana Mitra: This company is based in Alberta as well?

Michael Sikorsky: They’re headquartered in Alberta, but they’re now all over the world.

Sramana Mitra: But it’s an Alberta company?

Michael Sikorsky: Yes.

Sramana Mitra: When did you start Robots and Pencils?

Michael Sikorsky: 2008 to 2009.

This segment is part 6 in the series : Serial Entrepreneur from Alberta, Canada: Michael Sikorsky, CEO of Robots and Pencils
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