Jennifer B. Davis
I loved the article on crowdsourcing in a recent Wired article. It was sent to me by a friend and colleage, Todd Hudson of the Maverick Institute.

Technology has enabled methods of production that are new. Digital content products (like the iStockPhoto example) are naturals for this, but imagine it applied to other products.

Digital printing is enabling the same sort of business model for a variety of printed items. You no longer have to rely on Hallmark to create the perfect card. You can order your own custom designed postcard and have the post office mail it for you ( You don't have to rely on Old Navy to create a t-shirt for you, you can go out to and buy one that your friend (or a clever stranger) designed. You don't have to rely on Uncle Sam to design a commemorative postage stamp, you can create your own at Zazzle. Furthermore, on many sites (including the last two I mentioned) you can leave designs for others to buy and make a commission for all sales. You don't have to wait for Random House to give you an advance for your mystery novel. You can publish it yourself through or and see it on Amazon tomorrow, with orders fulfilled through print-on-demand without inventory. All of this makes me wish I could draw or had the time to write!

I really liked the Procter and Gamble experiment called that used to let you design your own cosmetics. I think it was just ahead of its time when they shut it down. With a new web 2.0 business model applied, this could have been a way for individuals to create their own branded line of cosmetics and resell them on their blog, in their self-published beauty book, or to their own friends and family through a custom designed mailer printed at PSPrint. Modern technology allows the emphasis to be on brand building, not product building.

So, what about other products that are relatively easy to produce consistently, have a high creative content, and can be easily distributed? I could see whole cottage industries being enabled by this technology.

Online jewelry sites where individual artists pool their talents or take custom orders. Online copy editing services where people post copy and pay a fee and professional editors give critique and get paid by the read. What if you could get your MRI read by a group of radiology students, in addition to your radiologist. You could help fund someone's residency while getting a valuable second opinion. You don't have to wait for a concert promoter to bring your favorite artist to town. You could book an act, rent a venue, and sell your own tickets using Could these technologies be applied to give more economic opportunities to women and children in impoverished countries (who currently have to make unspeakable and unfathomable choices for survival)?

What other business ideas could be enabled in this way?

I read recently about a company in Business 2.0 magazine called Ocean Tomo that plans to broker intellectual property. You have invention and you give them a cut of the royalties if they find you a licensee. Like eBay for IP, perhaps. I wonder if they will take it as far as some of these other sites giving you the tools to do the patent filings, previous art searches, and the like? Man, I would love and use that, as would a lot of other people with great ideas, but without the time or resources to pursue monitizing them all. (Don't believe me? Check out my Invention Recycling site at

Thanks, Todd, for getting my creative juices flowing!
2 Responses
  1. Here's another. Custom wallpaper designs.

    Wallcoverings constitute Naked & Angry's second series of products featuring patterns created by the brand's audience. Anyone can submit a pattern design, which is scored by other Naked & Angry users. The highest scoring designs are manufactured in limited runs, with patterns providing inspiration for what the actual product will be. (The first series featured silk neckties in five patterns.) Creators of winning designs receive a USD 500 cash prize and 5 free Naked & Angry products.

    Naked & Angry's five wallpaper designs have been hand-screened locally in Chicago, in very limited quantities, and are priced at USD 60 per double roll.

  2. Jeff Says:

    look at this project which seems the use the crowdsourcing concept for the manufacturing industry.