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TC50: CrowdFlower Crowdsources Mundane Labor To The Cloud

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For any business, from a startup to a large company, mundane, yet time-intensive tasks like transcribing video or removing spam comments from blogs, can be a waste of employee time. TechCrunch50 startup CrowdFlower CrowdFlower provides Labor as a Service (LaaS) by letting clients access an always-on, scalable workforce.

Unlike traditional methods of outsourcing and hiring, CrowdFlower’s web offering lets businesses instantly access thousands of workers without picking up the phone. Here’s how it works. If a company has a transcribing task, the administrator can fill out a task form on CrowdFlower. Once all the fields are filled out, CrowdFlower will price the task based on the amount of time it takes to perform the assignment per unit (the user does the sample task). The startup will break the task into units that can be performed by a single person and price the task accordingly.

CloudFlower then lets you choose the channels of work. You can pick Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, their labor force or even a Facebook application where people perform task to earn virtual currencies. The system trusts a worker less based on the mistakes a worker makes. Once the task is finished, CloudFlower will perform a quality control check and show the user the results of the task. The startup will indicate which workers were most productive and accurate. CrowdFlower will continue to employ workers who have high ratings.

CrowdFlower monetizes its platform by taking a commission on every task created by customers.

Expert Panel Q&A (paraphrased)

The experts: Satish Dharmaraj, Lior Zorea, Bradley Horowitz, Tim O’Reilly, Kevin Rose

SD: I think it’s interesting-will you do transcribing of voicemails to text etc. Probably want to think about a vertical?

A: I think there a lot of tasks that are boring that people don’t outsource.

LZ: I think this a big idea. How do you keep a competitive advantage?

A: We already have a huge history of workers and we know who can do which tasks well. We have people who can do 99% accuracy on mundane tasks.

BH: A lot of stuff you are doing is possible on Mechanical Turk. Is this where they will go?

A: Here’s the tough thing for mechanical turk-they don’t want to know what the results are. We have a higher level of semantics when we do a task, we have higher level of quality control. Amazon may see this as a application on top of a platform.

TO: How big is the niche here? There’s still a lot of ignorance about this?

A: There are a lot of interesting enterprise tasks that can be done. For example, MySpace. There are challenges like security and integration. But the biggest challenge is quality.

We don’t know how we are going to reach small customers.

KR: Service is awesome but need to figure out how you are going to get the message out there.

Images:
crowdflowerstage

Video:
http://www.ustream.tv/flash/video/2167086

Other Coverage:
TC50: CrowdFlower offers rich analytics for mechanical turks VentureBeat.
TC50: CrowdFlower offers rich analytics for mechanical turks caem.la.
CrowdFlower Bolsters a New Era of Work PR Web.

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