We're Opening Our Call for Speakers for Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding, & Open Innovation

As the knowledge of crowdsourcing continues to spread through more companies, it’s important that we stay on the top of our game when inviting the best speakers to present at our events. Every year we produce the largest & hottest conference on enterprise-level crowdsourcing, Crowdopolis, as well as 4 all-online Summits. While we know who most of the top speakers are, we like to open a call for speakers twice a year to see who else should be part of these glorious events.

Today, we’re opening up a call for crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, & open innovation speakers!!!

If you want to speak at a physical or virtual event, then fill out this form now. Our annual conference is in San Francisco (Our 4th event takes place in Oct). Our all-online Summits take place... all-online. The next Summit we’ll be holding will be our Crowdfunding Summit.

An advisor of ours had an idea that was so profound for the next year I felt the need to start right away. So now's your chance. If you think you'd be a great speaker, let us know.

We're looking for:

  • Crowdfunding Speakers for our upcoming webinar-based Summit
  • Crowdopolis Speakers for our physical event in San Francisco

Click here to fill out our speakers form if you want to speak. If you know someone who should fill this form out, please send them the link.

We’ll stop accepting submissions at the end of August. If you filled out the form, show us some excitement in the comments below (Tell us about yourself).

Protesting with crowdfunding

Crowdfunding being used in the court of public opinion

First and foremost, this article is not meant to be a statement on the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act. I'm all for inclusion and personal freedom. Sometimes the two collide and that's what interests me. For a long time, people on both sides of a debate would try to solve the problem in the court of public opinion. Now they're using a few new weapons - crowdsourcing and crowdfunding.

Now for a bit of background. The Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed a few weeks ago and attempts to gives businesses a stronger legal defense if they choose to deny service when something conflicts with their religious beliefs. While similar laws have been passed federally and in other states, critics believe this particular version could be used by businesses to justify discrimination against transgender and gay customers.

This week, the law was clarified and the changes explicitly prohibit businesses from using the law to refuse service based on "race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service."

When the law passed, a pizza restaurant became one of the first to test its boundaries. A local TV station went to an Indiana pizza restaurant and asked about the new law. Crystal O'Connor, one of the owners of Memories Pizza, said, "If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no."

The backlash was intense and nearly immediate. Not only did they receive threatening phone calls and emails, but activists began attacking them online, placing negative reviews on services like Yelp and others.

Yelp is a widely regarded crowdsourcing platform for restaurant reviews. In fact, reviews on services like these can quickly accelerate the success or failure of a restaurant business.

Remember Amy's Baking Company, the Scottsdale, AZ based bakery that was featured on Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares TV show? Soon after the show appeared, they were deluged by negative reviews and planned to go after "the Yelpers and Reddits [sic]" and their "witch hunt," calling them "trash," "pathetic," and "oppressors."

I'm not comparing Amy's Baking Company and Memories Pizza, but in my mind both were clearly self inflicted wounds. In the earlier case, the owners are just bat-shit crazy. In the latter, the owners made the mistake of sharing their beliefs with the media. What ever happened to "no comment?"

What I am comparing is the effect. In both cases a large group of people responded by using social media to negatively impact the business. Whether it's organic or orchestrated, that's crowdsourcing 101.

Then a new weapon was brought into the fight. People who sided with Memories Pizza's right to deny service to gay customers created a GoFundMe campaign on their behalf.

GoFundMe is a crowdfunding platform that makes it easy for people to donate to a person or cause. Remember James Robertson, the Michigan guy who was walking 21 miles of his daily commute? Someone noticed and started a GoFundMe campaign to help him get a car. His campaign raised an astounding $349,884 against a goal of $25,000. He's not walking any more.

In the case of Memories Pizza, the GoFundMe page was created "to relieve the financial loss endured by the proprietors' stand for faith." In just three days, 29,166 people donated $842,592, against a goal of $200,000.

The campaign is now closed, and so by-the-way, is Memories Pizza. Not a bad deal if you think about it. Sure, there was risk, but imagine how long it would have taken a small town pizza place to generate $800,000 in profit!

With that kind of money at stake, it makes me wonder how activists on both sides of an argument will use crowdsourcing and crowdfunding in the future. It starts with perception. It seems to me that crowdsourcing is more of an offensive strategy. If you want to be heard in a debate, it can be a great way to apply pressure. But, be careful because if you apply too much pressure, the results can be unpredictable - both for the cause and its participants.

Remember the guy who videoed his encounter with employees at the Chick-Fil-A drive through? He was attempting to protest the company's stance on gay rights, but instead was perceived as bullying an innocent employee. He was quickly fired from his high-paying job and is now living on food stamps. He even had time to consider his actions. It didn't happen in the moment. He shot the video and posted it himself. Another self-inflicted wound or was he an unwitting (and stupid) pawn in a greater scheme?

Pick a cause and imagine this scenario. Let's take marijuana legalization for example, because on both sides you have people who stand to make a lot of money. Some famous person comes out in favor of legalization. It stirs up a media frenzy. A news crew goes to a local gas station and asks the owner if she'd sell legal weed. She says yes. A bunch of people blow her business up on social media (crowdsourcing.) Somebody sets up a campaign (crowdfunding) to help her weather the storm. The campaign gets picked up by the media and donations go through the roof. The debate is no longer about legalization, but how small business owners are being persecuted for doing what they should be able to legally.

Who wins in that scenario? The side that was able to create the most empathy. We feel sorry for the little guy (or gal in this case) and that impacts our perception of the issue at large.

It's "Wag the Dog" type stuff, and I can think of many scenarios where it would work. Crowdsourcing and crowdfunding aren't new, but they're made much easier and more effective with today's technology. While both can serve genuine need, they can also be manipulated to favor one side or another.

That's when they make the leap from being used as tools to being used as weapons of mass perception. And in those instances, it's likely there will be casualties. The real question for me is whether or not, like the examples above, the victims will suffer self-inflicted wounds.

John Hauer is the President of Crowd Hydrant, a consulting firm which helps companies leverage crowdfunding and crowdsourcing. He is also the co-Founder and CEO of 3DLT, a platform for 3D printing As-a-Service, which uses crowdsourcing to build its library of 3D printable designs. John's content has been featured on TechCrunch, QZ.com and TechFaster.com, among others. Follow John on Twitter @MaverickOnline

What to do to When Your Brilliant Idea Gets the Silent Treatment

The art and science of creating technology is very different from the art of marketing. Though one may think that great technology markets and "sells itself", the truth is quite contrary. There are numerous examples in past and recent history where the best or even greatest invention never made it anywhere because the forces bringing it to market were weak or insufficient.

Take the example of Nikola Tesla, a prolific, brilliant 19th century inventor with nearly 300 patents to his name.

Among many other famous inventions, we came up with a way to transmit electricity using alternating current across long distances with minimal loss. His rival was Thomas Edison who had come up with a much less practical method of electrical transmission via direct current.

For a while, Edison was on the lead by carrying out a campaign to discourage the use of alternating current, including publicly electrocuting and killing animals, primarily stray cats and dogs, but also unwanted cattle and horses. He even paid Harold Brown to build the first electric chair for the state of New York to promote the idea that alternating current was deadly, dangerous and unwanted compared to his technology.

The lesson learned here is that without proper marketing and effective promotional techniques (although Edison’s were arguably quite unscrupulous), it is not easy to present your technology to the market and have it take root and dominate.

The set of skills required to push your technology to the market is totally different. Thankfully, we have the Internet and the World Wide Web at our disposal making matters easier, simpler, more efficient and targeted. Today it is much easier to take your technology to the market with the help of the Internet and the capability it offers to help raise awareness, build brand recognition and allow people to freely and fairly evaluate the merits of competing technologies and chose winners that best serve people’s needs.

The following are the main techniques involved in avoiding the silent treatment and taking your technology to the market:

1. First and foremost, if you do not have funding for the promotion of your technology, you have already hit a dead end. The Internet is full of crowdfunding sites which actually allow people to fund your project if they find it interesting and worthy of their support. This is one of the easiest methods you can employ to find funding and do project legwork that will be used in the future to build brand recognition, a support base and a network for collaborators and new partners. In fact, when you think about it, crowdfunding offers a much more convenient and efficient approach to getting started, organized, structured promoted AND funded when compared to traditional sources such as banks, money lenders or investors and venture capitalists.

2. You need to embrace social-media in order to sell your technology. This is one of the easiest ways to get publicity and it is also low cost. All it takes is investment of time on your part to spread the word, find good partners and relevant outlets to share your message through and all  of that is time well spent which will pay for itself once your invention takes off. Make sure to produce a good video or other descriptive media of your technology before you pitch it on any of these sites. If your work is good, the word will spread like a wildfire and hopefully go viral if you are creative enough to pull it off.

3. In tandem with marketing and publicity of your invention or product, you can also start blogging a lot. This will help your website get numerous back-links from individuals who may be interested in the technology you pitch and write about. This will also help you connect with new partners as well as prospective customers by the means of exchanging comments, latest news happenings and field developments.

4. Using the Internet, you can also keep uploading media such as photos, advertisements as well as videos that speak about the special features of your technology. This is one of the fastest and cheapest ways of advertising your product that should not be overlooked. Seeing is believing and the more you showcase and display your technology, the more you will get people excited, interested, aware and hopefully create a lot of positive buzz in the process.

5. Another important tip when pitching your technology in the market is that it should have good visibility across the internet. This means that it has to be friendly to search engine optimization and must turn up on most related searches. Though this process may seem long and tedious at first, it will be well worth your time once it comes through and thus merits time to develop and get right.

6. Prepare a cogent, effective and exciting press release that you then submit to various media houses and publications. If your technology catches their fancy, you never know. You may just find your technology being spoken about on a news channel such as CNN or prominent tech sites such as TechCrunch or Wired or national newspapers.

7. Stay active on the Internet. Once people see a proactive individual pitching certain technology that they believe in and are investing time to describe and promote, they will have no choice but to give the product a good look. Passive and entrepreneur are two contrary words and the twain shall never meet. Be prepared to be active and set up project and technology feeds to spread the word once you are up and running to as broad of an audience as possible.

With respect to all of this, tech-focused crowdfunding is one of the best ways to get quick and strong visibility in the market and in the process build and develop your start-ups funding capacity.

The crowdfunding route offers options that are integral for any small tech business these days to get started, find funding and fulfill all aspects of their initial promotional and marketing strategies. Visit one today and see just what I am talking about. 

What are your tips for technology crowdfunding?  Let us know in the comments below.

Crowdfunding’s Not About You

I peruse a lot of crowdfunding campaigns in the course of a single day. Some of them catch my attention immediately. Not only that, but they hold onto it and occasionally make me reach into my pocket, pull out my debit card, and tap in the 16 digits it takes to become a proud contributor.

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[Crowd Leader: Jonathan Moyal] New York Bands Together

We all did our part. I, like many others, was in New York during Hurricane Sandy. Wow! I've been in New York for many years. I saw the blackout, the winter of 2010, the blizzard of '96. None of those came close to what Sandy brought to this city. Luckily everyone I know was safe (though some displaced), and though Lucky Ant offices did not have power for a week and our servers went down, we can't help but count our blessings.

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[Crowd Leader: David Bratvold] Crowdfunding is Not a $1.5 Billion Dollar Industry

It's a $133 Million dollar industry - and I'll prove it. This is quite a bit different from the reports you may see that claim it's $1.5 Billion. In March of this year I contacted the top 20 crowdfunding companies. I collected the total amount of money each platform raised & compiled it into a crowdfunding market report. The total raised reported directly from the founders of these companies: $133 Million.

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You Absolutely Need Social Media in Crowdfunding

Last month, I held a seminar at the 2nd Annual Golden Door International Film Festival of Jersey City on my three Ps for a successful indie film campaign, that of a solid pitch, some cool perks, and plenty of promotion. As I got into that last section, I asked how many people in the audience have a Facebook and Twitter account?" A few people raised their hands. Then I asked how many of them are active on those networks, posting content relevant to indie film at least once a day. Some hands went down.

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MedStartr Picks Up Kickstarter Slack by Crowdfunding Healthcare

Unless you've avoided newspapers like the plague over the last year or so, you know that some people in the United States aren't exactly happy with their healthcare. Insurance companies bog down the system, potentially fruitful developments get underfunded and lost in red tape, and the average citizen has very little say in terms of changing the care he or she receives, meaning that the concerns of niche communities can fall to the wayside.

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