Most web tools that are re-shaping commerce are doing one thing, handing over control to the users from the producers. They are democratizing the factors of production so that anyone with access and ideas can now play. They do this through cutting out two things that existed and thrived in the industrial era: middle men and gate keepers. The power of collaboration has been touted as a revolution consistently since the the word web 2.0 exited the mouth of Tim O’Reilly. I think it is entirely justified. This is particularly the case with the latest disruptor to emerge – crowd funding. The reason that funding our projects from the crowd changes everything, is because it doesn’t really change anything.
All things have always been funded by the crowd, we just didn’t know it before.
To bring this idea to life let’s consider a couple of examples:
Debt funding via banks is a form of crowd funding: They take our deposits, assess and carry the risk of ‘sub-letting’ our deposits on margin. Essentially banks make money from crowd funding projects and managing the organisation of it.
Capital raising via VC firms is a form of crowd funding: They take large portions of their venture money from Superannuation or 401K funds which has been allocated to ‘high risk’ investments. This is typically between 1-5% of the total asset allocation. Again, our money is being allocated in our behalf from which transaction profit margin is made.
The point is that pretty much every type of investment that involved aggregated money, has always been the money of the ‘audience’ hidden within a structured system. A system which we are now re-structuring with deomcratised tools so that we can organise our capital amongst ourselves. So that we can access each others funds without permission from financiers. So that we can decide what is worth funding. So that we can make the margin available on float capital. And this is just the start of the inevitable changes to the financial system.
The very truth about crowd funding is that before it arrived in its current ‘web organised’ form – we got locked out of the system that our money funded. And it feels like crowd funding of micro projects is just the begging of something much bigger and more important. The question for aspiring entrepreneurs is how can we disrupt the finance industry further with newly connected commercial eco systems?
The biggest flip the technology age has done on the industrial era is the open API. For the uninitiated, an open API (Application Program Interface) is a word used to describe sets of technologies that enable websites to interact with each other. It is also a system where web companies ‘open up’ their platform for external non affiliated software developers to create applications on. Facebook most famously did this with their ‘Facebook Platform‘.
While this sounds like some kind of nerd nirvana, it is actually a counter intuitive move that forms a large part of the marketing genius of social web 2.0 applications. And that is outsourcing the R&D to total strangers. That is, entrepreneurs who have new and interesting ways to mash up their content. It is quite revolutionary in fact. Corporations from the pre-web industrial era would rarely let people use their logo, let alone open up part of the factory for hackers to come in and try and build something interesting. But this is exactly what is happening, the most amazing stuff is usually coming from external organisations and the entire ecosystem is the beneficiary.
- Existing web companies get their new product development for free
- Entrepreneurs get a shot at being acquired by the firms whose API they focus on
The open API idea has to be one of the major reasons why technology companies are eating the world. The only question remaining is why don’t old world industrial companies open up their doors to some new, fresh and external innovation?
At first we got confused about how to make money out of the internet. We thought we should be able to demand payment. Silly us, we forgot about the first lesson in economics – that pesky demand and supply. Supply doesn’t automatically equal demand – especially financial demand. On the internet things work in reverse. First value must be created, then it is extracted. It’s the opposite to the previous industrial world of buying and selling.
Now it’s proving, then earning.
My dad has an interesting viewpoint on the idea of trust. He says that it doesn’t need to be earned with him rather, he gives it out freely and automatically with anyone that he meets. He says that it is implicit in the human make up. He says that trust should be an automatic ‘gift’ in the human operating system.
Occasionally his trust gets abused – that’s the price he is willing to pay for it does happen. The upside of all the trust given far outweighs the few exceptions.
In startups and business, we’ve tried to de-humanize trust and replace it with forms and legal agreements. I really believe that we should trust ourselves and our gut just a little more. But I’m excited that new technology is making us more human again. The fact that digital footprints are largely permanent may even circumvent the need for mistrust and formal agreements. We can instead go back to trusting peoples word and enjoy the speed that organic development gives us versus making lawyers wealthy.
In many ways Gamification is an evolution of the long lived Loyalty Scheme. But so much better, and the evidence exists even at the simplest level – the words themselves.
Loyalty Scheme: Firstly the word loyalty seems very one way. It was / is as if the company expects us to be loyal to them. And although one might argue that loyalty is a two way street, the second word of the phrase is the giveaway – ‘Scheme’. Yep, sounds like some kind of a trick to me. A scheme to make us believe we are getting a good deal, when in truth we are just a number on some kind of cost / benefit analysis spreadsheet. Intuitively, schemes feel like there is a winner and a loser.
Gamificiation: Games are fun. We spend most of our childhood playing them and find as many excuses as possible to play them as adults. ‘Who wants to come to the football this Friday night?’ A game needs at least two willing parties or organisations to play. Sometimes we can collaborate and form teams and clubs and divisions and theme songs and have awards nights and weekend getaways. We can celebrate wins together and lament the losses, either way we like to return to the game and try and win, or even better our own score, although it’s collaborative, it’s also personal. The game is the ‘thing’, not the result of it. Games contrive all of the important human emotions that make our hearts beat.
Play is human. Great games even turn into industries.
Yep, it feels to me that gamification facilitated via Moore’s law is here to stay.