How The Crowd Is Truly Transforming Business

How the crowd is transforming business Illustration by Maria Fonseca for Intelligenthq

These days it is hard to be able to escape information about how important “the crowd” is in enabling people to get things done. From crowdsourcing to open innovation for software creation, the crowd is making an enormous difference to so many peoples’ lives. Just how much of a difference it is making was the subject of a recent presentation by Jeremiah Owyang (2014) who considered how business models may differ in the future based on the power of the crowd. Focusing largely on the “Collaborative Economy Honeycomb” Owyang points out how the crowd is influencing a wide variety of different areas such as money, goods, space, food, transportation and services. Business models in all of these areas can be seen to be transforming.


Looking first at goods, Owyang demonstrates the range of different organisations that are using the crowd to be able to transform business in this area. For example, Craigslist and eBay have been instrumental in changing the access that people have to different products. eBay enables regular people to literally be able to set up an online shop of their own, selling goods. Meanwhile Craigslist allows the opportunity for people to share and exchange a wide range of different services and products. Owyang explains that Techshop also has the impact of empowering the so-called “maker movement” that inspires people to build products rather than buy them, encouraging innovation. Meanwhile Pleygo provides people with the opportunity to subscribe to a Lego set rather than owning it. This reduces waste because it means that people send the sets back when they are finished rather than throwing them away when their children become too old for these toys. Additionally Yerdle provides neighbours the chance to gift goods rather than buy them.


Owyang explains that in the sphere of food changes are also being made. Feastly connects those that love to cook with those that are adventurous about their eating to enable “social dining” at the cook’s house. This is thought to drive an authentic eating experience. There are a wide range of different organisations transforming the food industry in similar ways to this. Some other examples are Blue Apron, and Munchery, and then there is also Kitchen Surfing.

Screenshot of website Feastly Intelligenthq


The realm of services is also transforming tremendously as a result of the cloud. Looking at this more closely, it can be seen that websites like ODesk and Elance provide people that need services such as writing, developing, marketing and accountancy (among many others) the opportunity to place their job to crowd to see what types of response they get. This can lead to people being able to source work from providers on different continents. Meanwhile simpler tasks can also be purchased through websites like TaskRabbit that allow people to post more basic opportunities for services. Perhaps even more meaningfully, Helparound offers peer to peer support for people in the diabetic community. The services helps people that get suck without a glucose metre, test strips or glucose, so that no one finds themselves unexpectedly in trouble.


Turning to transportation, Owyang points out that the crowd has also transformed the situation here. Services like Uber and Hail for example allow people to be able to more easily access taxi services when they need them, by connecting them with people that offer taxis who are looking for jobs. There are many different transportation areas tackled by the crowd. One interesting one is “Boatbound”. Boatbound provides a Peer 2 Peer boat rental opportunity allowing people to rent boats rather than own them. The reasoning given for this? People that own boats have been found to only actually use them 17 days a year. This way people can share the boat purchased and there is less wastage as a result. Meanwhile Pronto offers a bikes and helmets service in Seattle. This is similar to the so-called “Boris bikes” in London.

screenshot of website Boatbound


There are many different interesting crowd solutions changing the game in “Space” as well according to Owyang. Notably of course, AirBnb allows people to rent out their spare rooms. Owyang also says that this service has extended to dining. Meanwhile WeWork provides office space on demand to those that need it, saving up and coming entrepreneurs from having to rent expensive office space on a long term basis, which may not be necessary for them.


Last but not least money has also been impacted. Owyang points out that the crowd has led to the creation of 200 different currencies! But it’s not just currencies of course. Innovative organisations like Kiva provide micro opportunities for people in developing countries to gain access to finance that they may not have otherwise had. And don’t forget crowdfunding websites that allow many more new projects to get off the ground. The following video, explains how Kiva works:

How Kiva Works from Kiva on Vimeo.


There is no doubt from the information presented that Owyang is right. The crowd is truly transforming business. As Owyang points out people are empowered to get what they need from each other and that is why the crowd works. It is also bypassing the inefficiency of corporations, and driving a need in organisations to demonstrate why they are relevant anymore. This is leading to business model change that is driving a greater level of resiliency and profitability overall.