CrowdFlower cultivating office-free work styles

Dec 05, 2010
Labor-on-demand startup CrowdFlower envisions future workplaces without stifling offices and unyielding daily schedules.

Labor-on-demand startup CrowdFlower envisions future workplaces without stifling offices and unyielding daily schedules.

The San Francisco firm will take another step in that direction Monday with the launch of a Business Listing Verification service that lets people ranging from stay-at-home moms to refugee camp dwellers cash in on idle moments.

The service essentially parses and distributes to many hands the daunting task of checking to make sure each business contact in a colossal database is accurate.

CrowdFlower does this by using online labor distribution tools such as Amazon's Mechanical Turk and adding to the mix safeguards to ensure accurate results.

"There has been this model of everyone driving to a building where they have someone watch over them, hire them and fire them," CrowdFlower chief executive Lukas Biewald said.

"The Internet has this potential to democratize work."

As computers become core to business operations, work done digitally has growing potential to be sent directly to people who can tend to tasks away from overhead-causing office buildings and management layers, he explained.

CrowdFlower takes tedious big jobs -- such as checking business contact lists -- breaks them into small tasks that can be accomplished in minutes and then pays per piece.

For example, someone might earn 20 cents for confirming the address of a restaurant or coffee shop during a television commercial break or while a baby is sleeping.

"What I love about it is that it gives anyone access to work," Biewald said. "There are people that want to capitalize on downtime, or who have trouble with traditional kinds of employment."

Since launching in 2007, CrowdFlower has been parsing and farming out micro-jobs, such as finding products that match precise descriptions or gathering menus from every restaurant possible.

"We focus on short tasks that people can do in their extra time and that are verifiable by us," Biewald said.

Demand was so strong from businesses interested in updating contact databases that CrowdFlower created the service being launched on Monday.

"If a business has a huge database of contacts, we can get it done in days when it might take them weeks," Biewald said.

"A lot of companies that sell these lists have let the quality deteriorate over time. If you actually drive to a location and the business has moved, that is a big problem."

He highlighted the outdated contact list problem with US Small Business Association figures showing that slightly more than 550,000 new US firms opened for in 2009 and nearly 661,000 closed that same year.

CrowdFlower "harnesses a scalable" labor pool of more than 500,000 people in over 150 countries.

"I've learned how much having a job means to people," Biewald said.

Explore further: Apple's freshly sliced shares climb

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New Microsoft Office seeks flexibility

Jun 12, 2006

Microsoft's new Office Business Applications program seeks to give individual employees more flexibility in accessing the computer information they need.

Smoke-free laws have no impact on employee turnover

May 06, 2008

Supporting the argument that smoke-free laws do not damage the hospitality industry, restaurants that ban cigarette smoking haven’t suffered from increased employee turnover, according to a new report published in the current ...

Microsoft sends Office into the Internet 'cloud'

Oct 19, 2010

Microsoft on Tuesday sent its Office business suite into the Internet "cloud" as it further adapted to a shift away from the packaged software on which the firm's fortunes were built.

Tech Pros Fret over Their Business Skills

Apr 13, 2007

A surprising number of tech professionals are concerned that they don't have the necessary careers skills to make the leap from the cubicle to a corner office, finds a new report.

Recommended for you

Apple's freshly sliced shares climb

1 hour ago

Freshly split Apple shares closed at a high on Tuesday, with investors evidently betting the California company will debut popular new gadgets, perhaps a smart watch and an iPhone 6.

Google buys travel guide app startup Jetpac

Aug 18, 2014

Google confirmed Monday it has bought the startup behind a Jetpac mobile application that creates insightful travel guides by analyzing pictures from social networks such as Instagram.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Sean_W
1 / 5 (1) Dec 06, 2010
"For example, someone might earn 20 cents for confirming the address of a restaurant or coffee shop during a television commercial break or while a baby is sleeping."

How exactly do they do that? Do they need to call up the place? Twenty cents is a lot if it is earned virtually instantaneously but utter crud if it takes ten minutes to earn.

And governments earn a lot of brownie points from clueless rubes by increasing the "minimum wage". Doing so bans low-skill, introductory and low-earning jobs while devaluing the currancy (every product and service goes up in price because of the labour costs) but poor people think they are better off so they reward their oppressors with votes. Those who profit from this are not going to like people making money outside the racket.