I’ve been thinking about these ideas for a while, including as part of a company over a decade ago that tried to connect people to each other in a more authentic way. Today, authenticity platforms look like they will thrive across many different domains: simultaneously enabling more producers to produce, including folks who were doing something different, providing their consumers better performance and more inspired or varied choice, while using a variety of different mechanisms to encourage production and support by consumers or the audience. These platform emerge more authentic talent: both in getting more talent, and in allowing their product to be true to ourselves, which results in “out of the box,” truly innovative/creative solutions than those that emerge when there are intermediate systems between user and creative that tame potential output. Other than github and Pinterest discussed in the previous post, here are a few examples:
- Kickstarter, described as the world’s largest platform for creative projects, helps creatives cut out the middle man, whether it is a venture capitalist, director, music executive, and go directly to the people to fund a creative project. Platform has created a format that, for the producer, is stylish, easy, and encouraging of creativity, and for the user, provides a way to easily judge and support by opening his wallet. It has a process, part producer-driven and part curated, for project designers to create and stoke excitement for projects, and it is coming off a remarkable week where it funded two million dollar projects (an ipod dock and a game project) among other triumphs as described in this exhilarating blog post. Tim O’ Reilly tweeted this week that “Seems to me that Kickstarter is the most important tech company since Facebook. Maybe more important in the long run.” (Updated Sunday am: Fred Wilson has a video this morning from a founder of Kickstarter worth watching to understand the creative dynamic that takes place.)
- Kaggle takes data problems and infuses them with the competitive dynamics of a knock-out sports playoffs. By offering prizes, in addition to the glory of solving hard problems, the platform attracts to the pool of participants those not traditionally working on such problems — sort of the equivalent of holding an open tryout and finding that the warehouse stockboy is your Super Bowl winning QB. By finding and harnessing overlooked talent, each of its competitions has improved significantly on existing solutions to the data problems. Kaggle also shows that these platforms, which reimagine how problems are solved and solutions are created, work in situations that we might consider the duller (and bigger) industries — these data competition are often being held on behalf of insurance companies and health care providers. Here’s a story from Businessweek on Kaggle.
- Sidetour, from the recent crop of New York TechStar companies, has a platform that offers new experiences created by talented individuals, as an alternative to the prepackaged tourism or entertainment industries, whether double-deck tours of New York City or the weekend movie. The experiences are consistently inspired, and presented in a compelling way, both through the pictures and descriptions, allowing the consumer to make a decision on whether it’s appealing or not. There are no tour books or professional critics inter-mediating the discovery by the user or the promotion by the presenter.
All these solutions are drawing more folks in as producers, and creating better results (better performance and/or more inspired output) by more directly linking users and producers, and putting the focus on more raw output by disposing of the various inter-mediating artifacts — credentials, associations, reputations, or third parties — that distort what producers create and users consume. They also give the producers tools and processes to encourage and push them to refine their talents and resulting product. As seen in the various domains and diverse ways in which this thesis is playing out, it’s powerful, including outside the consumer product realm. Where I think this will be particularly exciting is taking these same forces and applying them to the various professions, including medicine, law, education, where the role of mediating artifacts is particularly strong, to pry them open with both a more direct link between service and user and a platform which emerges a broader pool of talent. Those are kingdoms where crowns, thrones, and robes still carry power.
For those with a “down with the system” mentality, these are times of great opportunity!