Ever heard of Nupedia? Neither did I, until September 20, 2013. As a startup founder, I’m constantly finding better ways to communicate the value proposition of Miigle, which I often do by borrowing more familiar websites or platforms as examples.
As I was reading about “graph databases” on Wikipedia, I thought “wait a minute, Miigle is somewhat like Wikipedia.” I had a very general idea of how Wikipedia was founded but I thought it’d serve me well to better familiarize myself so I googled “how was wikipedia founded”. Genius.
Of course you know about Wikipedia. You along with millions of people around the world use it almost daily. You know that Wikipedia is an open source wiki accessible to anyone to read and edit any of its “29.5 million freely usable articles in 287 languages.”
What you probably didn’t know is that the success of Wikipedia was almost accidental.
See, before Wikipedia there was Nupedia. The primary difference between the two being that only “experts” could contribute to Nupedia which as a result plagued the platform with protocols and significantly hindered its growth and popularity. Wikipedia was actually created as a feeder project to Nupedia by allowing “common folks” to contribute as a way to help the experts.
Benefiting from the much larger number of contributors and the absence of protocols, Wikipedia grew exponentially while Nupedia and its experts were quickly forgotten. Microsoft tried to give it a fight with Encarta and their highly paid experts but eventually folded as well.
Do not doubt the power of We The People. Most importantly, We The People (including YOU) should not doubt its own power.
Why does this matter? It matters because we’re living in a Digital Age and Wikipedia’s story and validation can be applied to a variety of scenarios.
Let’s pick my favorite: Innovation.
Just like Nupedia, the success of an innovation has traditionally and primarily been left in the hands of a few “experts”. They evaluate the ideas, teams, etc. and if everything looks promising, they invest and help get it out to the market. Most of the people in that market, the target audience, would have never heard of the product or service.
No big deal, that’s why there are marketing budgets.
The target audience is seen as comprised of mere consumers with no role to play in the development of a product. They are not the experts. Besides, why would they want anything to do with innovation, they are already consumed by their 9 to 5 work schedules, sitcoms, pets, and silly videos scattered all over the Internet.
They are not the experts and they haven’t got the desire nor will.
Not true. As a matter of fact, it’s bullshit.
If you’ve paid any attention to the evolution of crowdsourcing then you understand that people are dying to add their contribution to tech and non-tech related ideas, startups, and projects created all over the world. They are rejecting the notion that they are mere consumers and want to be part of these beautiful (and occasionally sad) stories.
The more interesting truth is that we need them but we’re refusing to give them a chance (unless it’s taking their money), to satisfy the egos of a few people.
The message we are sending is: Your money matters, your brain is worthless (unless you went to Harvard, Stanford, MIT, etc or worked at Google, Facebook, Amazon, blah blah)
Why? Because it is difficult to take a commission on non-tangible goods like an advice, at least not with the currently proven business models. However, more than just money, these people are sitting on a wealth of intellectual, practical, and emotional capital they’d love to give away freely and happily.
Building a startup is hard! No, it’s HARD! I’m not one to give up but I can’t say the messages of support I receive from entrepreneurs globally hasn’t helped my resolve. They’ve given me haven’t given me money but they’ve added fuel to my determination and to me that’s worth something and it always will.
When I introduced Miigle at the LAUNCH Festival 2014 in San Francisco, Adeo Ressi who was part of the judging panel mocked me because I was trying to make the point that making it easier to connect people with similar interests and complementary skills to work on a startup, which is what our algorithm does, has a lot of value. He insisted that “No, the only thing needed is money.”
Sure, money is important but I won’t bore you with the list of companies, including many in Silicon Valley, who folded despite the huge financial investments they received.
I say people matter more.
Let’s find a way for people who care about the same causes to easily find each other based on their potential contribution and collaborate, and I can promise you that not only the happiness index around the world will shoot off to another galaxy but the quality of products that will be developed will be second to none
This is exactly what we want to accomplish with Miigle. However, we’ve been discounted by many for not being “high growth”, “would require a lot of money to succeed (hum I have my doubts about that)”, and “we’re not part of the Silicon Valley boys club.” Yes, we really got told the latter and you can verify it by watching our pitch video below. That’s fine, we’ll just keep pushing along.
Back to my point about getting more people involved in the innovation process. You may point me to Henry Ford’s quote “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” but that was in the 1910s – we are in 2013 and a lot of things have changed since then. There’s the Internet. The world is getting flatter and smaller.
The challenges we face today with global innovation are not that people are not experts and are too busy to contribute, but rather these:
1) We’re not speaking to them directly about the value they hold: A lot of platforms limit the roles users can play by forcing them to wear a specific hat, usually “giver” or “taker”. Let’s take for example crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, AngelList, and others – there’s the person who gives and the other who takes. They place little to no value on the input from people who don’t fit those roles. Why? Because you can take commissions on financial transactions.
What we need to keep in mind is that many of the most successful products ever developed originated from ideas that had no revenue generating business model. As a matter of fact for many, the founders had no desire to make any money out of them, it was all passion. They felt they had something to prove to themselves and others.
In the documentary Particle Fever, physicist Dr. Kaplan is giving a speech to an audience about the purpose of the Large Hadron Collider experiment when a man asks him what’s the “economical return”. The man also takes the time to say “by the way I’m an economist”. Pompous.
This is Dr. Kaplan’s answer, verbatim:
The question by an economist was “what’s the financial gain of running an experiment like this and the discoveries that we would make in this experiment”. And it’s a very very simple answer, “I have no idea. We have no idea.” When radio waves were discovered they weren’t called radio waves, because there were no radios. they were discovered as some sign of radiation. Basic sciences for big breakthrough needs to happen at a level where you’re not asking “what’s the economic gain” but you’re asking “what do we not know and where can we make progress”. So what is the LAC good for? It could be nothing other than understanding everything.
This is wholeheartedly how I feel about innovation and why we need to break it free.
2) The contribution process is very segmented: Currently, the process of fostering innovation online requires people to hop on various platforms to achieve different things. For example, founders have to go on AngelList to attract investors and raise money (most of them don’t), go to BetaList to announce their Beta, go to ProductHunt to announce their product and see it get voted up or down. I’m sorry but to me this sounds like a lot of work! I want one platform that allows me to do this and get back to building my product!
Many of those platforms are appealing individually because of their “simplicity” but collectively they add a lot of legwork to the entire process.
Founders *should* care more about the entire process. At Miigle, we do.
3) We are distracting them with “cool”: While doing the pitch practice session at LAUNCH the most popular remarks given by Jason Calacanis to every startup was either “that’s cool” or “it’s lacking the cool factor.”
Yes, we got the latter.
Also, a few months ago I attended a hackathon in Santa Monica where the winner was a group of men (over their 30s) who created an app where people could play a game modeled after HORSE. Their demo involved a man (over his 30s) smelling his feet freshly off his shoes and challenging his friends to do the same. They won!
Please, tell me I’m not the only person in the world who sees something wrong with this? I stormed out of that room after the judges announced them as winners. Our COO Jayne was there with me and she can verify that I predicted that they’d probably win.
They took first place over a beautiful app that allowed people to quickly tell what side effects they could have with an over the counter drug. I probably oversimplified that but you get the point.
Just like I thought it’d be awesome to build a platform that leveled the playing field for startups by allowing founders to instantly (I mean in seconds) discover people worldwide who’d be able and willing to help them on their project. This is what Miigle does, granted we got over the chicken and egg problem, of course. Silly me.
“Cool” is killing us, softly.
4) There’s a lack of relevancy with their interests: It all starts with maximizing relevancy by matching the startups and ideas with the right people. I believe that when people are interested in an idea or product, they go out of their way to help see it thrive. The problem is that currently it takes a lot of work to discover those ideas and products, unless they’re introduced to you or you stumble upon them by luck.
One of my favorite innovation stories of is about Kelvin Doe, the 14-year-old from war-torn Sierra Leone who picked electronic scraps he found on the streets and without any electrical engineering training built a radio to DJ and uplift spirits within his community. How does someone like Kelvin Doe benefit from AngelList? He doesn’t. He’s part of the fringe and there are hundreds of thousands like him.
However, if there’s a platform that can help me effortlessly discover people like Kelvin Doe so I can foster them and their ideas, then that’s where I’d be spending a lot of my time.Yes, not everyone is like me, but I know many people are and they’ve been waiting to be given the opportunity to make an impact.
That opportunity is Miigle.
The myopic approach we take towards innovation and are propagating around the world is costing millions of startups and entrepreneurs around the world the chance they deserve.
People want to make a difference. Giving them that opportunity is the very least we can do.
Don’t be a zombie.
Luc Berlin, Founder at Miigle.com
Image source: Terminally-Incoherent.com