Flop Idol: another crowdsourcing contest site gets Minted

December 5th, 2011 by

microtask_mintedIf you’ve ever started your own business, you’ll know that it’s not all champagne and billion-dollar IPOs. For any number of reasons, most new businesses die slow, painful deaths (but not before sucking up every dollar in a surrounding 3 mile radius).

One month into starting her own branded-stationary company, Mariam Naficy was well aware of this. Her company, Minted, was running out of money and had yet to sell even a single unit.

Traditionally, as a founder of a stationery startup, Ms Naficy has 3 options at this point: (1) weep; (2) cut her losses and move onto something new (thankful that at least her Christmas presents are sorted for the next fifty years); or (3) become a bitter pen-hoarding recluse.

Today, it seems, there is a fourth option. As a “last ditch move” Minted decided to turn its business into a design-contest site. Instead of having a team of in-house designers, it crowdsourced them, pitching hopeful designers against each other in a kind of talent contest, with winners chosen by vote.

For Minted, crowdsourcing meant more originality in the designs and (more importantly) plenty of exposure. Oh, and $5.5m worth of investment and sales upwards of $11m.

Of course, as readers of this blog know, Minted is by no means the first contest crowdsourcing site to net big investments. Proud solvers of the world’s hardest problems Kaggle, recently netted $11m. Another $3m has just gone to Design Crowd.

If these numbers are raising your eyebrows, then you’re not alone. Whether such sites are just a passing fad, more indicative of a tech bubble than a new, sustainable business-model, only time will tell. Either way, I don’t think anyone at Minted will be weeping into their champagne this Christmas.