December 10, 2013

Crowd Companies: A brand council for the collaborative economy

crowdImage by James Cridland on Flickr

Startup launches at LeWeb with a big idea

Target audience: Senior business executives, startup teams, innovators, product managers, marketers, operations leaders, sustainability leaders, social business strategists, PR pros, brand managers, social good advocates, educators, Web publishers, journalists, participants in the collaborative economy.

JD LasicaLast week I picked up the phone, and there was Jeremiah Owyang, a longtime friend, former partner of Altimeter Group and now the founder of a new startup. “JD,” he began, “I found the next phase of sharing.”

The last big wave, of course, has been social media. And while the social wave isn’t over, there’s a remarkable Next Big Thing rising up alongside it.

Today, on the first day of LeWeb in Paris, Jeremiah is announcing his new venture, Crowd Companies. (The beta site is now accepting sign-ups.)

crowd-companies

The idea behind Crowd Companies is that companies will increase their relevance and influence by tapping into the power of the crowd. But instead of launching a startup that attempts to ride the megatrend of the Collaborative Economy, Jeremiah is forming a brand council — the kind seen in other sectors — as a sort of meta-organization, a business association that will provide peer-to-peer knowledge, expert education from third parties and access to an innovation network of startups.

The thing I like best about Jeremiah’s big idea is that he takes related trends — the Sharing Economy, Maker Movement, crowdfunding, 3D printing, alternative currency (helloooo, Bitcoin!) — and wraps them in a single metaphor: the Collaborative Economy Movement. And he believes this movement belongs not just to upstarts and startups, but to larger players, too: the big brands that he’s worked with as an analyst at Altimeter and Forrester Research.

Airbnb, Uber, Kickstarter: Innovation at the grassroots level

What role do big businesses play in the movement? It’s as if Jeremiah’s brand council provides the answer before anyone has asked the question. Brands on board on day one include GE, The Home Depot, Whole Foods, Intel, Hyatt, Ford, Western Union, Adobe, Nestle and Verizon — a total of 20 large corporations.

But, for the foreseeable future, at least, it’s the upstarts that are shaping this movement:

“It’s as if the crowd is behaving like a company.”
— Jeremiah Owyang

A place to stay? Airbnb
Transportation? Uber
Funding? Lending Club and Kickstarter
Custom goods? Etsy
Getting stuff done? Taskrabbit

“It’s as if the crowd is behaving like a company,” he said. “The next phase in this movement is the physical world getting democratized.”

Jeremiah and his team invites senior executives, innovators, product managers, marketers, operations leaders, sustainability leaders, social business strategists and others to apply for membership. I hope it succeeds, and hope big brands everywhere pay attention to the Collaborative Economy Movement. JD Lasica, founder of Socialmedia.biz, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.