Crowdsourcing: An Attempt At Organized Chaos?

May 14th, 2008 | Categories: markets, networks, off topic, social media, strategy, trends, wikis

Yesterday, the fate of Cambrian House was sealed. After raising over $7 million, the Canadian crowdsourcing firm shut its doors after an unsuccessful attempt at a new round of financing. So what gave? Was it a lack of focus or poor management? Or was the model doomed to fail in the first place?

What Cambrian House attempted to do was create an organized business model around a relatively unorganized “crowd”. In other words, they tried to formalize an informal process. Can failure be blamed on execution or a flawed model or a combination of both? It is too hard to tell from this vantage point.

Many assume that since Wikipedia proved out the crowdsourcing model, it is possible, even highly likely, that such success can easily be repeated. Let it be known that we first need to compare apples to apples. Wikipedia was focused on one simple concept - a user-contributed encyclopedia. Cambrian House, on the other hand, spread its resources across numerous plains. In theory, putting all your eggs in one basket is risky. But in the case of Cambrian House, it may have been a more strategic move.

Attempting to do many things can hedge your bets, but it often creates a lack of focus. Spreading yourself too thin is not only unproductive, but also dangerous. The demise of Cambrian House should serve as a warning to others in the space including Kluster and Crowdspring. Failing to maintain focus and execute on strategic goals may lead to a similar conclusion.

I still have hope for the crowdsourcing model, albeit many hesitations. We have yet to witness a start-up focused solely on crowdsourcing achieve considerable success. Such an accomplishment would validate the concept and pave the way for new entrants in the space.

I would truly appreciate any insight from any Canbrian House employee(s) as this post is written by an outsider looking in.

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  3. Paul Says:

    Any thoughts on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk? (

  4. Aidan Says:


    I don’t have much experience with Mechanical Turk. I’m on the business side, whereas MTurk deals more with the development community. I have heard good things though. It’s one of the pioneers of crowdsourcing and is often referenced when an example of crowdsourcing is needed.

    Dig in and let me know :)


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