Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Experts vs. Crowds: A Study of Kickstarter

Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform, in which individuals can solicit funding for creative projects from others around the world.   Recently, Wharton's Ethan R. Mollick and Harvard's Ramana Nanda conducted a study comparing the crowd's judgment (via Kickstarter) with expert evaluations of the same creative projects. The scholars collected a random sample of 120 theater projects aiming to solicit at least $10,000 in funds via Kickstarter.   Of the projects, 60 failed to meet their fundraising goal, 40 just met their goal, and 20 exceeded their goal.   The researchers also assembled a panel of 30 theater experts to evaluate these 120 projects.   Then they compared the experts' judgments with the crowdfunding results via Kickstarter.  

What did they find?   The crowd and experts made remarkably similar decisions with regard to these 120 projects, i.e. there is a strong correlation between the expert rankings and the results achieved on Kickstarter (in terms of whether or not a project met its fundraising goal.   Despite the high correlation, the experts and the crowd naturally do not always agree.  Most of the disagreements occur in situations where the crowd chose to fund a proejct, but the experts did not rate it very highly.  The authors' findings suggest that some people may have better networks that they can tap into to fund projects, and there may be an art to fundraising via Kickstarter that some individuals have mastered more than others.

Finally, the scholars examined the actual results of the funded projects.   They examined whether projects came in under budget, whether organizations continued to operate in the long run, and other measures of success of these theater projects.   They found "no quantitative or qualitative differences between projects funded by the crowd alone, and those that were selected by both the crowd and experts." 

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