Hajo Engelke is trying it out. Engelke has started up an unusual company in Durham, North Carolina. It’s a website where you build your own cereal, clicking on cranberries, dried apples, pears, pineapples, and so on, add them to either granola or corn flakes, and voila, place your order.
A novel idea for a company, originating out of UNC’s business school, but you haven’t heard of it until now. So Engelke’s looking for someone to market it using a viral campaign. This weekend he plans on posting the project on a website called 31Projects. With that site, top, pre-screened students will have about three to five weeks to submit their suggestions for the build-your-own-cereal campaign, and Engelke will pick a winner. He’ll pay the winner in the neighborhood of $25/hour for implementing the campaign, and if all goes well, may end up hiring them.
Engelke heard about 31Projects through the Triangle area of North Carolina, where he says “everybody knows everybody through one or two connections.” 31Projects will launch next week. It has several hundred MBA and grad students signed up in its network, and has tested it with employers, including a non-profit research institute. Later, it hopes to expand, using undergraduate students as well.
Getting people who don’t work for you, or who at least don’t yet work for you, to do work, isn’t new. Raghav Singh mentioned in an email that “Brassring was doing something like this back in 2000,” using a big virtual network of people to clean up resumes.
But getting the masses to help you out is getting easier.
Another company in this genre, called CloudCrowd, is getting lots of press. It calls what it does “labor as a service,” touting its ability to “break large client projects into discrete tasks, and distribute them through Facebook to its workers.” It did a project for AlumWire where workers went through thousands of digital resumes to capture names, phone numbers, email addresses, employers, and education. CloudCrowd built an interface for the workers to highlight certain information in the resumes, which caused that information to automatically populate the proper field. About 35,000 workers have registered on CloudCrowd’s site.