Who are the top 10 people in the crowdsourcing world? It will vary depending on different criteria that are used. We have looked for people who are or have been innovators in the sector, and have remained active in the crowdsourcing sector to influence, educate and support any other organizations or people. Many organizations operate under tight demands to compete against their rivals, and to keep innovations a closed secret within in-house teams until they can be monetised. Crowdsourcing leaders advocate a more open way of operating, inviting collaborative sharing of ideas, solutions and outcomes.
All of Crowdsourcing Week’s selection of our top 10 people in crowdsourcing continue to work within the crowdsourcing sector, champion its benefits, and deliver crowdsourced results and outcomes to their clients and other communities.
Luis von Ahn, Duolingo
Since the age of 12, Luis von Ahn has demonstrated the qualities of a crowdsourcing leader. He began with an idea for free gyms that would harness and monetize the energy that gym-goers were putting into their exercises and drills. He later worked on CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) as a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon. This security tool doubles up as a crowdsourcing tool, using the typed-in transcriptions we all provide to create accurate digital records of hard-to-read text in old books and magazines. In 2009 he sold his company reCAPTCHA to Google for a reported sum of $25 million.
He went on to be a co-founder and CEO of Duolingo, which provides free online language classes. Students translate texts in other languages into English to test their newly acquired skills, and the translations are sold to corporate end-users. Duolingo was included on TIME’s list of the 100 Most Influential Companies of 2023.
Peter Diamandis, XPRIZE
Dr. Peter H. Diamandis is an international pioneer in the fields of innovation, incentive competitions and commercial space. In the field of Innovation, Diamandis is Chairman and CEO of the XPRIZE Foundation, best known for its $10 million Ansari XPRIZE for private spaceflight. This was a space competition in which the XPrize Foundation offered a US$10,000,000 prize for the first non-government organization to launch a reusable crewed spacecraft into space twice within two weeks. It was won by the SpaceShipOne team, privately funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The prize winning flight took place on the prize winning flight on October 4, 2004.
In 2014 Diamandis was named one of “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” by Fortune Magazine. Today, XPRIZE leads the world in designing and operating large-scale global competitions to solve market failures. XPRIZE competitions have clear, objective and measurable goals and at their most powerful they capture the imaginations of people all over the world, inspiring many people into action.
Daniela Braga, Defined.AI
Dr. Daniela Braga is the founder and CEO of Defined.AI, one of the fastest growing startups in the AI space. This recorded and annotated speech dataset provider supplies the material that companies use to train their automated speech and chatbot systems. One of their strengths is the efforts they go to in recording and annotating datasets with regional accents, or as spoken by non-native speakers.
Born and raised in Portugal, Daniela became the first CEO of a female-led startup to raise over $50 billion in a Series B funding round in the US. She was also included in Goldman Sachs’ list of 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs in 2021, and is definitely among the top crowdsourcing leaders.
Don Tapscott, Blockchain Research Institute
Don Tapscott is a prominent and influential figure in the fields of technology and innovation. His work has primarily focused on topics such as blockchain, digital transformation, and the impact of technology on businesses and society, which places him among crowdsourcing leaders. He is currently Co-Founder & Executive Chairman of the Blockchain Research Institute, an Adjunct Professor at INSEAD, recently a two-term Chancellor of Trent University in Ontario and Member of The Order of Canada. Don has also written 16 widely read books, including Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, which has been translated into over 25 languages.
In 2016, with his son Alex, he co-authored the global bestseller Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies is Changing the World, now translated into 20 languages. In 2017, Don and his son co-founded the Blockchain Research Institute, and its 100-plus projects represent a definitive investigation into blockchain strategy, use-cases, implementation challenges and organizational transformations. Don produced a new book published in June 2020 entitled Supply Chain Revolution: How Blockchain Technology Is Transforming the Digital Flow of Assets.
Christian Cotichini, HeroX
Christian Cotichini is Co-founder, Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Chair at the open innovation platform HeroX. He is a serial entrepreneur and recognized leader in the crowdsourcing and open-innovation industry, with over 25 years’ experience of leading high-growth technology companies focused on disruptive innovation. HeroX is his fourth startup, for which he teamed up with Peter Diamandis, the founder of XPRIZE, who is also in our selection of top 10 people in crowdsourcing. Through bringing minds together, HeroX helps clients including NASA solve problems that can be beyond global.
He described HeroX to us as “a ‘social-network’ that allows organizations to create and engage with their own crowd. HeroX provides the best way for organizations to perform work outside of their organizational boundary, making crowdsourcing ten times easier.”
Karim Lakhani, Professor, Harvard Business School
Karim Lakhani is a professor at Harvard Business School who is known for his research on innovation and crowdsourcing which puts him among crowdsourcing leaders. He has studied the role of online platforms and communities in driving innovation and problem-solving, and applies his knowledge in his roles of founding director of the Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard and Principal Investigator of the NASA Tournament Lab at the Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science.
Karim is also an academic partner (part-time) at the American life sciences venture capital company Flagship Pioneering, and advises several AI-based startups on specialist topics including Open Source software development practices, Designing Contests, Mobilising Communities, and Digital Transformation.
Epi Ludvik, Crowdsourcing Week
Epi graduated in New York City, where he established a boutique virtual ad agency built on a 100% crowdsourcing model. Involvement in organizing a crowdsourcing event during Internet Week in 2011 in NYC sparked his drive to launch Crowdsourcing Week in 2012.
The platform is now known for prompting and provoking crowdsourcing conversations around the world through conferences, summits and webinars, to inspire and educate entrepreneurs and C-suite executives. Crowdsourcing Week’s mission is to unlock human potential through crowdsourcing in every industry and sector by powering breakthroughs together, warranting Epi’s inclusion in our own selection of top 10 people in crowdsourcing.
Eric von Hippel, Professor, MIT Sloan School of Management
Eric von Hippel is an influential scholar known for his significant contributions to the concept of crowdsourcing. He is widely recognized for his pioneering work on User Innovation. He challenged the traditional view that innovations primarily originate from firms and experts. Instead, he emphasized the role of individual users in creating and developing new products and services. He argued that users, being intimately familiar with their needs, often possess valuable insights and ideas for improvement. Crowdsourcing harnesses the collective intelligence of users, empowering them to be active contributors to innovation rather than passive consumers.
His concept of “lead users” applies to users who face needs that go beyond the current market offerings, and who go on to develop innovative solutions to address their requirements. Where there is a sufficient market opportunity, these innovators can ultimately disrupt markets. Such startup founders commonly turn to crowdfunding to provide market validation and crowdsource feedback, as well as generate early-stage funding. Von Hippel’s user-centric approach laid the foundation for the later development of crowdsourcing, and challenges the more usual closed, secretive approach to innovation, earning him his place in our top 10 people in crowdsourcing.
Simon Hill, Wazoku
In 2011 Simon founded Wazoku, a UK-head-quartered idea management software company that enables organizations to tap into the collective intelligence of their employees and stakeholders through crowdsourcing. It works with organizations such as Waitrose (a national UK supermarket chain), HSBC (bank), Diageo (alcoholic drinks) and the UK Government. Wazoku helps them embed innovation as a core, strategic, everyday capability through capturing, collating, and evaluating raw ideas to select the ones to transform into actionable improvements.
In July 2020, Wazoku acquired the US platform InnoCentive and its global network of almost half a million expert problem solvers. In November 2020, it announced it was partnering with innovation consultancy Schumpit to extend its international expansion into Spain and Portugal, where it already worked with Parlem Telecom, a leading telco, and a range of manufacturing, retail and pharmaceutical clients. At the same time it also partnered with Latin American innovation consultancy Transforme, which has offices in Spanish-speaking Chile and Ecuador. In October 2021, Wazoku welcomed Channge, a Colombia-based open innovation scale-up with the largest crowdsourcing community in the Latin American region. This spectacular growth has cemented Simon Hill’s ranking among crowdsourcing leaders.
Richard Craib, Numerai
Richard Craib is the founder and CEO of Numerai, a crowdsourced hedge fund that utilises machine learning and artificial intelligence to make financial predictions. Numerai encourages data scientists to build predictive models based on the firm’s financial data while keeping the data itself encrypted. This protects the actual raw data from being exposed while allowing data scientists to submit their predictions, creating a collaborative and secure environment. It also turns the stock market into a data science problem, meaning that data scientists don’t need to know anything about finance to take part.
Numerai’s platform is built on the concept of decentralization and incentivization, and data scientists who submit successful predictions are rewarded with cryptocurrency tokens. By leveraging the collective intelligence of a diverse group of data scientists, Numerai believes it can obtain more accurate predictions than traditional hedge funds. The intersection of finance and cutting-edge technology has gathered attention from both the financial and tech communities, and gives Richard Craib his place in our top 10 people in crowdsourcing.
Top Crowdsourcing Users in the Corporate World
We also asked ChatGPT to give us some notable figures from the corporate world who have embraced and championed crowdsourcing. It nominated seven corporate leaders who have indeed recognised the potential of crowdsourcing to drive innovation, solve complex problems, and engage with their respective communities. Here they are.
- Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, SpaceX and Twitter
- Jeff Bezos, the founder and former CEO of Amazon
- Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft
- Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook/Meta
- Reed Hastings, the co-founder and CEO of Netflix
- Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google and its parent company Alphabet
- Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple
In closing, and in addition to our ten crowdsourcing leaders plus corporate exponents of crowdsourcing, we think it’s right to also mention Jeff Howe, a Wired magazine author who coined the term ‘crowdsourcing’ in 2006. And finally, the late Leila Janah, who founded Samasource and worked towards leveraging crowdsourcing to provide digital work opportunities to people living in poverty. May she rest in peace.