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Wisdom or Madness? Comparing Crowds with Expert Evaluation in Funding the Arts

Listed author(s):
  • Ethan Mollick

    ()

    (The Wharton School University of Pennsylvania)

  • Ramana Nanda

    ()

    (Harvard Business School, Entrepreneurial Management Unit)

In fields as diverse as technology entrepreneurship and the arts, crowds of interested stakeholders are increasingly responsible for deciding which innovations to fund, a privilege that was previously reserved for a few experts, such as venture capitalists and grant?making bodies. Little is known about the degree to which the crowd differs from experts in judging which ideas to fund, and, indeed, whether the crowd is even rational in making funding decisions. Drawing on a panel of national experts and comprehensive data from the largest crowdfunding site, we examine funding decisions for proposed theater projects, a category where expert and crowd preferences might be expected to differ greatly. We instead find significant agreement between the funding decisions of crowds and experts. Where crowds and experts disagree, it is far more likely to be a case where the crowd is willing to fund projects that experts may not. Examining the outcomes of these projects, we find no quantitative or qualitative differences between projects funded by the crowd alone, and those that were selected by both the crowd and experts. Our findings suggest that crowdfunding can play an important role in complementing expert decisions, particularly in sectors where the crowds are end users, by allowing projects the option to receive multiple evaluations and thereby lowering the incidence of "false negatives."

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Paper provided by Harvard Business School in its series Harvard Business School Working Papers with number 14-116.

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Length: 49 pages
Date of creation: May 2014
Date of revision: Mar 2015
Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:14-116
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  1. Kevin J. Boudreau & Nicola Lacetera & Karim R. Lakhani, 2011. "Incentives and Problem Uncertainty in Innovation Contests: An Empirical Analysis," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 57(5), pages 843-863, May.
  2. Laura J. Kornish & Karl T. Ulrich, 2011. "Opportunity Spaces in Innovation: Empirical Analysis of Large Samples of Ideas," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 57(1), pages 107-128, January.
  3. Goldfarb, Brent, 2008. "The effect of government contracting on academic research: Does the source of funding affect scientific output," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 41-58, February.
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