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

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  • Ethan Mollick

    () (The Wharton School University of Pennsylvania)

  • Ramana Nanda

    () (Harvard Business School, Entrepreneurial Management Unit)

Abstract

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."

Suggested Citation

  • Ethan Mollick & Ramana Nanda, 2014. "Wisdom or Madness? Comparing Crowds with Expert Evaluation in Funding the Arts," Harvard Business School Working Papers 14-116, Harvard Business School, revised Mar 2015.
  • Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:14-116
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    References listed on IDEAS

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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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    2. repec:bpj:erjour:v:7:y:2017:i:2:p:14:n:1 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Zunino, Diego & van Praag, Mirjam C. & Dushnitsky, Gary, 2017. "Badge of Honor or Scarlet Letter? Unpacking Investors' Judgment of Entrepreneurs' Past Failure," IZA Discussion Papers 11017, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. repec:eee:respol:v:46:y:2017:i:10:p:1723-1737 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Schweisfurth, Tim & Zaggl, Michael A. & Schöttl, Claus P. & Raasch, Christina, 2017. "Hierarchical similarity biases in idea evaluation: A study in enterprise crowdfunding," Kiel Working Papers 2095, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    6. repec:kap:sbusec:v:50:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s11187-016-9829-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Schweisfurth, Tim G., 2017. "Comparing internal and external lead users as sources of innovation," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 238-248.
    8. Kuppuswamy, Venkat & Bayus, Barry L., 2017. "Does my contribution to your crowdfunding project matter?," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 72-89.
    9. Lars Hornuf & Matthias Schmitt & Eliza Stenzhorn, 2017. "Equity Crowdfunding in Germany and the UK: Follow-up Funding and Firm Failure," CESifo Working Paper Series 6642, CESifo Group Munich.
    10. Ibarra Garza, Alberto & Cugueró-Escofet, Natàlia & Canela, Miguel Ángel, 2017. "Prosocial Crowdlending in Kenya," IESE Research Papers D/1166, IESE Business School.
    11. repec:spr:fininn:v:2:y:2016:i:1:d:10.1186_s40854-016-0038-5 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. repec:eee:respol:v:46:y:2017:i:9:p:1606-1628 is not listed on IDEAS

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