Quick Take Review: Crowdsourcing with Kluster

6 minute read
David Dahlquist avatar
kluster quick take review, crowdsourcing
Kluster is an online collaboration and decision-making platform that takes the crowdsourcing concept to a new level by including a system of incentives to encourage user participation. The Brainchild of young entrepreneur, Ben Kaufman, who got his start in the iPod accessory industry, Kluster has the potential to redefine not only the crowdsourcing industry, but the way people think about project management and production.

Kluster Basics

Vendor Name: KlusterProduct Category: Online collaboration and decision-making platform.Typical Scenario: : The underlying theme of Kluster is that development and decision-making are better served by engaged groups.Unlikeproject management services like Basecamp that let you assemble your own team to work on projects, Kluster enables consumer influence across organizations worldwide. The entire Kluster community is a potential resource for your project.

Company & Product History

Kluster was founded by Ben Kaufman, a 21 year old entrepreneur from Burlington, Vermont who at the tender age of 18 got his start selling iPod accessories through his company Mophie. Mophie let consumers and retailers participate in product design and development. This community driven philosophy proved effective, as Mophie products ended up being sold in outlets in 28 countries. Mophie's most popular product is the Bevy, an all-in-one iPod Shuffle case, bottle opener, cord-wrap, and keychain. It was designed at last year’s MacWorld conference in 72 hours with input from 30,000 customers using software that served as a precursor to Kluster. Mophie was acquired by mStation in August 2007, and the undisclosed proceeds of the sale were invested in Kluster, as was US$1 mil. from Village Ventures. Ben Kaufman saw potential in the collaborative method through which the Mophie was created, and is trying to recreate the collaborative community environment with Kluster. The Kluster public beta launched in February 19, 2008, and is still in beta phase at this time.

Market & Pricing

The target market for Kluster is huge. The founder's ambition is to cater to anyone interested in working with any number of projects, from marketing and logo design, to creating a product from the ground up. Anybody with an idea and a group of users is a potential customer. Price Range: Kluster is free to join, but if you’re a company interested in benefiting from the community, it is helpful to have cash to offer for a winning idea. Typical Deal Price: Various organizations offer rewards that range from non-existent, to tens of thousands of dollars for winning ideas. Business Model: Kluster’s business model revolves around them taking a cut of a company’s reward price; a brokerage fee, if you will. 15% of every transaction goes to Kluster.While public projects are hosted for free, if a company wishes to run a crowdsourcing session for a private group, Kluster charges a separate fee based on the number of participants.

A Typical Usage Scenario

Kluster takes the idea of crowdsourcing -- think Wikipedia for businesses -- and adds a market-like incentive to motivate contributers into collaborating. Kluster has its own economy; the currency is called Watts. In a typical usage scenario, a company offers a certain reward, generally a cash prize for a certain aspect of development they would like the Kluster community to assist them with -- say, a logo design. A few graphically inclined members might upload some images, and individual Kluster members then invest their Watts in the image they feel is best suited for the company. They can also make suggestions for improvements or upload a variation of the logo. The creator of the winning logo gets a chunk of the cash reward, as do members who invested their Watts into the logo. Kluster uses an algorithm to calculate the distribution of the earnings, taking into consideration the number of Watts invested, how early the investor got behind the idea, how big a percentage of their total Watts they invested in it, and how much they contributed to the idea. At the end of each phase, the Watts that were invested in losing ideas are redistributed proportionately to the investors in the winning idea. Watts are never directly exchangeable for money, but they determine the social standing of Kluster members, and can turn into money through investing in promising ideas, as described above.

Get Started

You start your Kluster experience by creating a profile page, or "portfolio", much like in a social networking site. Here you provide information about yourself, your experience, your interests, etc., to help give the community an idea of what you're here for and what you can offer. It's similar to creating a LinkedIn profile and serves a similar purpose, as networking is also a key feature of Kluster.
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After you create a profile, you can either create your own project, or browse available projects to find one that you would like to contribute to. You can organize the available projects by largest reward, phase ending time, most sparks, most watts invested, or most users involved.
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When you find a project that interests you, you can bring up a more detailed view that will give you a summary of the project and an outline of the different phases, as well as information like reward amount and current community involvement.From there you can browse the various ideas, add your own ideas, or invest your watts into ideas you think have promise.
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If you are managing your own project, Kluster gives you access to analytical information including the amount of user participation, and a breakdown of the various sparks, amps and watts invested.


The newest addition to Kluster is the Knewsroom, a community directed news publication similar to sites like Digg or Reddit. The difference is that users are asked to submit either original or semi-original content, and the users who get published win money.Knewsroom will offer six sections: politics, business, technology, design, sports and entertainment. Contributers who rank in the top 5 in each section will win a percentage of the ad revenue earned from the news site.


Kluster provides companies and entrepreneurs with an innovative way to get ideas from a large, diverse group of people. Whether or not this is always desirable for a company is up for debate. Some of the problems facing Kluster right now are a lack of investors willing to dole out cash rewards for people's ideas, and importantly, information property rights issues. As of now, there is nothing protecting a Kluster users' ideas. So, if someone were to steal a user's idea, the user would have no legal recourse. This is discouraging to people who have good ideas, but are worried about not getting their due credit. One possible solution would be to offer closed projects -- projects that are available only to certain community members instead of all of the Kluster community. The crowdsourcing method has yet to catch on with most businesses, and with the recent failure of crowdsourcing service Cambrian House, Kluster and other crowdsourcing services will need to reevaluate their methods and work toward the winning formula that will boost crowdsourcing into mainstream acceptance. Until then, we look forward to the official, non-beta Kluster release.

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