Lionbridge’s acquisition today of Virtual Solutions, Inc., (VSI) a recognized innovator in the data entry industry and a real up and comer in the crowdsourcing space, is exciting news for our respective employees, customers, prospects and business partners. But the significance of the fusion of the two companies — with their complementary experience and expertise — goes far beyond the headline heralding the continued consolidation in this white-hot segment. It underscores what Lionbridge, as well as many industry observers, have been predicting for the past few years: Crowdsourcing has truly arrived as an accepted business practice for medium and large corporations.
No longer the domain of small business owners seeking to outsource basic tasks, crowdsourcing is being embraced by corporations in arguably every industry that seeks to leverage proven business solutions. Enterprise crowdsourcing offers significant cost advantages, greater flexibility and agility, and faster access to a larger pool of globally distributed qualified resources. Big brands like AOL, LinkedIn and Microsoft are embracing the model with Microsoft noting its goal of turning crowdsourcing from an art to a science with proven processes.
And, as VSI has proven, state and local governments share this objective and a willingness to leverage the crowd for these very same reasons. These customers are using resources in the private cloud environment to deliver business projects in a more secure and cost effective manner than traditional staffing.
For quantitative proof, look at Crowdsourcing.org’s market segment and growth estimates. The firm noted that revenues of business-focused crowdsourcing firms increased 75 percent between 2010 and 2011, and 53 percent the prior year. When you add in additional application areas such as translation and interpretation, which we are heavily involved with, the numbers are even larger.
For Lionbridge, this is a continuation of a journey we began more than 15 years ago. Since 1996, we’ve successfully partnered with more than 800 customers to bring crowd-based solutions for translation, search relevance testing, in-country testing and interpretation. Along the way, we have scaled our “crowd” – we now have a growing and qualified pool of more than 140,000 professionals in 102 countries, across 4,600 cities and towns globally. This crowd is fundamentally transforming the way work gets done. And now, by integrating the VSI team and crowdsourcing platform, we’ll be adding the capabilities of the private cloud to our technology, e-commerce and Enterprise customers and have the opportunity to bring our complete, technology-enabled enterprise crowdsourcing solutions to new markets including state and local government and financial services.
If recent discussions with clients and prospects are any indication, 2013 promises to be a year in which the enterprise segment of crowdsourcing takes another significant step. What are the drivers?
Maturation of the Model and Platform – While many crowdsourcing start-ups have attracted headlines for creating a new model for quickly and cheaply completing consumer-based tasks, enterprise crowdsourcing customers have altogether different requirements for scale and security. Every member of the Lionbridge crowd is screened and validated; our tools and services run on high-end technology and are supported by an organization with a physical presence in 26 locations around the globe.
Scale of Services – Our enterprise crowd platform allows Lionbridge to find, recruit, manage and pay crowd workers around the globe – at any time, we can literally offer clients any skill from any location.
End of Outsourcing as We Know It – The large global outsourcing firms are seeing growth rates level off as many clients are becoming dissatisfied with unfavorable contracts signed pre-recession. For many, the enterprise crowd is better, faster, more flexible, and often, a more cost-effective alternative to labor sourcing.