Wisdom or Madness? Comparing Crowds with Expert Evaluation in Funding the Arts
Ethan R. Mollick
University of Pennsylvania - Wharton School
Harvard University - Entrepreneurial Management Unit
August 26, 2015
Management Science, Forthcoming
Harvard Business School Working Paper No. 14-116
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."
Number of Pages in PDF File: 49
Keywords: crowdfunding, venture funding, theater, judgement, communities
Date posted: June 1, 2014 ; Last revised: August 27, 2015
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