Posted 5/20/2013 12:00 am
Crowdfunding, crowdsourcing — the Internet allows the power of crowds to be put to work in the business world, and Arkansas firms are taking advantage of that ability.
One of them is Field Agent, which pays folks to collect information for the retail sector using mobile devices. The information includes price checks, photos of retail displays and even online surveys, as Arkansas Business’ Mark Carter reported in November.
An investment company, Five Elms Capital of Kansas City, Mo., thinks there’s value in Field Agent’s business plan and has given it $2.5 million in funding.
Five Elms learned of Field Agent essentially through word of mouth, “a friend of a friend,” as Rick West, the company’s co-founder and CEO put it.
Field Agent plans to devote the extra money to two categories, West said.
The first? “New verticals.”
The company currently works with consumer products companies like Procter & Gamble and Unilever and the purveyors of those consumer goods, Wal-Mart, Target and Walgreens, for example. Now, it will seek to market its services to quick-serve restaurants like Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s, as well as to marketing and research agencies.
The second category is product development, West said, “because our product will have to be adjusted for those new industries.”
Field Agent has hired six people during the last six months and plans to add another 10 during the next six to eight months, he said, bringing its employee total to 20. “And that will be just in northwest Arkansas,” West said. “We’ve also hired two individuals outside of the state and we’ll probably add two more within the next months.”
Asked for his definition of crowdsourcing, West provided the following: “Looking for where people already are and then you are sourcing information from that crowd.”
It’s cheaper, faster and greener, he said, because the company doesn’t send workers to gather information; instead it takes advantage of people (“agents”) already in the “field.”
“When the average person looks at it they kind of scratch their heads and say, ‘This is a big idea. So let’s go capitalize on that.’”