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Warning: this assignment is out of date. It may still need to be updated for this year's class. Check with your instructor before you start working on this assignment.
This assignment has multiple deliverables. The written survey is due before 02:00PM on Friday, January 29, 2016. The video is due before 02:00PM on Friday, February 12, 2016.

Market Research : Assignment 2

This week we will be looking at the wealth of companies that use crowdsourcing as part of their business. Here’s a list of companies that you could research: 538, 99Designs, airbnb, Amazon reviews/product recommendations, Apple HealthKit/ResearchKit, benefunder, Book Country, Buy Amazon Reviews, change.org, CloudFactory, Couchsurfing, coursera, Crowdee, CrowdFlower, CrowdMed, Crowds On Demand, Daemo, Defined Crowd, The Doe Network, Duolingo, EatWith, eBay buyer/seller ratings, edX, EyeWire, Facewatch, Field Agent, Flattr, Foursquare, Freebase, Freelancer, Go Fund Me, Good Judgment Open, Google Map Maker, Global Voices, Iceland’s Crowdsourced Constitution, Idibon, IndieGoGo, Innocentive, Instacart, Invisible Boyfriend, iStockPhoto, Intrade, Iowa Election Markets, Kaggle, Kickstarter, Kiva, leadGenius, Lending Club, Longitude Prize of 1714, Lyft, Microworkers, Microsoft Prediction Lab, MTurk List, Netflix prize, OpenStreetMap, Orchestra, Parchment, PatientsLikeMe, Phrase Detectives, Postmates, PredictWise, Premise, Prolific Academic, PublicStuff, Quirky, Quora, Qualtrics, Rotten Tomatoes, Samasource, scale, scistarter, Sesame Credit - is this fake?, Silk Road, Stackexchange, Stackoverflow, Sunshine, SquadRun, TaskRabbit, Threadless, Thumbtack, topcoder, TurkOpticon, TurkPrime, TurkServer, Uber, Udacity, Upwork (formerly oDesk), Ushahidi, Waze, We the People, Wikipedia’s AI helper, WorkFusion, XPRIZE, Yelp, Zensors, Zombi Lingo (French). You are also welcome to profile a relevant company that is not on this list (but please verify your choice beforehand with the instructor).

This assignment has two deliverables:

  1. Answering a questionnaire about the company or project that you are researching. This is due before 02:00PM on Friday, January 29, 2016. If you are working with a partner, only one of you needs to submit the questionnaire. Please save your survey answers in a file on your own computer, so that you can have a copy to use when you do your video profile.
  2. A video presentation about the company. Several of the best videos will be selected for in-class presentations on Fridays. Teams whose videos are selected will receive extra credit. his is due before 02:00PM on Friday, February 12, 2016. You can submit a link to your video on this form.

This assignment can be done individually or in pairs.

First, please sign up for a company or project. Please do not pick a company that another team has already signed up for. If there’s a company that you’d like to research that isn’t on the list, you are welcome to ask the instructor or the TA to ask if it is OK.

You should independently research the company, and then fill in your answers about it in this questionnaire. Your short answers to these questions on Friday, January 29, 2016. Remember to save your survey answers on your own computer, so that you can have a copy to use when you do your video profile.

You will record a short 5 to 7 minute video presentation about your company. Your presentation should address the following questions:

  • What incentives does it offer to get people to participate?
  • How does it aggregate the information provided by the crowd?
  • What are the quality concerns, and how does the company do quality control?
  • How does the company benefit from user contributions?
  • Are there any controversies about the company?

Your presentation video is due on Friday, February 12, 2016. To turn in your video, please upload it to Vimeo. Then give us the link to your video using this form. Make sure that your video is publicly viewable or that you give us a password to view it on the web form.

If you have managed to make it this far in life without having to sign up for accounts for things on the internet, here are more detailed instructions:

Instructions for uploading your video to Vimeo

  1. Go to Vimeo.
  2. Create an account by clicking the enormous blue “JOIN” button.
  3. You will receive and email with a link to verify your account. You have to verify before you can upload videos.
  4. Once you are signed in, click “Upload” at the top of the page.
  5. Click the “Choose a Video to Upload” button and choose your video
  6. Once it is uploading, you can change the privacy settings. If you are soon to be on the job market, be careful. You probably don’t want potential employers to know how intelligently and elegantly you are able to analyze and present on the potential market value of technology companies, so maybe don’t use your real name.
  7. That’s it! Fill in the title and tags and what-have-you in the survey to tell us where to find it.

Survey Questions

Below are the questions that you will be asked to answer about the company or project that you are profiling. Please submit your answers via the questionnaire. We recommend that you save your survey answers in a file on your own computer, rather than typing them directly into the Google form, so that you can have a copy to use when you do your video profile. You won’t be able to access your answers from Google after you press submit.

  • What company are you profiling?
  • What online resources did you use in researching it?
  • Did you use any other resources?
  • Did you conduct any interviews, did you try the company’s service?
  • Give a one sentence description of the company.
  • Give a URL for the company’s website
  • Give a URL for the company’s logo
  • When was the company started?
  • Who were the founders?
  • Does it have an interesting origin story?
  • What kind of organization is it?
    • Publicly traded company
    • Privately held company
    • Non-profit organization
    • Other
  • What service does the company provide?
  • Does this update a previous service or business model, or is it completely new?
  • If it updates something, what does it replace?
  • What other new companies provide services that are similar to your company’s?
  • What is an example of how someone uses this service?
  • What sort of people use the service?
  • If this is a service that you have used, then describe your experience.
  • Compare the number of users to contributors.
    • More users than contributors
    • More contributors than users
    • Roughly equal numbers
  • Who are the people who contribute services?
  • How does the company incentivize them to contribute, or what motivates them to participate?
  • Is this a service that was previously provided by experts / professionals?
  • Are the contributors experts / professionals?
  • How does the company generate revenue?
  • How does the company ensure the quality of the services it provides?
  • Is its service something that is typically regulated by the government?
  • If so, what are the intents of the regulations and does your company meet those standards?
  • Is a reputation system used by your company?
  • If so, how does it work?
  • If the service is provided by many contributors, how are are their contributions aggregated?
  • Describe the workflow for how the service is advertised, and how the contributors contribute, and what the users get in the end.
  • What is the scale of the services that your company provides, in terms of users?
  • What is the scale of the services that your company provides, in terms of dollars?
  • If your company were to scale up to 10 or 100 times its current size, how well do you think its business model would work?
  • How well would the incentive scheme scale? How about the quality/aggregation model?
  • Have there been any controversies about the company or the service that it provides?
  • Is there anything else you’d like to say about the company?

Grading Rubric

This assignment is worth 10 points of your overall grade in the course. The rubric for the assignment is given below.

  • 5 points - answering the survey questions thoughtfully.
    • 1 point for clearly describing what role crowdsourcing plays in the company or project
    • 1 point for explaining who makes up the crowd, whether they are experts or non-experts, what incentives the company provides to get them to participate
    • 1 point for explaining any quality issues that arise from the use of crowdsourcing and how the company addresses it
    • 1 point for discussing scalability, or controversial issues
    • 1 point for answering all of survey questions
    • Extra credit (up to 1 point) - for an especially entertaining, exciting or otherwise engaging writeup
    • Extra credit (up to 1 point) - if you conduct an interview with someone who provides the services, or if you make a substantial contribution to the service yourself.
  • 5 points total for the video
    • 2 point for relevance to the themes of the class
    • 1 point for the narration
    • 1 point for the quality of the audio (we recommend using an external microphone)
    • 1 point for a compelling visual accompaniment
    • Extra credit (up to 2 points) - if your video is selected for presentation in class, you will receive extra credit.

FAQ

  • What is the difference between Users and Contributors? Many of you seemed confused about what constitutes a user vs. a contributor. In many crowdsourcing companies, this line is blurry- or nonexistent! Many companies you looked at fit what can be thought of as a “data-mining” model (e.g. Yelp, Foursquare), in which the primary service being provided depends on using data and modeling observed patterns of behavior– e.g. to target ads or to recommend products. In these cases, the users are the contributors– everyone who participates provides data, and everyone uses everyone else’s data. This is an awesome crowdsourcing model because it is (ideally) self-sustaining and self-incentivizing. The more a person contributes (by providing more data about themselves), the better product they receive (e.g. better recommendations).
  • How does my company do Aggregation? Many of the companies we look at fit into the “match-making” or “marketplace” model (e.g. Uber, Airbnb, Etsy). This is a very common case in which the company is simply working to match supply with demand, where the suppliers (e.g. drivers, in the case of Uber) and the consumers (riders) are distributed all over, and may have trouble finding one another otherwise. Here, rating systems etc. are one piece of the platform that might require aggregating, but arguably the more interesting aggregation problem is how to match a supplier with a consumer. Is this through preference-based recommendation systems (as in the data-mining model discussed above), through location-based matching, through bidding/price? Making these matches is non-trival, but crucial to making the company function.
  • Does this update a previous service or business model, or is it completely new? For this question, more than a third of you said “completely new.” Try to think broadly when you are considering where these crowdsourcing companies fit into the economy as a whole. (Think Silicon Valley’s favorite buzzword: “disruption.”) Most of these services being provided are not completely new, but they are directly competing with a service that was traditionally supplied by a brick-and-mortar company in a more centralized manner. Uber competes with taxi companies, Airbnb with hotel chains, Coursera with higher education universities. This is part of what makes crowdsourcing so exciting!
  • Is getting venture capital funding is a business model? No. Smart investors don’t invest in a company who says their plan for generating revenue is to “get money from investors.” When in doubt about the company’s business plan, it is probably “ads”. :-)

Examples profiles from last year

Who were the founders? 2011 Iceland Constitutional Council (25 members)
When was it started? 2011
Does it have any interesting origin story? In 2008, a banking crisis resulted in the near-collapse of the Icelandic economy. The banks were heavily in debt due to the global recession and corruption among the political and banking elite. In addition, citizens were unhappy that many of the country's rich fishing and geothermal national resources were being increasingly owned by foreign interests. In 2009, the center-right government collapsed and was replaced by a government that appointed a council of 25 ordinary citizens to recommend constitutional reform to the Althing, the parliamentary body of Iceland.

94% of the population of Iceland (estimated at 324,000) have access to internet, making it one of the most “online” countries in the world. The constitutional council decided to solicit suggestions for constitutional reform on Facebook and Twitter via a six-question survey. After using the answers to this survey to develop an initial draft, the council gradually iterated over twelve drafts of the new legislation and consistently communicated with ordinary citizens via Facebook and Twitter. Updates of each draft were posted on a public website. Naturally, the opportunity to influence legislation made the survey incredibly popular. By the end of the voting period, over half of Iceland's voting-eligible body had contributed in some way to the process.


What services does Iceland's Crowdsourced Constitution provide? The Constitutional Council was an assembly of 25 people responsible for writing Iceland's new Constitution. At the beginning of their process of writing, they held a national vote on six yes/no questions for the citizens to vote on. During their process of writing, they made all of their drafts available to the public and posted videos of their meetings. They actively encouraged comments and feedback and incorporated that into their future drafts.

In short, they provided the service of giving citizens a voice in the writing of their Constitution.
If this updates a previous service or business model, what does it replace? It replaces the traditional way that Constitutions were written: by a small group of intellectuals in an intentionally secretive and obscured manner.
Who uses the services? The Constitutional Council posts a draft of the Constitution on Facebook and the public website, and a user can comment on it with feedback and suggestions.
Who are the people who contribute the services? Anyone with an internet connection could comment on the constitution Facebook or Twitter. Because the constitution is written in Icelandic, it is a foregone conclusion that only Icelandic nationals or expats would contribute.
How does Iceland's Crowdsourced Constitution incentivize them to contribute, or what is their motivation? Obviously, the ability for an ordinary citizen to potentially influence legislation, especially after an economic crisis, was a powerful incentive to participate.
Is this a service that was previously provided by experts? Yes.
Are the contributors experts/professionals? No.
How does Iceland's Crowdsourced Constitution ensure the quality of the services it provides? The Constitution wasn't /truly/ crowdsourced in the sense that the text that went into the Constitution did not for the most part come from “the crowd.” Instead, commenters' feedback was incorporated into the Constitutional Council's decisions as to what to include, exclude or change in their draft of the Constitution.
If its service is typically regulated by the government, what are the intents of the regulations and does the company meet those standards? Obviously, the ability to influence legislature is normally heavily “regulated”. A parliament member's ideas for change are regulated by his/her voting rights and the voting of all other members of the parliamentary body. In this case, the Althing, Iceland's parliamentary body, was dissolved before it could pass or reject the final draft because of political reasons. Elections were coming up and the ruling party was wary about experimenting with government legislature on a national scale.
Compare the number of users to contributors: More users than contributors
If its service is provided by many contributors, how are their contributions aggregated? For the initial poll of six yes/no questions, the results were simply aggregated by summing up the number of votes on each one. For the comments on the successive drafts of the constitution, members of the Constitutional Council would comb through all of the online comments and take them into consideration, and they would even regularly meet with the commenters.
Describe the workflow for how the service is advertised, how the contributors contribute, and what the users get in the end: The service was advertised via traditional social media channels (Facebook/Twitter), local and international publications, and the public website that continuously issued new drafts and newsletter updates. Initially, citizens answered a six-question yes/no survey that served as the base of constitutional reform (one of the questions was: “do you believe Iceland needs constitutional reform?”). Afterwards, the members of the council asked for direct written feedback on Facebook/Twitter, which they interacted with and incorporated into the drafts. In the end, citizens got an assurance that their suggestions were being taken into consideration.
What is the scale of Iceland's Crowdsourced Constitution in terms of users? 120,000 people
What is the scale of Iceland's Crowdsourced Constitution in terms of dollars? Iceland 2012 GDP: $13.66 Billion
If Iceland's Crowdsourced Constitution were to scale up to 10-100 times its current size, how well do you think would its business model would work? In general, I would guess that likelihood of success of a crowdsourced Constitution is inversely correlated with size of the country. For one, with more people, each person feels that his/her voice accounts for a smaller portion of the overall voice going into the Constitution. This leads to increased bystander effect and a lower participation rate (which was low in Iceland's case to begin with). This would lower the legitimacy of the Constitution's claim to truly represent all citizens' interests. Additionally, even though a lower percentage of people would participate, there would still be a higher volume of comments and feedback for the Constitution writers to comb through. This could lead to commenters trying to make more sensationalist comments for the sake of gaining Likes, Retweets, and Upvotes, just so they can get noticed, rather than truly substantive suggestions that writers can pick out for their own merits. Plus, most other countries do not have as high of prevalence of the Internet as Iceland does, so many citizens would be forcibly excluded due to their technical incapability. It is also unclear how this situation would play out in the United States, which has a much more diverse electorate and has a very polarized political system at present.
What kind of organization is it? Government body
How does Iceland's Crowdsourced Constitution generate revenue? Because we're discussing the use of crowdsourcing in a governmental context, this question seems non-applicable.
Anything else? This experiment unfortunately didn't get passed by the government, but its high engagement and large comment base suggest that this crowd-governance model may be something that we see popping up in isolated situations in bigger countries and perhaps affecting larger legislation in smaller countries with high Internet access like Iceland. Japan and/or South Korea would be good frontiers to try this next.

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Who were the founders? Dread Pirate Roberts is the pseudonym of the founder and operator of Silk Road. Ross William Ulbricht is currently accused of being DPR.
When was it started? February 2011
Does it have any interesting origin story? Silk Road was founded by Dread Pirate Roberts, or DPR, as what he or she calls a practical libertarian system. It was founded and designed to run on libertarian principles of no centralized power (like the government) and free markets.

Designed so that the state couldn't touch it for a very long time, Silk Road was built by DPR, not just for monetary reasons, but primarily to make a difference in the world markets. He or she believes that in such a free market environment, the existence of drug cartels and violence is minimized to almost zero, and the competitive nature of Silk Road also enforces quality products from vendors.
What services does Silk Road provide? The company is an online marketplace. It works like any other marketplace like Amazon or eBay, in that it allows users to act like vendors or customers.

Vendors essentially stock the shelves at Silk Road, and put up goods for sale (typically shipped to any part of the world, from any part of the world) and customers place orders, and review the service and quality of goods provided by the various vendors.

Silk Road differs from Amazon and eBay, though, for 2 major reasons:

1. Silk Road is completely anonymous. It used a Tor system which encrypts the location and meta-data of anyone accessing and hosting the website, making it really difficult for authorities to track down users. It also conducts all transactions in BitCoin, an online currency, which is unregulated in the global markets.

2. Apart from your regular goods like books, apparel, and merchandise (which comprise only a small fraction of transactions on Silk Road), the main bulk of transactions are narcotics from marijuana to LSD and heroin.
If this updates a previous service or business model, what does it replace? It's Amazon-if Amazon sold mind-altering chemicals - Adrien Chen, Editor, gawker.com.

Silk Road builds off typical e-commerce sites like Amazon and eBay (it certainly doesn't replace them, though). As stated before it enhances privacy by running on the Tor system and allowing trades only by BitCoin, and is used primarily for buying and selling narcotic substances.
Who uses the services? There is actually a blogspot post on using Silk Road titled Silk Road for Dummies (Linked in the reference section).

A typical user would download the Tor Browser, so that their IP and other meta-data is private, and would find the newest link to the Silk Road website.

They could then browse through the various goods on offer and purchase them via BitCoin. They have an escrow system by which you first need to make a deposit to Silk Road. Silk Road then transfers the money internally to the sellers account. The seller can withdraw this money in BTC at any time and even hedge the trade to the USD price of BTC at the time of the sale. DPR would pay any difference accounting from the volatility of BTC.

Finally, you are shipped your goods by regular mail and can go back to Silk Road and rate the seller for the experience, quality, reliability, etc.
Who are the people who contribute the services? Anyone who wants to sell a gram of marijuana or a book to people who want to sell large quantities of heroin contribute their listings to Silk Road. The primary vendors are people who have a large number of listings of various quantities, some even offering sample packs for free.

Contributors tend to use the same pseudonym to gain a reputation and good reviews. This helps them sell more and contributors who try to scam the system are blocked out by low reviews. This exemplifies the free market environment that DPR founded the website for.
How does Silk Road incentivize them to contribute, or what is their motivation? Anyone looking to sell illicit goods is incentivized to sell on Silk Road because of the following reasons:

1. It is a free market and anyone can make their mark.

2. Formation of cartels is impossible and violence due to drug turf wars and drug deals are almost eliminated.

3. The privacy system was very well designed and the website ran without the authorities being able to bust it for almost 2 and a half years.

4. Silk Road provides a platform to sell goods from anywhere on the world to anywhere else (though most users were based in the US and the UK).
Is this a service that was previously provided by experts? Yes.
Are the contributors experts/professionals? Yes.
How does Silk Road ensure the quality of the services it provides? The company tries to provide a free marketplace by really empowering the consumers through reviews. Consumers rate vendors and vendors with low ratings naturally die out. Further, Silk Road has certain rules that it enforces in terms of what can and cannot be sold on their website. Silk Road does not allow its vendors to sell child pornography, weapons, stolen credit cards, and contracts for murder. The company considers these against their morals because they consider it to cause harm to other innocents.
If Silk Road uses a reputation system, how does it work? The reputation system works just like the review system of Amazon does. Customers purchase goods from vendors and rate them out of 5 stars.

Most vendors who scam and provide low quality service are naturally left out of the environment. Most vendors, however, have high rating which signals a very competitive environment, with high customer satisfaction.
If its service is typically regulated by the government, what are the intents of the regulations and does the company meet those standards? Government regulations prohibit or control sale of many of the goods and substances that are sold on Silk Road. The intent of these regulations is to prohibit unhealthy usage of and addiction to these drugs.

Silk Road was made to provide the world with an alternate and unregulated marketplace based off the concepts of libertarianism.
Compare the number of users to contributors: More users than contributors
If its service is provided by many contributors, how are their contributions aggregated? Various products by many contributors are listed and sorted in terms of department. Search features allow users to browse through all the listings, listings by department, or listings by a particular contributor.
Describe the workflow for how the service is advertised, how the contributors contribute, and what the users get in the end: The service is very low key and not highly advertised. It's more of a word of mouth system that gets people on the site, as well as some blogs with the correct and updated url of the site.

Contributors choose to list products. Users can choose to buy these products, and the users get their product shipped to them. They can then review the vendor and his or her services.
What is the scale of Silk Road in terms of users? About 146,946 buyers and 3,877 seller accounts.
What is the scale of Silk Road in terms of dollars? $1.2 Million worth of transactions every month.
If Silk Road were to scale up to 10-100 times its current size, how well do you think would its business model would work? An online market or e-commerce platform on a 10 to 100 times scale exists and scaling could definitely be possible in terms of the aggregation model, reviews, quality, incentive scheme, and business model.

What would be difficult to predict is whether there would be a compromise in terms of privacy because it might be difficult for the Tor system to scale up so much.
What kind of organization is it? Privately held company
How does Silk Road generate revenue? Silk Road charges a premium of every transaction that occurs on its website. Trade volumes on the website at its peak were about 1.2 million USD a month and revenue was close to $92,000 per month.

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Who were the founders? Matt Flannery and Jessica Jackley
When was it started? October 2005
Does it have any interesting origin story? Kiva was started by the couple Jessica Jackley and Matt Flannery. A lecture by Muhammad Yunus, the father of microfinance, was a call to tap into the power of micro lending. They spearheaded Kiva with entrepreneurs in Kenya, who struggled to get past the lack-of-captial hump. The company's name means 'unity' in Swahili.
What services does Kiva provide? They provide a service to local entrepreneurs, field partners, and individual lenders. Their 'social service' is provide entrepreneurs with a platform to accumulate funding. Kiva field partners--who can be microfinance institutions, nonprofits, schools, and social businesses--upload information about entrepreneurs onto Kiva. The field partners handle the disbursement of the funds raised on Kiva to the entrepreneur, who will pay them back with interest in time. Individual lenders are provided a simple, nearly net-zero way to support social projects--the money they contribute to entrepreneurs is paid back as Kiva credit to give to a new loan.
If this updates a previous service or business model, what does it replace? Kiva is an revolutionary add-on to typical microfinancing efforts. Not only does it organize and validate the loans disbursed by microfinance institutions, Kiva enables other organizations to become established microfinancers. This includes schools, non profits, and social enterprises, who all interface with a wealth of worthy entrepreneurs.

It 'recycles' loan money by crowdsourcing. Small donations by lenders accumulate into loans that the field partners can disburse. The entrepreneur still gets their funding, the field partner collects the same interest on the loan as usual, but the lender gets paid back in credit and the money can be reused more efficiently.


Who uses the services? As a lender (an average person browsing the internet to do social good), you 1)Sign up as a kiva lender, 2)Browse borrower profiles and choose someone to lend to 3)Get paid back in Kiva credit and start again @
Who are the people who contribute the services? Based on a January 31, 2013, survey by Kiva (“Kiva Lender Demographics for Kiva Field Partners”), Kiva lenders are 2/3 female and 1/3 male. About 67% of lenders are 35 or older, while about 20% of lenders are 25 - 34 years old. Over 60% of Kiva lenders have a college degree. Approximately 60% of Kiva lenders live in the United States. The rankings by total amount lent per country are as follows: United States (49.96%), Western Europe (14.33%), Canada (6.64%), Australia (3.05%), Asia Pacific (1.71%), Middle East / North Africa (0.34%), Central America / Caribbean (0.22%), South America (0.13%), Central and South Asia (0.09%), and Sub-Saharan Africa (0.05%).
How does Kiva incentivize them to contribute, or what is their motivation? As stated in the above report, these are the most common motivations for people who lend on Kiva:

● A method of helping other people.

● A way to share their personal good fortune with others.

● A way to help an individual improve their social and economic standing.

● A window to the world, allowing a lender to become exposed to different people and cultures.

● A way to connect with, or give back to, a region where they have traveled or lived.

● A way for a lender to help an individual who shares common characteristics to themselves (age, gender, family size/structure, profession, etc.).

Additionally, Kiva often releases timed incentives such as, “Donate in the next two days and have your donation matched,” to further encourage lending activity.
Is this a service that was previously provided by experts? Yes.
Are the contributors experts/professionals? No.
How does Kiva ensure the quality of the services it provides? They review profiles of potential borrowers before posting them as eligible to receive a loan. This is a good filtration system to keep the projects listed social impact-guaranteed.
If Kiva uses a reputation system, how does it work? They allow individual lenders to join Lending Teams, which give towards different loans as a group. Kiva puts up a Leaderboard for Lending Teams, which displays top giver and how much they've giving total. Currently, I see Kiva Christians and Carnegie Mellon on the Leaderboard.
If its service is typically regulated by the government, what are the intents of the regulations and does the company meet those standards? Many countries regulate the microfinance industry to prevent fraud, protect consumers, and stabilize financial markets. Regulations change from country to country; for example, the Reserve Bank of India requires that loans made to non-government microfinance institutions have a minimum term of 3 years. Kiva has found ways to work within these regulations by holding on to repaid loans for 3 years before sending repayments back to lenders. Other countries, such as Ecuador, impose interest rate caps and/or extra taxes on internationally-funded microfinance organizations; these regulations directly impact Kiva's field partners, who must find ways to comply.
Compare the number of users to contributors: More contributors than users
If its service is provided by many contributors, how are their contributions aggregated? An international network of 274 (as of September 8, 2014) microfinance organizations screens borrowers, posts loan requests to Kiva, disburses loans to borrowers, and collects repayments from borrowers. When a lender makes a loan, Kiva delivers the funds to the local Field Partner, who then takes charge of loan administration.


Describe the workflow for how the service is advertised, how the contributors contribute, and what the users get in the end: Kiva advertises 4 simple steps for lenders: 1)choose a borrower 2)make a loan 3)get repaid 4)repeat! The contributors give in step
What is the scale of Kiva in terms of users? As of September 8, 2014, there are 1,219,715 active lenders on Kiva who have funded 1,409,460 borrowers.
What is the scale of Kiva in terms of dollars? As of September 8, 2014, there has been $607,594,600 made in loans.
If Kiva were to scale up to 10-100 times its current size, how well do you think would its business model would work? Yes, The incentive--your money is paid back to you to give again--will always be a component of the Kiva model, even at a huge scale. The quality of the user experience could go down, if it becomes impossibly hard to search for a great loan and some entrepreneurs never receive funds. (The amount of lender) * (the average amount of money they give) must always be nearly equal to the total amount of money that all loans on Kiva are asking for.
What kind of organization is it? Non-profit organization
How does Kiva generate revenue? Kiva is entirely dependent upon donations. For every loan they make, lenders are encouraged to donate an additional few dollars directly to Kiva: “The majority of Kiva donations are provided by our lenders, who 'tip' us on top of the loans they make to borrowers. … A large majority of the rest of our donation income is provided by foundations, who encourage us to create innovative programs to serve the poor more effectively (e.g. Google.org funding of Kiva Labs).”
Anything else? I think they're wonderful. I'm very curious who their first supporters were, because they have a web interface that's top of the line and obviously required some serious initial investments. There have been a few corrupt field partners, and the model they present isn't entirely honest (they distribute funds to the borrower before publicly posting their profile), but they get the job of microfinancing done with more efficiency and less uncertainty than has traditionally been seen.

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