Interview: The Success of Arcbazar and Crowdsourcing

This week we had a chance to catch up with Andreas Schwarz, the CEO of Bathco and one of the investors in Arcbazar. We wanted to get his expert business and entrepreneurial opinion on the trends in tech and crowdsourcing.

But first, let’s get to know Andreas a little better.

He grew up near Zurich, Switzerland, where he also went to Business School while at the same time gaining first work experience. Andreas then spent several years abroad, namely in China and Africa, before returning to Switzerland. By his own admission, he is a serial entrepreneur at heart, having started his first business venture at the age of  12. For the past few years, he’s been leading the Encore Resources Group, an international group of companies with subsidiaries in a number of countries, which  he co-founded. As an investor, Andreas is also involved with such companies as Verve Capital Partners –  a leading European online startup investment platform for private investors, Arviem – an innovative service provider for real-time cargo monitoring, and iMusician – a Swiss-based music startup offering musicians everything they need to sell, manage and monetize their music online. A person of diverse interests, in his free time Andreas enjoys to play squash, travel, and is currently in training for a private pilot license.

Andreas’ first interaction with Arcbazar was as a client for a personal and a company-related projects. “The results far exceeded my expectations. The idea of receiving several independent suggestions at a fraction of the traditional cost was very compelling to me,” he shares.

A total of 27 designs were submitted for Andreas Schwarz's "Modern Style Family House" competition. These were the finalists.
A total of 27 designs were submitted for Andreas Schwarz’s “Modern Style Family House” competition. These were the finalists.

During his contests, he also had a chance to interact with Arcbazar’s team, which he perceived as “extremely dedicated and professional,” and that is “the most important success factor for any startup,” he adds.

I would view Arcbazar as a “disrupting technology”, with the potential to break-up existing structures and to lead to a radical change in the world of architecture. Given Arcbazar is one of the drivers behind this development, I would see a vast potential for them to grow exponentially over the coming years.

Andreas has never been involved professionally in the industry of architecture and design. His experience was limited to that of most other people – designing or redecorating a house, flat, office, garden etc. “This, however, is one of the many reasons why I am so strongly convinced of the potential of this business; it’s an area in life that – one way or the other – we all get in contact with.”

Arcbazar is a crowdsourcing platform. “Crowdsourcing” is a term that didn’t even exist 15 years ago. Yet, this movement managed to disrupt numerous industries – from hospitality to transportation to architecture & design. As a result, it is one of the biggest trends for new businesses. Most crash and burn, a select few survive. Arcbazar was the first platform to embrace crowdsourcing for architectural design purposes and, not only did it survive, it grew exponentially, now attracting both private and public projects from all over the world. However, it is not always easy to determine which platform takes off and which one dies a slow and painful death. We asked Andreas if there is a way to know which startup will succeed at its very early stages. “In all likelihood, there will be a continuous consolidation process, leaving very few, if not only one, platform per business segment that will succeed in the end. Platforms live from the number of users and contributors. Hence, whichever platform manages to attract most users, is likely to be yet more successful, because of this. Therefore, it seems imperative to closely watch the number of new visitors/customers to the website… especially in the build-up phase, exponential growth has to be achieved and respective means for this have to be allocated.”

I think that Arcbazar could and should become the go-to website for anyone looking for creative designs in and around their house or office. It also might well become a “provider of creative potential” for local architects who want to offer their clients a broader choice. And clearly, aside from the contests, many other branches can evolve… and I have no doubt that the Arcbazar team has plenty of ideas that they can introduce once the time is ripe for this.

Crowdsourcing has taken the world by storm, however, criticism of these types of businesses remains strong, with accountability of crowdworkers high on the list. “In general that is certainly a valid concern,” says Andreas. “In Arcbazar’s case, this is less of an issue as the customer gets to choose from several final products/projects, as opposed to the platforms where you chose the service provider or freelancer and don’t know what the results will look like in the end.”

Despite criticism, crowdsoucing is the new reality. The question is then: What’s next? What is the next big thing that is going to disrupt major industries and set the world on fire? “I personally believe that “intelligent Algorithms” are the next big thing, i.e. software that is able to understand content and that can carry out tasks independently. This could lead to a high degree of automation of many tasks that currently need human resources,” shares Andreas.

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