Researchers are tapping into the growing data on crowdfunding to take stock of the phenomenon. A central question: Do crowds — driven by a herd mentality, crowd euphoria or sheer silliness — gravitate toward funding seemingly irrelevant ideas? Or can crowds make rational funding decisions and, better yet, exceed venture capital investors?
Their findings: Crowds and experts agreed substantially on what makes promising theater. Where crowds and experts disagreed, crowds were generally more willing to fund projects. Yet projects picked only by the crowd were as likely to deliver on budget — and achieve commercial success and positive critical acclaim — as projects favored by experts. The crowd, in effect, picked strong projects that experts might not have recognized. “The crowd is often thought as being crazy. There was a sense that they would back musicals about Internet cats, and experts would back serious work,” said Ethan R. Mollick an assistant professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “It turns out the crowd does consider the quality of projects and outcomes pretty well.” One reason crowds might do as well, or even better, at picking promising projects is that they tend to be more diverse and might avoid, for example, some of the gender biases that have long directed the bulk of the venture capital funding to male entrepreneurs.