Tech giant Microsoft Tuesday became the first major company to endorse “crowd commerce,” a fast-growing form of eCommerce that is gaining traction in some of Silicon Valley’s highest circles.
Simply put, the goal of crowd commerce is to connect an army of mobile smart phone users with individuals or businesses that need things from those users, and are willing to pay for them.
Microsoft will be using this ‘crowd’ to seek out tens of thousands of photos of businesses around the country as part of a massive project to improve photographic content on its search engine Bing.com.
“We’ll be making the most of this great imagery on Bing this fall and winter, and we hope that it will become another strong feature to help attract customers,” a Microsoft spokesperson told CNBC through email.
Microsoft has placed that enormous challenge on the shoulders of Gigwalk, a Mountain View, California startup that launched just nine weeks ago, but has already gained enormous interest from the AppleiPhone community with its flagship Gigwalk application.
The Gigwalk app matches iPhone users (looking to make a few extra dollars) with companies that need a specific location-based task done, and are willing to shell out the cash for it.
“They [Microsoft] asked us, hey, could your workforce be deployed to capture panoramic photos, tens of thousands of businesses, in all the metro areas you support?” Gigwalk CEO Ariel Seidman tells CNBC. “So we said sure.”
With the lure of quick and easy payouts—Microsoft will pay between $4 and $7 per photo job—Seidman, a former Yahoo mobile products manager, has successfully grown a large following.
Tuesday, the company announced that its user base has reached 50,000, and that companies are now posting over 100,000 paying ‘gigs’ (the app’s slang for a job) on its app.
Seidman has also attracted seed money from some Silicon Valley’s most prominent investors (including LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman).
Landing Microsoft as a major partner was not without its challenges. In order to allay potential concerns about Gigwalk’s near-anonymous user-base (pretty much anyone can sign up), and to justify the cost the program would incur to Microsoft, Gigwalk first had to prove its users were up to the task via a trial pilot program.
“We certainly wanted to be convinced that we could get good overall quality from a large casual workforce,” a Microsoft spokesperson said. “And the results of our trial in New York City suggested we could.”
Gigwalk’s clients also include navigation company TomTom and the popular website Menupages.com.