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How Community Drives Innovation: Uber, Wattpad, JWT and 500px weigh in

Power of Community: How Innovation is Driven from Community Sourcing panel at 500px

Companies that put communities at the very core of their product and business, like 500px, Airbnb, Wattpad, Rover and Uber, came together for a panel discussion on technology and community’s role in driving innovation.

Power of Community: How Innovation is Driven from Community Sourcing event, hosted at 500px HQ in Toronto last week, was moderated by Daryna Kulya of Deloitte Innovation, who also runs Product Hunt Toronto, one of the biggest and most popular meetups in the city. The evening kicked off with an introduction of the panelists: Rebecca Brown, group chief creative and strategy officer, JWT; Bowie Cheung, general manager, UberEverything; Andy Yang, CEO of 500px; and Allen Lau, CEO and co-founder of Wattpad.

What exactly is community sourcing and how does it differ from other models?

“It’s about using technology to connect people and their communities,” said Bowie, who is managing UberEverything, the division at the online app taxi dispatch company, Uber that is focusing on expanding on the core product to serve other community needs. “Let’s take Hawker Bar, which isn’t located in an area with a lot of foot traffic. UberEats brings them 100 extra orders per day,” Bowie said. “It’s changing the way people think about business.”

Lau said the new technology means more flexibility: “You can now do things in discrete buckets of time. You can be more flexible and choose your own lifestyle,” said Lau. “Successful disruptors do not automate. They liberate.” In Wattpad’s case, the product liberated writers from jumping through endless hoops and help them figure out a way to work around heavily regulated systems, work from the bottom up, according to Lau. “It’s not easy to make the decision between what is at the best interest of the company versus what is at the best interest of the community. We’ve learned that our community comes first. They can move on to another platform within a matter of seconds."

Yang shared a story to emphasize the importance of “over-communicating” of when the 500px community became upset after a logo change. “We’ve learned that we cannot communicate to the community enough. Even though we feel we are saying enough. We aren’t. Be proactive and be transparent.” 500px has been user-obsessed in the best possible way, and that attitude has positioned the company for success.

Community sourcing practices apply across industries, and more disruption is underway.

“The heavily regulated industries, such as transportation, healthcare and education. These are good areas for investment. There are lots of opportunities here. And there is a lot of pressure for change,” said Lau. “The barriers for entry for the industries that we are in now were high once, too. Now, those barriers are gone.” Lau needed only to point out that the companies on the panel, including his own, who compete with large established companies like Getty Images, big publishing houses and taxi companies.“We are just scratching the surface.”

The opportunities to leverage technology to meet the changing needs of customers and their communities seem more endless than ever before.
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