By Stephanie Geerlings, October 4, 2010

500 Startups Launches CrowdFlower Fund

When you believe in something, it’s easy to sell.

The offer to fund companies that work smarter is, well … smart.

Dave McClure is smart and has an easy job.

His new proposal funds companies that use other companies’ time-saving, cost-cutting offerings. 500 Startups’ microfunds are geared at open-minded, smart people: trendsetters and early adopters who are looking for a more efficient way to get work done.

He’s kicked off the fund by showcasing Twilio and CrowdFlower. (Added bonus for businesses: Using companies like Twilio and CrowdFlower are good for your business because the products are elastic and on-demand.)

Today, 500 Startups kicks off a CrowdFlower Fund that will help bring needed crowdsourcing technology to companies. $250,000 will be split across multiple companies who are investigating bringing crowdsourcing into their supply chain — effectively keeping a human in the loop for quick, low-cognizance queries.

500 Startups will invest $10,000 in up to 10 companies for a 1% stake. And it may select one or more of these companies for a $50,000 investment and an invitation to participate in the soon-to-be announced accelerator program at the 500 Startups space in Mountain View, CA.(Interested companies should apply online at beginning today. Investment decisions will be made on a rolling basis thereafter.)

CrowdFlower helps companies with many types of tasks that humans do better and faster than machine algorithms by sourcing people for their processing power. A human being can quickly tell you if a photo contains a person or just a landscape, if a product is categorized correctly, or if your business listings are accurate. Say you want to make a new dictionary — like startup Wordnik, a CrowdFlower user — that accounts for the way a word “feels,” in order to provide the appropriate connotation. A computer program cannot decipher the feelings behind most words, but a human can. Other startups that have benefited from CrowdFlower’s real-time human input include: PeopleBrowsr (sentiment analysis of social media content), Skout (content moderation), Bizo (tagging and organizational categorization of businesses).

Crowdsourcing makes this type of indexing possible. People can add attributes to images, or fly through webpages to get the “right” answer to a question.

Companies will be able to harness the fire hose of information that is coming from social media platforms. By crowdsourcing projects, people and companies will be able to create rich user experiences and build apps that are able to push data the likes of which we’ve never seen before. We are able to engage with a lot of data in an increasingly smarter way.

We’re bringing you the future faster. Thank you, 500 Startups, Moore’s Law, and the fantastic human resource — our beloved crowd.