Firstly a might big thank you to the guys over at Brainstorm Magazine! Thanks for the awesome feature! Check out Eric and Eran in all their glory on pages 38 and 39 on this months issue (April 2010) of Brainstorm Magazine. A multi-purpose online vehicle Springleap.com does t-shirts. It does pretty good t-shirts. And itâ€™s stimulating local talent while itâ€™s at it. Why, asks Springleap.com founder Eran Eyal, would someone invest R4 million in a T-shirt company? Well, they wouldnâ€™t. Someone has invested R4 million in Springleapâ€™s holding company, Fashion Evolution, though, and what theyâ€™ve invested in, says Eyal, is crowd-sourcing. Crowd-sourcing is one of the new Web 2.0 concepts on the block, and big companies, with serious money, are doing it on a professional basis-Amazon.com, Unilever, and Cisco systems being notable examples. On Springleap this takes the form, says Eyal, of thousands of artists, worldwide, contributing design ideas to the site. These are voted on, and every two weeks anew winner is announced, and t-shirts with that design are produced. The designer gets R7 482.18 (R3 741.09 in cash and R3 741.09 in t-shirts), whatever sponsored prizes apply, R2 for every shirt sold and royalties if the design is used in the future. Springleap gets an endless supply of good ideas. It also gets a vocal and interested community, contributing to quality control by voting on the designs they like. Corporates also interact with the site, says Eyal: â€œAbsa used us to crowd-source a design for the last Casual Day.â€ AMD has also made use of the site, finding it via the Industry standard Innovation 100 Awards, where Springleap placed second in the retail category in 2008. Test-bed According to Eyal, Springleap has been a test case for the creation of white-labelled software. Fashion Evolution is currently using the R4 million that it raised in itâ€™s first round of funding (late last year) to redevelop the software. It then plans to go back to market to get another R50 to R100 million. â€œWeâ€™re creating a web platform that will enable you to drag and drop crowd-sourcing, events, social networking, e-commerce-any functionality you need to create functional and interactive websites in less than 4 minutes with zero know-how, â€œsays Eyal. The cincher is in the crowd. As CEO and co-founder Eric Edelstein put it, in a statement released at the time the funding was raised: â€œImagine a large company, such as a beverage company, creating a new name for a beer. Using our web-based platform, in a matter of weeks, not only can they have a fully-functioning, 100 percent branded crowd-sourcing, social network website centred around their offering, but using our methodology, they can also have a community of people wanting to get involved.â€ The software platform will be available on a Software as a Service (SaaS) basis, and companies wanting more-like custom theme, or custom URL (www.you.com not www.you.springleap.com) will be able to pay a small fee ($10 per month, Eyal suggests) to obtain such. â€œOur goal, within three to four years, is to have 30 to 50 million people in the community across 1.5 million networks,â€ says Eyal, who obviously isnâ€™t shy about dreaming big. All of the networks will be trading and sourcing solutions using crowd-sourcing. â€œWe can create the platform for free in three to four minutes,â€ he adds. â€œIf you want extras youâ€™ll have to pay a small fee. â€œWeâ€™ll be giving it [the platform] away for free and monetising it to millions of people via different value adds. For corporates, we can customise it within two to four weeks, including corporate logo, appropriate skin, corporate identity and so on for far less than the R1 million and 12 months it typically takes to develop a corporate site,â€ he says. Once again, Eyal emphasises that the people are what makes the offering valuable. Having a platform is one thing, populating it is another. Says Eyal: â€œWeâ€™ll be able to go to corporates and say we know what triggers communities (positive and negative) and we have a way for people to move ethically between communities, s we can give you 50 000 or 100 000 people, and manage that community for you and help you understand how to monetise that community and manage it yourselves.â€ Eran says sites like Ning and Yola have taken the approach of â€˜lets build and then monetiseâ€™, where Springleap has taken the approach of monetising first so it understand show it happens and can make it happen again. Pone of the first sites to launch will be a charity site, â€œdoing something for the greater goodâ€, Eyal comments. The site will be available to any charity that wants to crowd-source, enabling people to give back without â€œhaving to go pack fish in Alaskaâ€. Newbies For a two-year-old company, Fashion Evolution is aiming high. Eyal says the SaaS platform will be ready for launch by August, as well as the revamped site and another three or four brands powered by the platform later this year. He aims to have 15 to 20 internal brands live within the next three or four years, all on the platform, with a combined community of around one or two million people. â€œthe VCâ€™s are loving it,â€ he states. â€œWeâ€™re saying â€˜noâ€™ at the moment until the software is ready and the company is more highly valued than the current R50 million.â€ Nice position to be in, really.