All posts by Axel Persoon

The Grid: A revolutionizing way of creating websites

Here is an interesting perspective: the internet itself is one of the largest, if not the largest, collection of consumer-created content. We all use the internet, and the majority of us participate in creating content for it as well, be it simply through updates on social media or actually creating websites or blogpost such as this one. If we follow that logic, then one could argue that the process of creating web content is a service that could be designed to optimally support co-creation. This is exactly the way the Grid looks at the internet as well. This start-up is building a new way to create websites and content, by focusing purely on the simple needs of the content creator.

So what exactly is the Grid? In its simplest form, the Grid allows website owners to only concern themselves with the content they want to put on their website, the Grid will take care of the rest. And for this ‘rest’ part, the Grid has designed an artificial intelligence system which will analyse the content you would like to place, and designs your website optimally according to both the new and already existing content. It for instance looks at colors in a picture you want to post and then changes the colors surrounding that picture on your website to match them. It will adapt to the purpose of your website as well, be it a blog, corporate landing page or a webshop. Basically, as a website owner you do not have to posses technical and design knowledge to be able create content. And this is important, since this allows more people to actually create content. As is also mentioned in the paper by Randall et al. (2005), when customizing goods (or a website in this case), some user might be able to deal with parameter-based interface, where you can adjust every detail but do need to posses some expertise to understand all the details, however not everybody is capable of this. For them, need-based interfaces are better, which might not offer all possibilities but are a lot more user friendly. The Grid is basically a needs-based interface for content creation.


The Grid’s A.I. system basically makes recommendations to improve your website, 24/7. However, while in normal recommendation system these recommendations are made as suggestions, the Grid’s A.I. skips this step and executes the recommendation right away. In order to do this, there has to be a certain level of trust between the user and the system. Due to the Grid continuously running A/B tests in order to find the design best suited for the visitors of that specific website, the Grid’s A.I. learns and builds that trust relationship.

Now what the Grid is doing is really interesting, as it’s a completely new way of looking at website creation. However, it also makes me wonder about the next step. Perhaps in time, it might be possible that every website customizes itself to a specific visitor. For instance, if your computer knows you have bad eyes, or like pictures, your websites will be displayed with larger headings or with more focus on images. In a sense, you would create a personalized internet. Food for thought for sure.

For more info on the Grid, check out this website.

Crowdfunding: Where people trust random strangers with their money, and smile doing it.

It is hard to not have noticed the immense increase in popularity for crowdfunding. The concept of allowing you, as a customer, to directly influence the creation of a product you always wanted or a company you really like, is very appealing. It gives consumers power. And if anything, people are always interested in power. However, as with every exciting new development there is also a dark side to crowdfunding. Over the few years that crowdfunding has existed, there have been a couple of instances where successful crowdfunding campaigns turned out te be a fraud. A famous example is the Kobe Red campaign on Kickstarter, which promised their funders the world’s first beef jerkey from Kobe Red meat. In the end it turned out the company didn’t even exist. However, apparently enough people were convinced that the campaign was legit, as they managed to raise $120.000.

Now this provides an interesting perspective to crowdfunding. What makes a campaign appear legitimate enough for potential investors to proceed and donate money? This is what Frydrych and his colleagues (2014) have attempted to uncover in their research. They looked at some aspects of crowdfunding campaigns and in what manner it influenced the legitimacy of the campaign. Their main findings:

Funding Target and Final Funding

A moderate funding goal sends the signal that the entrepreneur is cautious and realistic. This is therefore a good sign of legitimacy for funders. Also, when a campaign has already accumulated some funding, this is a big sign of legitimacy towards other funders, who are much more likely to invest then. A report from Seedr, one of the larger equity crowdfunding platforms, mentions that once a campaign hits 30% of its funding goal, the chance to reach the entire goal jumps to 90%.

Reward Structure

An interesting aspect of reward-campaigns are the perks they offer their funders. The perk is often the main motivator for funders to donate. As such, the type of perks might also influence the campaign legitimacy. Frydrych et al. did not find conclusive results for this, however I feel there should be a more in depth look for this topic. For instance, some campaigns offer a perk to meet the team. This might signal legitimacy, as it proves that the team exists. Also, many campaigns offer a pre-order of their product as a perk. Legitimacy might be less important for these type of perks since people simply want the product. Campaigns that focus more on the company, such as musicians raising money for their album, might need more legitimacy for funders to donate.

Team Composition

Finally, it appears that a team of entrepreneurs is considered more legitimate than just a single entrepreneur. This makes sense, as there is usually more expertise present in a team which increases the chances of success for the company. Investors are more likely to invest in companies with high success chance.

Overall the article gives some interesting perspectives, however it did not include all the possible aspects that could affect legitimacy. Mollick (2014) mentions quality signals such as spelling errors, preparedness of the entrepreneurs and social presence of the team, these could all affect legitimacy as well. It would be interesting to see if legitimacy could be used as an overall explanation of funding behavior.

ZEEF: Taking on Google by using… humans.

Recently a new Dutch start-up has been getting some media attention. They have given themselves the name Zeef (the Dutch word for a sieve), a name that will start to make sense if you continue on reading. Zeef has taken on a rather ambitious goal; challenging Google by changing the way people search for information online. Their trick essentially revolves around sieving the information on the web to only show the relevant bits to people searching for a specific keyword. The interesting thing about Zeef is that this sieving is done by humans.

On Zeef, the information you can search through is managed by so-called curators. As a curator, you can create a page about a topic you like, let’s say backpacking. All the content on this page about backpacking is managed exclusively by you, the curator of the page. Curators can then add links to other websites with relevant information on backpacking on this page, and categorize these links into blocks on the Zeef page. So you might find a block with all kind of links about things to take on your backpacking trip and another block will show you all kinds of websites you can use to find hostels. It is also possible to add images or just blocks of text to your Zeef page, but the main aspect is the collection of links to websites relevant to the topic. The idea behind this is that humans are far better capable of deciding whether a website is relevant to this topic than algorithms, such as Google’s, ever will be. Now you might think “How do I know if this random person who created the page on backpacking is actually knowledgeable on the topic?”, and this would be a fair question since anyone can become a curator and setup a page within minutes. Zeef has tackled this problem by allowing other curators to ‘challenge’ a already existing page on the topic by creating their own page on the same topic. So let’s say you come across the backpacking page on Zeef and think you can do better. You can then simply create a page on the topic on backpacking as well, and when someone then searches on backpacking he/she will be able to choose between the two versions. If you like a page you can vote for it, and this way a ranking of multiple posts on the same topic is created.

(A page I created on Zeef:


Zeef has a really interesting approach, as it basically argues that a recommendation system by humans is better than a recommendation system based on a algorithm. And there might be some truth in that statement. As mentioned in the paper by Tsekouras & Li, people appreciate the effort made by recommendation agents. I can imagine that this appreciation of effort is even larger if people know the recommendation agents are human. The strength of Zeef lies in its numbers, and perhaps over time we will see a extensive hub of information completely curated by humans instead of algorithms.