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FreeAgent Friday - the communities edition

Communities are becoming increasingly vital elements of successful businesses. Whether they’re building a network of enthusiastic customers or encouraging potential customers to donate the funds needed to get your venture off the ground, these businesses use the power of crowds to get ahead of their competition.

Using the wisdom of crowds

The U.S. mobile traffic app Waze is a great example of a business utilising its community well. It encourages thousands of users to upload their own traffic info (such as accidents, roadworks or highway patrols) which gets shared among the rest of the community in real time. There’s also OpenStreetMap - a free worldwide map created and maintained by its community of users.

When community is your business model

Some entrepreneurs have baked community participation into their business model - check out the work that BeerBods is doing. This UK online beer portal not only sells and ships beers but also introduces its customers to new, unusual brews and encourages them to share their thoughts with other community members.

Community-driven holiday planning

People-powered travel site Airbnb is making big waves by setting up a trusted place for people to rent out their extra space and for travellers to find a place to stay. By focusing on crowdsourced reviews and feedback, Airbnb has built a resource that gives everyone peace of mind, and helps vacationers have an unforgettable trip.

Encouraging collaboration to solve big problems

On a wider scale, crowdsourcing and open innovation is creating some interesting ways of working in the technical sector. There’s Innocentive - a platform for corporate research and development where difficult scientific problems are posted for crowds of solvers to discover the answers and win cash prizes - and IdeaConnection, which challenges people to come up with new inventions and innovations. Or LocalMotors, which involves a 20,000-strong community of automotive designers and engineers coming together to build offroad trucks.

Showing you the money!

Kickstarter is probably the most famous crowdfunding site out there but there are equally valuable resources available to the budding entrepreneur. So whether you’re a songwriter looking for funding to produce a new record, or a designer with a multi-purpose item of clothing, you don’t have to beg for a bank loan to get your idea off the ground. How else would an idea like the amazing ostrich pillow become a reality?

Think there’s a great example of community-loving businesses that we've missed? Hit us up in the comments or on Twitter. And have a great weekend!

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