Hurlos: Prediction Markets for Hurricanes

A friend sent me a link to this post at

“Prediction markets for hurricanes

For those of you who are interested in prediction markets and/or natural hazards, an experimental prediction market this currently being run on hurricanes, where the proceeds are going to the Red Cross–up to $15k if they can get enough people to join, plus 3 people are randomly selected to receive $1000.

The market centers on predicting U.S. hurricane landfall locations for this season, and  earnings depend on one’s skill in forecasting where this season’s hurricanes will strike the U.S. gulf and Atlantic coasts. The experiment is being run by a private company (Weather Risk Solutions), who have designed the market as a potential means by which coastal homeowners might someday be able to hedge against hurricane losses.  It is currently being  run as an academic experiment, and hope to share any of the trading data with academics who might have an interest (email me if you are interested).

If you are interested, visit the site:, where they will set you up with $5000 in play money.  They will donate $5 to the Red Cross for the first 3,000 people who participate, and at the end of the season randomly pick 3 people to receive a $1,000 cash prize (in real money).”

I think this is another example of how my proposal to apply prediction markets to seed stage investment decision making, is logical and part of a large and established ecosystem of companies that are part of the crowdsourcing landscape.

Incentive to contribute unevenly distributed information

cdling: what’s the next big thing

I have been continuing to have conversations around this idea of using a prediction market to assist in seed stage investment decisions.

What's the next big thing?

I just read this post by Fred Wilson, one of New York’s hottest VCs.  It looks like they are exploring the predictive power of crowd sourcing and platforms for harvesting this insight.

USV is in the midst of raising a new fund.  It’s their third.  They have been pointed to as a model for new sized venture capital, raising relatively smaller funds.  Investing smaller amounts, etc.   Now there is speculation that they will raise a much bigger fund and if this breaks their more intimate, boutique model.  Whether they do a bigger fund or not is another issue.  In any event, Fred and his partners are bumping into the same problem of scale described below.  I.e. how to keep your finger on the pulse of more than 25 companies?

UPDATE, Jan. 29, 2011: Yuri Milner and Ron Conway’s SV Angel give us more evidence of the trend towards investors doing more, smaller deals with their commitment to lend all 40 2011 Y Combinator companies $150,000 in convertible debt. With no cap and no discount.   Like investors everywhere, Y Combinator and SV Angel need to make choices about which companies to fund much earlier and then they need better ways to track bigger portfolios full of higher risk companies.  In this case, 40 this year and if they stay the course, 80 next year and so on …

Ron & SV Angel have already invested in more than 228 companies since 2005!

UPDATE, Feb. 4, 2011: Jason Calacanis has a good round up of reaction to Milner & Conway’s announcement in “Here’s What Insiders Have to Say …”

At the end of the day, the execution may not conform exactly to a prediction market model but I am still advocating that we explore employing collective intelligence to make better bets on seed stage companies and to monitor their progress.

Crowdsourcing.  Smaller start up costs.  Trends toward integration of social analytics and predictive models.

Why can’t we lead on these fronts from Canada?

Prediction markets have been applied successfully in many ways. Most famously in horse racing (though these are strictly speaking not prediction markets) but more recently to everything from politics to Hollywood box offices. And of course there are many corporations using them internally like Best Buy, HP, Motorola, most recently announced Ford and others.

There are a few problems and opportunities in the venture capital market that make me believe that it could use a shot of innovation, particularly locally.

1. VCs complain about a lack of quality deal flow, i.e. companies that have successfully past the seed stage of development and are ready for a $5-15 million venture round.

2. Start ups are essential to the success of the local venture capitalist but they can not find seed investors.

3. Tech start up and investing sometimes suffers because it is subject to the influence of small, tightly bound networks of people and this can make it difficult to identify, embrace and take risks on game changing innovations.

4. Recent changes in tax law make it a lot easier for US VCs to invest in Canadian companies.  This creates a couple of problems for these US VCs. We represent 10% of the North America market.  The opening up of opportunities here calls for a re-balancing of large investment portfolios to increase exposure to Canada. How then do US VCs develop, screen and manage deals?  Set up an office in Canada or some other resource intensive method like a partnership? Perhaps collaborating in a seed fund that employs collective intelligence offers an attractive alternative approach (cheaper, faster, better results?).

5. In general, it costs a lot less money to start up a potentially game changing web or mobile business than a few years ago. Micro-VCs have emerged, with some success, to take advantage of this.  They have small funds ($10-20 million) and make high touch investments in more than a dozen companies. How do you scale this?  How does a $50 or $100-million fund make investment decisions and manage more than 25 companies?  Actually, big funds like Andreessen Horowitz are also running into these issues and exploring new methods to cope.

6. While we often think that these problems are unique to Toronto, many places have the same dynamics due to the structure of innovation and the venture capital investment model.  If a venture investing model could be developed that only led to 2 out of 10 deals being very successful rather than the current anticipated rate of 1 in 10, it would change everything.  Prediction markets have proven to be accurate when used properly.  For example, Google has been using them internally for more than five years.

So I am putting my money where my mouth is.  I have incorporated Cdling Capital Services Inc. and we are:

  • Working to determine exactly how a prediction market or alternative collective intelligence model can be applied to assist decision making and monitoring of seed stage companies.
  • Working with Redesign, Inc., Peter Jones’ firm to develop the concept and UI.  Peter is Faculty at OCADU’s Master’s in Design, Strategic Futures and Innovation program and he has been able to help me introduce some great minds to this effort.
  • Working with Dr. Wendy Cukier, Associate Dean (Academic) of the Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University (updated May 15, 2011 – Dr. Cukier has been appointed VP, Research and Innovation for all of Ryerson University, congratulations!) and co-investigator Dr. Charles Davis, Edward S. Rogers Sr. Research Chair in Media Management & Entrepreneurship, also with TRSM@Ryerson. Together we have scoped a study to map the Ontario Cross-Border Technology Innovation Ecosystem (OCTIE).  Details on that are available at the OCTIE Study Blog.
  • Working with DFAIT. Cdling has been invited into the Canadian Accelerator Program, established by the Canadian Trade Service and the Canadian Canadian Consulate General of San Francisco and Palo Alto.
  • Working with some great Advisors, like Olav Sorenson who teaches venture capital at the Yale School of Management and has studied extensively the relationship between networks, distance investing and venture success.

I am convinced that there is better way.  I have arrived at this point of view through a series of related experiences.  For example, designing the market (i.e. the valuable IP, in my opinion) would require many of the considerations that we routinely employed while I was VP of where we delivered a platform for providing crowd sourced marketing research through a six figure subscription model for companies like Best Buy, Gateway and Johnson & Johnson.

Though not necessary for the model to work, if we could establish a real money prediction market for these purposes in Ontario, it could be the analytical equivalent of permitting stem cell research while our neighbors choose polarization of opinion versus methods to embrace complexity.

Seedling Prediction Market: Conversation with John Delaney, CEO, Intrade and Russ Thomson, Meritology

Any time that I can find anyone who can bat the ball around, I continue to wonder about the idea of establishing a prediction market to seed early stage innovation in Ontario and Canada.

With their permission, I am publishing below an exchange that I had with John Delaney, CEO of prediction market platform Intrade and Russ Cameron Thomson the founder of Meritology who blogs at Value Made Visible.

I know that this will be very difficult for anyone to wade through unless someone is really interested in the possibilities but at this stage I can not justify the time to edit.

I am still trying to determine if the basic idea works or is theoretically flawed.


From: michael at socialcapitalvalueadd dot com
To: russell thomas at meritology dot com
Subject: An Innovation-Seedling Prediction Market (in conversation with John Delaney)
Date: Tue, 13 Apr 2010 23:30:13 -0400

Thanks Russell for leading me down the learning curve.  I will check out the readings.

Let me share some additional thoughts (indicated by MC>>) below to continue the conversation with you and/or others …

FR: russell thomas
Date: Tue, 13 Apr 2010 11:11:51 -0700


I think it’s a promising idea, but runs the risk of being a “beauty contest”, because the award of seed capital is predicated on having the highest value in the prediction market, which is could easily become self-fulfilling. This would be a serious theoretical flaw.

MC>> Mitigating the “beauty contest” risk is one of the motives for using the pm in this context.  Small market venture capital suffers from “beauty” blinders.  They are closed social networks with few perspectives on “beauty” (where beauty is a metaphor for high potential businesses).  The idea is to create a pm that broadens the input on what is “beautiful”.  Perhaps we design & promote the market to ensure that the majority of the players are internationally based – Hong Kong, New York, Silicon Valley, Boston, London, etc.

I also wonder how your prediction market is different from a minority equity share or option in each company, from an incentive point of view.

MC>> The pm would not be linked to equity in the start up company.  Early stage companies do not have enough liquidity to open up the networks that can participate.  As a meta-market, the pm could be open to the social networks of companies (who have insight into the qualities of the company) as well as international participants who may not know the company as well, but have better information about the prospects for next rounds of finance, potential partners/channels, global competition and demand where it counts (the US, Europe, Asia – big markets).

Hmm ..  let’s say the option unit price is set at a level that would discourage and/or make obvious gaming.  If the unit price was $1, wouldn’t it be pretty obvious if a few related players were buying to boost a company? Once that was reported wouldn’t the rest of the market turn against this prospect?  The $500K is not a windfall.  There will still be rigorous investment terms and demanding investors to satisfy.  If everyone knows that $500K will be invested in the highest potential company every month, why not just improve the company until it is the best in the pool or enter another company?

I would also be concerned about the information available regarding each start-up.  If it’s just the “elevator pitch” plus founder biographies, then the market would favor “star power” over less flashy teams that might be more viable and sold.  To counter this, it would be very desirable to have information provided by the social network connected directly to each start-up, rather than just the start-up itself.  Part of this social network should be early customers, partners, and suppliers.

MC>> Again, being attracted to “star power” is another problem with shallow venture capital pools in small markets that we would like to overcome with a pm.  Better, broader, more informed perspective on who has “star power” and why, is exactly what we are after. The idea is to bring global perspective to balance local connections to scarce seed stage capital.  While there would be standard “listing” requirements, the companies would be free to become as transparent about their activities as they would like and to develop expertise in developing globally respected businesses that they communicate effectively in global terms, rather than the language of local government grants or a few early stage investors who have money due to vested interests.

Finally, venture capital-oriented start-ups must evolve and learn as they progress through the venture process.  Some VCs say that the #1 success factor is the ability to rapidly learn and adapt, even if that means discarding the original product or market plans.  Thus, your prediction market is really trying to evaluate each start-up’s ability to learn and adapt.  This is very hard to evaluate solely as outcomes (i.e. years to profitability, years to IPO or liquidity event).

MC>> I agree that early stage companies must be agile, evolve and learn, even if that means dramatic changes to the business plan.  I will check out the links that you have shared below.  I think the pm would account for this by placing higher value on the people behind the companies (founders, employees, partners, customers, etc) and favouring companies who have higher “margins of error” available to them.  By this, I do not only mean higher margin products, I also mean companies that have validated fast growing, global markets and some sort of uncompetitive advantage.

Instead, you might do much better to focus your prediction market on metrics relative to a process or lifecycle model.  I recommend the Bell-Mason diagnostic, as described in the book High Tech Ventures. <>    This will put *everyone’s* attention on what matters most: successfully progressing through each growth stage.  The prediction market could have questions like this:

*       Successfully completes Bell-Mason Stage 2 in 12 months or less, *and* $50K or less

This has the great advantage that it represents near-term accomplishment, not far-off outcomes.  They can also be assessed objectively by experienced executives or VCs.  (The Bell-Mason diagnostic stages and evaluation rules would need to be modified for “e-Ventures”, e.g. social networks platforms, etc.)

In fact, you could set up a combinatorial prediction market for each of the 12 dimensions of the Bell-Mason diagnostic. (For more on combinatorial prediction markets, see: .)  This could be very powerful from an information discovery viewpoint, because it would reveal conditional dependency between various factors at each stage of development.   (This raises a very interesting valuation challenge, which would take you into options theory because the incremental value of each stage is the option of participating in future stages.  Your PM doesn’t need to explicitly include such models, but maybe PM participants would!)

MC>> I took a quick look at the slides.  Thanks!  I will also check out the other link.  I hope others will also feel free to suggest additional readings.

Lastly, I’m not such a fan of “winner take all” contests.  You mention that one winner will receive $500K.  I think it would be better to have a diversified payoff schedule, including some awards to “Honorable Mention” companies and also special categories – solo entrepreneur, college student team, and so on.  For the “winner”, you could have a matching fund where angel investors could participate as a pool.  After all, being the winner should make the start-up attractive to regular angel investors.

MC>> The “winner” in each instance gets a $500K investment subject to standard due diligence and terms.  But the market would be permanent so any listed company would stay on the market, eligible for the next month.  Part of the rational is to illustrate for solo entrepreneurs, college student teams and the like the kind of conditions they must meet to be attractive seed investments.  Angel investors would be welcome to compete with the Fund.  They would have to get organised to get the best deals.  The pm would impact their perspectives – hopefully broadening their notions of “beauty” and “star power”.

Hope this helps,

MC>> It does help.  I hope that this conversation continues.



From: Michael Cayley
Sent: Tuesday, April 13, 2010 9:14 AM
To: John Delaney
Subject: An Innovation-Seedling Prediction Market (in conversation with John Delaney)

Thanks John – I am taking your advice and sharing our thread with the PM google group.

First & foremost, I am wondering if you or anyone else can see any theoretical flaw in the basic idea? (see details below)

Do you & everyone else in the group agree that the idea could work if implemented properly?

Is getting “unequivocal” settlement of the market mostly a function of achieving critical mass?  Can anyone point me to reading or give me a sense of “how many of the right participants” we would need in this market to eventually be confident in funding at least one start up per month?

If we require incentives to achieve the critical mass how would we estimate how much?  Are we talking about something feasible?

At this point, I am most interested in comments/insights that either validate or invalidate the basic idea.

I expect that doing it right will beg many questions and thoughtful solutions.


Subject: The Al Jazeera Network Dedicates a Full Show to Prediction Markets
Date: Tue, 13 Apr 2010 12:29:10 +0100
From: john delaney at intrade dot com
To: michael at socialcapitalvalueadd dot com

Hi Michael,

Thanks for posting the show on your blog.

Here are a few quick comments.

Your questions are very interesting and I know other service providers and prediction market aficionados will have additional comments.

If there was some asset to incentivize people to predict on a set of markets it would certainly help participation. Perhaps some portion of the seed stage capital could be dedicated to motivating those who are predicting it would be very helpful. I believe that the contributors to the fund would love to get significant crowd wisdom on the investment prospects.

However settlement of these markets could take quiet a long time until the result became unequivocal.

Perhaps a way to approach the best questions to ask is to have those contributing the seed fund to define them. Perhaps the questions would then include.

1.      The company to be operating profitable within X years
2.      The company to be generating sales of Y in A years
3.      The company to have a monetization event of $Z or more within B years.

Feel free to post your mail and my reply on the PM group.

Best regards,


From: Michael Cayley
Sent: Monday, April 12, 2010 4:39 PM
To: John Delaney
Subject: The Al Jazeera Network Dedicates a Full Show to Prediction Markets

Thank you for sharing that John.

I have embedded the video in my blog <>  where I have introduced the idea of using a prediction market to spread a globally oriented innovation meme in Ontario and/or Canada <> .

I would be grateful if you or a member of your team might share some of your thinking of the possibilities of employing a prediction market in the way that I have described.

Let’s say that a fund is put together and that will award $500K in seed stage capital to a promising start up on a constant, reliable basis – perhaps every month, perhaps every 3 months … in any event, the funding date will be a known quantity.

Seed stage companies can then “list” themselves … I.e. share information about their prospects as a company.  A prediction market would be used to access the information available through the listing and all other sources and determine the probability of a company “achieving a $10-million venture capital round” or “achieving sales of $100-million” or “obtaining $500K in seed financing from the fund” or “going public on the NYSE” or …

I know the question is critical but don’t know what question would be appropriate.

On the “funding day” the company that is doing best on the prediction market will get the $500K seed funding, subject to final due diligence and standard investment terms.

The companies would be based in Ontario or Canada but the prediction market would be global and the backers of the fund would actively promote it to investors (venture capital, institutional, etc.) all over the world to assure critical mass and that the prediction market outcomes would be a function of local and global information.

Any thoughts?


Dr. Robin Hanson, Chief Scientist, Consensus Point & John Delaney, CEO of Intrade with Riz Khan on Al Jazeera

Very informative discussion with these leaders of prediction market thinking.

I continue to wonder if a prediction market could be used to help spread a globally oriented innovation meme in Ontario and/or Canada.

Spreading a Globally Oriented Innovation Meme in Ontario: A Prediction Market?

UPDATE, January 2016: Hmm … I think we maybe on to something. In this experiment we switched focus from working with one investor and trying to push dozens of startups through the platform, to working with one startup who posted a cash prize for the winner of their LAB. Around this one startup we had 19 experts join the platform and we received 17 forecasts for the startup.

UPDATE, September 2015: This month sees another updated release of the Cdling platform in the lead up to our office hours with Sequoia. It also sees a full “easter egg” release of Cdling Scores.

UPDATE, October 2014: This month, we have finally launched an updated version of, working with a world class team of computer scientists in Italy and Advisors in Toronto, Silicon Valley and New York. We now have about 1800 users from 80 cities on the platform. It has been great to be recognized early by folks like the President of CrunchBase as part of a new class of startups.

UPDATE, November 29th, 2010:  Although I have not been actively pitching, a lot of people that I talk to have a point of view on the state of the venture capital industry and innovation in Ontario, so I end up sharing mine too (i.e. the ideas below).

Most provide feedback that VCs won’t invest in a start up to do what I have described below.  The VC model is based upon the notion that two or a few guys sit around a table making decisions with the belief (in cases, validated by success that has my utmost respect) that they are smarter than the market or at least ahead of it.  I agree with this feedback.  In fact the ideas below are based in part on observations of these kinds of structural challenges to innovation.

In any event, I have registered the domain and tried to put a finer point on the ideas below.

UPDATE, April 2010 – I recently had an exchange about the idea below with John Delaney, CEO of Intrade and Russ Thomson founder of Meritology.  I have published that on this post.

UPDATE, Mar 2010 – This idea could easily be applied across Canada, in Silicon Valley … globally. I trust that readers can envision the edits that would be required below to adjust.

UPDATE, Nov. 19, 2009:  It seems that something like the idea below is being tested in an executive program at Singularity University in Silicon Valley.  Crowdcast points out that there are fundamental flaws with an idea market but it seems that they go on to explain how a prediction market may work for the application that I have described below.

UPDATE 2, Jan. 2, 2010: Was just introduced to Jed Christiansen’s Mercury Blog on prediction markets and innovation and found his simple introductory video.  I would love to have Jed’s comments on the post below.

Original Post:

Quite a while back I wrote a couple of posts over at that provided some observations on the dangers of tightly knit social networks in Ontario’s business community and a request to the Ontario Government to focus any investment to bail out the troubled venture capital industry in this province on building global connections.

A year later the meat of these posts became a cocktail conversation at NetChange Week at MaRs.  The cultural irony in the air was noteworthy, having boot strapping social entrepreneurs gathered, talking about self starting, market driven enterprise while a concentration of Canadian establishment digital media execs and politicians were assembled in Stratford “defining Canada’s digital future” with a $10-million cheque, a declaration and the idea of a government led national digital media action plan.

Is it safe to say at this point that Ontario needs a change in culture to continue to enjoy the privileged position it has held in Canada and globally?  I think so.  There is a lot of quality conversation (like Research Capital’s effort & the exchange at StartUpNorth) and some money being thrown at the problem (by the Ontario & Federal Governments).

That cocktail conversation led to an email exchange that I have been meaning to dump into a blog post all summer.  I hope that you put this into the mix of quality conversation.  Perhaps if it drums up some interest, we can evolve the thoughts here from a rough set of cut and pastes into a viable plan?

While we think we suffer unique hardship in Ontario, with power and money being concentrated in Toronto and Ottawa, while innovation is often highly distributed at the edges – disconnected from power, money & each other – it occurs to me that this is a well recognized pattern once you understand social networks.  Innovation – a new combination of information, insight & resources – often takes place when weak ties bring together the previously unassociated.  So we need solutions designed to improve these loose connections, not reinforce the status quo.

If you talk to local angel organisations you will learn that they are seeing more then 200 seed stage companies a year.  About 25 are getting funded at this stage.

VCs say that they need at least 50 quality deals to get through initial start up to have a funnel of activity that will produce enough home runs to float the domestic industry.

Both VCs & angels will tell you that one of the problems in Ontario is that they are not seeing enough quality deals.

Seed stage companies are full of risk.  So far Ontario doesn’t seem to have a Yossi Vardi who can successfully invest in 50 to 80 hungry entrepreneurs that he can believe in.

Most agree that companies that survive and thrive do so because of the PEOPLE!  I can not believe that there are not 40 or 50 promising people to back in business in Ontario each year.  Once you get going with a business relationship among good people, you might change the business model, you might change key players, go after different customers, etc but you are way more likely to come out with a growing business then if you take this crazy view that quality deals are divined by Angels. That is sort of the point.  World class Angels & VCs work with great people through the good, the bad and the ugly and still come up with a return on investment that keeps institutional investors coming back to the table.

So can we agree that Ontario would be much further ahead on the innovation file if we were seeding great business people?  So the question is … how do we seed 40 to 50 promising startups in Ontario every year? (i.e. funding under $500K).

Some thoughts to steer around (or through) …

– we don’t need to start something like MaRs that is GREAT, but money is needed in startups not institutions,
– we don’t want to give money to the same people (i.e. Ontario VCs, Ontario bankers) to solve this problem, they have their own problems to solve, pre-revenue startups are not an ideal focus for them and besides … startups are going to save Canada’s Venture Capital industry.
– we don’t want to put any team of experts (more people to pay instead of funding start ups), a bureaucracy or government in the position of trying to pick winners from losers in the start up world, too risky, too slow, too much same old “who you know” thing in Ontario.

So how about setting up a prediction market to select the companies that will get seeded?

I am told that if you are going to sit down with government, you should have some sort of ask in mind.

My ask would be this –

Use some dough out of the Ontario Venture Capital Fund and the Emerging Technologies Fund (since hardly any of this money has hit the street yet) or find new money to set up an Ontario Seedling Prediction Market.  Get Ontario VCs to partially fund or make some sort of commitment to this initiative since this is helping solve the quality deal flow problem that they complain about. Make the Prediction Market open and global but the companies vying on the market must be Ontario based.

Set up a standard corporate structure so that these seedlings are ready to scale and (if their promise warrants) take on a $10-million B round (keep founders in, but be big enough and compete with US early stage venture companies).

Get commitments from government and globally based investors (to bring competition and connections for later rounds) to provide the $20-million a year needed to seed 40 companies.

A couple of other upsides from a prediction market approach that come to mind …

a) A prediction market would orient seed companies toward a global market rather than a local closed network.  We all know how the Bell Fund, the NRC programs and other government programs (ACOA comes to mind) skew companies away from global business focus and turn their attention towards the special “screening”, applications and procedures required to win government favour.  Look out!  Here come a bunch of new consultants that local capital ends up paying to get their companies through the hoops (money that should be going into start ups!).  The relationships required to get funding from an Ontario government program are not aligned with the attention & relationships required to make it through a globally competitive B round (i.e. around $10-million).

b) A prediction market positions the Ontario government to champion the cause of early stage companies with global investors in an consistent, long term, sustainable way.  If the Ontario government hires a bunch of “experts” to pick winners (i.e. the typical role of partners in a VC firm or Angels or managers of a pension fund) they become accountable for the picks.  They will get evaluated based upon the performance of these investments.  Just ask local VCs and Angels how difficult it is to achieve positive returns by picking winners.  Have any of them achieved this yet?  The success of a prediction market would be a function of the kind of attention & engagement that it obtained from global, diverse markets.  The Ontario government could lead targeted programs designed to capture the attention of investors in Silicon Valley, New York, Boston, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, etc … all based upon the premise that obtaining the attention of these investors makes the prediction market function better and showcases Ontario innovation rather than a limited portfolio of companies caught in time by the rear view mirror of a few connected locals.

Here’s a pretty good FAQ from an open prediction market platform called Inkling:

Here is a NYT article about Crowdcast another start up in the prediction market space: Google, HP, Warner Bros., GM and companies in media and pharma all trying out some variation of prediction markets.

In Ontario we really need government to take a lead on something like this because most of our companies are too small to take advantage of these new abilities to tap into emergence and make better decisions on innovation.

GE & Motorola use Consensus Point Software to manage internal prediction markets …

Take a look at The Industry Standard’s prediction market …

Another thought to keep in mind, domestically, encouraging companies across the province to list on the prediction market would create broad awareness of government leadership on the innovation file and awaken Ontario companies to the need to oriented towards globally competitive innovation.  The prediction market would create a cross promotional effect (with no crazy spends on wasteful the kinds of broadcast advertising often use to raise awareness of government efforts).  As companies oriented themselves towards it, work towards announcing key customers, great products, highlighting great teams, all of their activities would demonstrate to their peers in Ontario what it takes to hatch globally competitive innovation.

A prediction market would cross industries better then common place business plan competitions and pitch  forums for start ups.

As some of you know, I have some recent experience with this.  My Social Capital Value Add method of linking social media to corporate value was a finalist among over 320 entries from 48 countries in a business plan contest held at the University of Miami by WeMedia in February. (part shameless plug, but this experience definitely pushed me beyond the idea of “democratizing” into learning more about prediction markets which deal with unequal distribution of information better).

Offering prize money only works when you are damn sure the kind of innovation that you want to incent.  For example, you could not spur innovation in cleantech and Web 2.0 with the same prize, although once you put a structure in place you could duplicate it in various areas of interest.

Most importantly, while prize money would crowd source desirable innovation, unlike a prediction market, it would not achieve the most important provincial goals which are to wake up all Ontarians to the need for an economy led by globally competitive innovation nor would it orient domestic companies towards global markets instead of a local prize while giving the Ontario government something that they can confidently promote to forge links with foreign markets that are critical to commercialization, marketing success and next rounds of finance.

By the way, a prediction market would not get in the way of Angels or VCs boot strapping early stage seed financing in Ontario.  They would be free to go after the same deals, co-invest, etc.  We agree that there are more then 20 or so quality groups of hungry, crazy people to invest in.  The current ETF approach makes the government a follow on investor, essentially giving this money to existing early stage (not seed) investors, relieving them of the responsibility of earning returns that attract institutional investors.  It is relief to existing early stage investors not start ups.

Feel free to read more about prediction markets:

IDC and The Industry Standard Announce Strategic Prediction Market Partnership

The Farmetrics(R) Prediction Market

Did Intrade Predict the Resignation of "Green Jobs Czar" Van Jones?