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Genius Crowds, a co-creation company founded in 2010, shuttered its doors last week, bringing an end to the crowdsourcing experiment.
“Today we are announcing that, after a few incredibly creative years, we’ve decided to close Genius Crowds, effective immediately,” the company wrote in an email to its members, which is now posted on its website. “We continue to believe in customer co-creation and collaboration, and are proud to have helped bring an early crowdsourcing product development model to the industry.”
Genius Crowds catered to individuals who had ideas they wanted to bring to market. The process involved multiple steps, as the community voted and provided feedback on the submissions. The platform, developed by Chaordix, ran monthly competitions around certain themes and also managed contests for its partner companies. (We covered the platform’s partnership with Mattel here.) Genius Crowds CEO and cofounder CJ Kettler said the company had developed “ten to twenty” such relationships.
On February 12th, the Genius Crowds team posted a blog entry titled “Hiatus,” announcing that monthly competitions were coming to a halt while the company was reevaluating its business model.
“When we went on hiatus, I was exploring a lot of partnerships to see if we could find the right potential partner who would engage with our community of five thousand folks, and we just didn’t find [that partner] within the timetable that I had given it,” Kettler told Crowdsourcing.org. “I’m happy to still engage in those conversations, but personally, I was at a point where I wanted to move on.
“In a lot of ways, for me, Genius Crowds needed to be part of a larger entity,” she continued. “As a small startup, we frankly didn’t have enough resources to do the job of business development that we wanted to be able to do.”
Kettler said the kinds of organizations she was considering were market research firms, crowdfunding platforms, and “other players in the crowdsourcing world.”
The blog post announcing the hiatus indicated that the reason for the break was that “…the time to market is long and sometimes arduous, especially for the large corporations we wanted to work with.”
Kettler elaborated to say that she was happy with the way ideas came in and were evaluated; she also said that using gift cards as an incentive for users to participate was the right approach and helped to foster a close and vocal community on the platform. But the users' expectations may have been inflated.
“When you’re dealing with large companies, the expectation of the community is that they will see their products on the shelves [soon] after. And that’s just not realistic, frankly, when you’re dealing with large corporations,” she admitted. “That was probably the most important lesson learned. It takes too long to get answers and for things to move to development. Really, the model should be about ideas and participation, and less about creating a hard, physical product.”
One product that did emerge from the community’s pool of ideas and made it onto the shelves was the Speed Bather, a pet grooming tool.
“Frankly, it was one of few products that we can say moved to market,” Kettler said.
Despite the platform’s closing, Kettler said she is still “very bullish” on the concepts of crowdsourcing and co-creation, and indicated that she will listen to offers from potential partner companies, if any of them approach her. She also thanked her community of more than five thousand members for their participation, lively discussions, and great ideas.
“One of the things I’m most proud of was the level of commitment and also the level of solidarity as a community, which is one of the hardest things to build,” she said.