Sunday, May 04, 2008 Vermont

OK, I am sitting in the lobby of a small engineering and design firm in Williston, VT last week (image from core77). The client is tied up on a phone call, so I start reading the Champlain Business Journal and catch an article on Kluster, titled:

Entrepreneur Launches ‘Kluster’; Ben Kaufman Sets Up Web-Based Platform For Decision Making

After reading this part of the article, I was swimming in sustainable business ideas:
Noticing that most booths at MacWorld showcased products and looked the same, Kaufman and his crew constructed a rough booth with two-by-fours and tarps. The booth featured no products, but rather invited MacWorld attendees to choose and co-create mophie’s next product. “Ours was the only booth at MacWorld without products,” adds Kaufman.

The staff distributed pads of paper and pens and pencils, encouraging booth visitors to “doodle” product concepts. Submissions were hung on the booth for display so ideas could build upon one another.

From among all those submitted, Kaufman says, “In four hours, we had 125 new, absolutely legitimate product concepts.” These were scanned and uploaded to the mophie Website, with site visitors asked to vote for their favorites. Over 40,000 people voted in one day.

“The next day we shrouded the booth,” Kaufman recalls. “We had a roundtable process to discuss the top three concepts. We flew in our modeling team, developed a prototype of the top choice and, on the fourth day, launched a new product – fully developed.”

The Bevy, a protective iPod case and key chain with built-in bottle opener, became mophie’s newest product, but Kaufman was far more excited by the community engagement process that developed it.
This is cool. I especially liked the plywood and tarpaulin booth idea...stands out completely from the polished and oh so high tech designs all around.
Imagine unlocking the power of a few hundred thousand people (the wisdom of crowds) working together virtually to talk about CO2, sustainable agriculture, redesigning our transportation system, building the next green car? Best of all...reduced need to fly to the trade show to do it.
What could this be for truly helping create the change in society entrepreneurs dream of?
What are the possibilities, and how does one focus on the ones with the most impact?


Unknown said...

Hey Wayne, good stuff here. I've only recently started hearing the words "cluster" and "incubator", as I've become somewhat involved with an analysis of the potential for catalyzing a booming Clean Technology industry in Seattle (look out Boston! You may have MIT and a fancy SustainLane rating for your Clean Tech, but Seattle's gonna eat you for breakfast! We hope.) The creation of just such a "kluster" for clean tech has been the topic of more than a few conversations out here. I appreciate being informed of what's going on elsewhere - it can be tough to keep up, things are happening so fast!

Anonymous said...

Jessie: Thanks for reading. I think this "kluster" may be a bit different than a cleantech or industry cluster. As i understand it Kluster is using the web to bring people from all backgrounds together to make decisions where a biz "cluster" is an effort to bring businesses of similar ilk together in a region. Maybe I am just being too prescriptive in my definitions...