GeniusRocket: Brilliant

It started as a coincidence, turned into a real possibility and resulted in a bona fide solution to my problem. At the risk of translating my giddiness into hyperbole, the idea behind GeniusRocket (and CrowdSPRING, the company that led me there -- see a ReviewCam of CrowdSPRING <a href=";jsessionid=Z12X451XBTLOJQE1GHRSKHWATMY32JVN">here</a>) is well on its way to becoming THE new model for custom service exchange on th

Fritz Nelson, Vice President, Editorial Director InformationWeek Business Technology Network

August 17, 2009

7 Min Read

It started as a coincidence, turned into a real possibility and resulted in a bona fide solution to my problem. At the risk of translating my giddiness into hyperbole, the idea behind GeniusRocket (and CrowdSPRING, the company that led me there -- see a ReviewCam of CrowdSPRING here) is well on its way to becoming THE new model for custom service exchange on the web. I'm sold, if for no other reason than because it delivered.GeniusRocket is an online creative service experience, where you can submit your project, name your price, set a deadline and, through a network of artists and experts, you suddenly begin to get the creative solutions you were seeking. Not just ideas or sketches, but real work. As the deadline draws closer, more bids come in.

We were working on a video project on IBM's Hybrid Cloud architecture. We'd worked with a senior IBM executive, Ric Telford, to get a better understanding of some of the business needs, and then he drew private and public cloud models on a whiteboard, followed by a scenario for a hybrid cloud. Ric, our producer and I all thought that this part of the drawing would be enhanced with a bit of animation. We were looking for something simple, short and elegant.

I submitted a GeniusRocket project, describing this, and we listed a private link to the actual video, providing the timecode for the drawing we wanted re-crafted as an animation. We also provided a clip of a video that had an animation that we really liked. Between our description, the video and the sample animation, I believed we'd provided ample input.

But here's where the line between animation and personal touch comes into play (which it does in several aspects of a GeniusRocket project). The company thought we could go a little bit further with our descriptions, and we did; yet some of the artists still posted questions. GeniusRocket prodded us to answer quickly and we were rewarded with our first bid. I offered some feedback to the artist -- there were some technical inaccuracies (which I'd expected, given some of the technical nature of the discussion) and I also thought the animation, while interesting, was too complex. I secretly hoped that my feedback would not just help the first artist, but also any subsequent animator. (You can see many of the submissions here.)

I was worried for the first week because we saw only a couple of submissions. GeniusRocket assured me that we would see plenty more, especially as the deadline started to approach. I continued to provide feedback on the submissions, and we finally got one that seemed pretty sharp and, more importantly, simple (see directly below, from GeniusRocket member Josh Fuller). Almost every animation was attempting to serve as a standalone story, whereas we simply wanted it to augment the story already being told.

Still we weren't sure we had seen our money's worth. We had put up a price of $1,000, and a deadline of two weeks and after a few days we were underwhelmed. Part of this was fueled by the knowledge that we could have turned to animators we knew, potentially paid less and received a final product in less than two weeks. However, I'm stubborn and I was determined that this would be fun, provide an outstanding result, and help us contribute to our own learning about the newest ways of the web.

(As an aside, the company recommended a price of $1200 and a three week deadline. We were unable to live with that and we accepted the risk--namely that we wouldn't get as many bids.)

Literally on the last day, in the final hours of the process, we got a submission that blew us away. Clearly the artist had absorbed our goal. More than that, he was able to take our video and work the animation in himself (all in fairly low resolution quality), showing us how well it integrated with our documentary video. Nobody -- not IBM, not our producer, not me, and not the GeniusRocket team had any doubt that this one was the winner. We asked the artist to make a couple of very minor word modifications, output a high resolution version and off we went. Here's the full video below, with the animation beginning at about the 3:12 mark.

More On How It Works Just to be clear, once you've completed the project form, you're sent a contract which, once you agree to it, generates an immediate invoice. We used our corporate purchasing system, but you can also provide a credit card. The turnaround on all of this is practically immediate. They've got the back-end part of this equation down.

I wondered aloud to GeniusRocket how much personal attention I was getting versus the average customer. Obviously, I suspected the company wanted to make sure an InformationWeek editor had a great experience, both as a customer and as a potential reviewer of the service. For example, the company offered to reach out proactively to its creative community given our much tighter deadline.

I suppose I have no way of knowing for sure, but the GeniusRocket response was as follows (verbatim):

While there are similarities between our service and those of companies like 99Designs and CrowdSPRING, we actually look at ourselves as an alternative to the ad agency. (Ironically, many ad agencies have used our service.) Our goal is not to be a fully automated service on the web. I think I may have used the expression in a past email, "the creative power of the crowd, with the service of an agency". We offer high end creative consulting around our projects, and the ability for any client or creative artist to reach us (in person) with any questions, concerns, or complaints. So the process you experience in launching your project was a mix of automation, as well as human touch. We have figured out a way to scale this process so that a rapid increase in clients will not diminish our ability to consistently provide high quality creative content. Our continual goal is to offer a high quality creative service that is as hands off, or hands on, as the clients ask us to be. This means our process time is quick, as you have seen, and our service is one on one.

That is certainly what I experienced, with a mix of automated e-mails reminding me of deadlines or alerting me to submissions, and personal coaching on protocol and etiquette. You're asked to monitor the project daily, offering comments where appropriate, and you can get a daily summary of activity. One of the automated e-mails invited me to call the sender -- the executive vice president of marketing and operations -- if I had any questions or needed help.

So before I go get all excited, I'd love to hear what you think, especially if you've had similar (better or worse) experiences with such services. More important, perhaps, since these sites are very specific to creative projects, I wondered to myself during this entire process how applicable this model might be to other service aspects. After all, GM is putting its cars on eBay; there are vast networks of application developers around the world working on a per-project basis as hired guns. Perhaps we'll see companies vying for the talents of project managers. Maybe talented developers will write code in hopes that a well conceived widget will lead to more customized work for big development shops.

More bazaar things have happened.

Fritz Nelson is an Executive Editor at InformationWeek and the Executive Producer of TechWebTV. Fritz writes about startups and established companies alike, but likes to exploit multiple forms of media into his writing.

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About the Author(s)

Fritz Nelson

Vice President, Editorial Director InformationWeek Business Technology Network

Fritz Nelson is a former senior VP and editorial director of the InformationWeek Business Technology Network.

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