The field of open innovation continues to gain momentum, with an increasing number of leading companies (consumer, B2B and service) looking outside for ideas. The current business climate of 'doing more with less' is driving the trend as well. In response, more and more service providers are re-configuring and expanding their offerings to position themselves as emerging leaders in the field of innovation in general and open innovation in particular. The newest entrant is TekScout, an online marketplace created by UTEK -- a technology transfer company with its roots in connecting university based research tech transfer.
TekScout enters a crowded field:
Innocentive just closed on a $6.5 million round of financing to expand their online marketplace. Their business model, as the name hints, is a rewards-based approach to open innovation. Problem solvers post technical challenges to Innocentive's network of 140,000 technical solvers. Winning solutions are rewarded via cash awards, usually small, but with the potential of up to $1,000,000.
Yet2 is a global marketplace that lists both "technology needs" and "technologies available". Yet2's software engine drives many of the corporate open innovation marketplaces (DuPont, P&G, etc.).
NineSigma has expanded into both Europe and Japan, and also gained new investment of $4 million to capitalize its growth. NineSigma has probably been the most successful of the bunch by leveraging a singularly focused approach of posting well-defined tech briefs (needs) to it global network of solvers.
Now comes TekScout, aimed at connecting companies (TekScouts) and scientists (TekExperts) together. In their press release announcing the site, the company cites its relationships with over 2000 academic institutions around the world, in addition to the TekExperts who join the site directly.
So does the world need yet another online marketplace for matching technology seekers with technology providers? In the case of TekScout, I say yes -- Here's why.
What seems to be unique about TekScout's approach is the following:
- Their unique strength and relationships in university-based research and problem-solving (they have the entire UTEK network available to provide deeper solutions beyond those who happen to look on the site)
- A subscription model that provides flexibility and potentially 'value' over project fee based approaches
- The responses to challenges/problems are more 'vetted' since the UTEK network is comprised of professional scientists (this is a big advantage, since I hear a LOT of frustration from companies who solicit ideas and receive too many unqualified responses)
- Finally, choice. They offer both 'supported' searches with TekScout staff providing advice and screening, and also 'self-service' options for those who either don't need the help, or are budget-sensitive
In speaking with Ed Weisberg, VP and GM of TekScout, I went from being skeptical about yet another online marketplace, to becoming a believer that this is a unique approach that will find a place in the market.
So, if you're a company just beginning the open innovation journey, or an established player in the market, you've got a new tool to accelerate your efforts. Similarly, here's a new outlet for your expertise if your a credible, creative brain in search of problems to solve.