Being called a blobber doesn’t sound particularly flattering, but that doesn’t seem to bother the more than 70,000-strong community on Ideablob.com. The small business owners and entrepreneurs on the site are simply glad to find a place where they can share feedback and advice, bounce ideas off each other, and generally encourage one other along. There’s also an added incentive: Every month, the community votes on the best idea and the winner gets to walk away with US$10,000 to help their idea grow.
Started in 2007, Ideablob.com was the brainchild of Advanta Corp‘s Chief Innovation Officer, Ami Kassar. He was at the Kinnernet conference in Israel and chanced upon an animation from a young Israeli artist, Michal Levy. “I was blown away by her work. I thought to myself, if she had a place to bring her ideas and work to the masses, a place where she could find just a little bit of support and some capital, she would take off. That’s when Ideablob really took root,” says Kassar. Today Michal heads the creative marketing team at the Draper, Utah-based Advanta.
Ideablob currently has over 4,000 ideas contributed by small business owners and entrepreneurs from all over the U.S. Each idea gets an average of four comments or other forms of feedback. Its membership is growing at a rate of around 13 per cent every month.
Kassar denies that Ideablob is a commercial tactic to tap on the potentially lucrative small business and youth market, and to position credit as an option for entrepreneurs raising funds for their venture. “Ideablob is about helping entrepreneurs. I’m lucky to work for CEO that sees the value of Ideablob not as a way to tap into the youth market, but as a real tool that entrepreneurs can use,” he insists. “If people become more aware of Advanta through their Ideablob experience that would be fine, but that’s not what drives our efforts.”
Regardless of its intent, the response to Ideablob has been, in Kassar’s own words, ‘awesome’ and ‘remarkably well-received’. The site even won the People’s Choice Award at DEMO in 2007. Advanta has given US$10,000 each to 11 deserving winners to date. One of the most recent winners, Jessica Rauch of Michigan, proposed The Generation Project to revolutionise educational philanthropy by allowing community members to share their personal passions with K-12 students in low-income areas. Rauch is but one of thousands of “blobbers” who thrive on sharing, creating and supporting ideas.
“As I travel the country, it is really satisfying to meet people at conferences or small events that we host. They all have different stories of how they were able to connect and grow their idea through their experience on Ideablob,” says Kassar. “I just learned that a past finalist just sold his idea for $20,000.” Other blobbers talk about gaining more exposure, clients and support.
“It’s very cool to be a part of helping entrepreneurs connect and grow their businesses.” They are continually looking to refine and grow the site, although there are no plans to extend Ideablob worldwide.
“I would like to see small businesses owners more easily achieve their goals. That is really my focus. Starting and running a small business is a tremendously hard and rocky road. At the same time, small businesses are truly the heart of our economy,” muses Kassar. “Ideablob is meant for those people.”
“Only a few will win the contest, but it is so much more than that. It’s about getting feedback, advice and exposure for your business or idea. If ideablob makes it a little easier for entrepreneurs to succeed, I won’t rest on that, but I’ll know we’re moving in the right direction,” Kassar adds.
Kassar spearheads not only Ideablob, but also Advanta‘s KivaB4B project, an initiative which encourages small businesses owners in the U.S. to support entrepreneurs in developing countries through online micro loans lender Kiva.org. He says he is constantly mulling over their next big project.
“Ideablob is just the beginning.”