NineSigma is an open innovations service provider. Zynga explains that the company has the world’s largest open network of solution providers. NineSigma uses this network as a tool to help companies find solutions to various business issues.
I had the opportunity to interview Andy and my favorite answer was about entrepreneurs. Read on and you will find out why.
Q1: Is NineSigma a traditional service marketplace? And how are you helping companies use open innovations to solve their problems?
AZ: No, NineSigma is not what you would call a traditional service marketplace. Rather, we perform targeted knowledge searches for our clients in a fully managed and facilitated process that accelerates the innovation process and yields excellent results. For example, let’s say a company wants to find a new component to enable their glass materials to be less prone to breaking in order to increase production yields.
We will work with the company to state the problem in a way that will attract 10 to 20 world class proposals from solution providers with approaches applicable to the company’s need – and often from sources not previously known to the company. For this we use our Ph.D.-level program managers, the world’s largest open network of solution providers, and a proven platform and methodology.
Q2: One of the most valuable commodities of any company is its intellectual property (IP). How do you mitigate IP risk and still leverage the power of open innovation?
AZ: This is an aspect of open innovation that solution seekers and solution providers are keenly interested in. We have very specific best practices in this area, but in a nutshell our process is based on performing knowledge searches in a non-confidential manner. Our program managers work with our clients to state their technology need in a way that removes the application and industry. For example, one of our clients was looking for a solution to wrinkles in shirts coming out of the dryer.
We described the problem as “relaxing surface tension of an organic material,” and lo and behold, the client was interested in a solution that came from a computer chip expert who had developed a polymer that could be applied to the client’s need. Furthermore, we ask our solution providers to submit their non-confidential solutions so that IP leakage problems are avoided. NineSigma acts as a kind of IP buffer in that we broker all communications between our clients and solution providers in a non-confidential way.
Q3: Matt Barrie, Freelancer.com Chief Executive, explained that the entrepreneur and crowdsourcing are integral components to America’s financial reboot. What can more established companies learn from this work process?
AZ: The recent explosion in crowdsourcing sites like Freelancer.com is truly astounding. Sites like this have been built on the premise that not all the smart people work for any one company, and that there are talented and determined innovators around the world who are interested in collaborating with solution seekers on finite problems or even the world’s most complex issues.
Established companies have come to recognize that they need entrepreneurs as much as the entrepreneurs need them. We think it is extremely important for these established companies to strive to become a “partner of choice” so that innovators want to keep coming back. Specifically, this means putting a fair reward on the needs they put out to the global community, and making deals that are mutually beneficial. It also means understanding what is core to their company’s business; where they must own IP versus more peripheral needs that can be handled with a simple license deal.
This makes negotiations and contracts much easier and ultimately creates better outcomes. Companies of all sizes are finding that crowdsourcing and open innovation create abundant opportunities and will have a significant impact on America’s financial reboot as well as the global economy.
Q4: Why do you think that open innovation is such a catalyst to a company’s growth strategy?
AZ: Open innovation is an elegant, quick and simple way to get solutions to innovation needs. This allows companies to get to market faster, thus capitalizing on market opportunities earlier. How much is an extra 3 or 6 months in market worth to a company? It depends on the product and the market, but many might say “millions.”
What are your thoughts on any of the questions or answers from my interview with Zynga?