Recently I attended the one-year anniversary of House of Genius. Not surprisingly, I wasn't invited because I'm a genius, but to offer me an opportunity to help create genius with others.
House of Genius is an entrepreneurial community service that assembled 380 professionals from various fields to assist 57 entrepreneurs in 2011. The founders, Tim Williams, Toma Bedolla and Collin Adair, recognized an opportunity to create an ongoing community event where the contributors could share their expertise for a greater good. Beyond this, they are also more engaged with a small group and get value out of their time rather than a typical networking event where attendees can rarely engage and walk away with valuable or actionable new connections. If you attend House of Genius, you have to participate!
After attending three of these crowd sourcing sessions in 2011, my takeaway was that this unique structure is very special in how it benefits the volunteer participants as much as the presenting companies. They assemble smart, diverse groups of people to focus their collective creativity and experience to explore, discuss and solve important problems. Contributors gain value by applying the lessons of presenting entrepreneurs and other contributors to their own life or venture.
As Tim Williams describes it, "The genius really is in collaboration. We find the consensus of a diverse group of professionals is accurate almost 95% of the time, whereas insight gained from a one to one meeting shuts the door to innovation and other points of view -- thus resulting in a higher rate of error."
Each month House of Genius invites about 20 professionals to a location donated by companies like Microsoft's Bing and Amazon Web Services. These contributors volunteer their time and expertise to help a company solve a current business problem that they aren't able to solve on their own. Only first names are used until the presentation and solution process is complete. This way fresh ideas are shared without knowing if they are coming from the CEO of a large corporation or a CTO from a bootstrapping startup. People are heard based on the merit of their contributions, rather than who they are or what their background may be. The result is that the presenting companies walk away with actionable ideas that they were not able to see on their own because the participants have fresh eyes and varied backgrounds contributing to their suggestions.
The companies served by this process range from Earthvision's WorldEngine Platform (an expansion to Google Earth) that needed monetization models to the Community Foundation that needed help with its marketing messaging and outreach to increase awareness that support local nonprofit organizations.
Though House of Genius began in Boulder, CO they have expanded their network to include Denver, Austin and Singapore. With their current growth rate, House of Genius is on track to reach over 1,000 people and assist over 150 entrepreneurs across the globe in 2012.