This is the first in a series of question-and-answer blog posts with the CEOs of the vendors included in my recent Forrester Wave™: Co-Creation Contest Vendors, Q3 2011 (blog and report (for clients).

First up is Riley Gibson, CEO of Napkin Labs. Napkin Labs, a Boulder, Colorado-based shop, was identified as a "Strong Performer" in that report.

Doug:    Co-creation contests are a new opportunity for product strategy professionals to solve business challenges, but many people are unfamiliar with them. What is your “elevator pitch” to potential clients about co-creation contests and the benefits they deliver?

Riley:     Napkin Labs gives companies their own crowdsourcing platform to make their social networks more productive. Our platform is simple enough to launch in minutes and has a variety of apps that make collaboration, brainstorming, and consumer research simple for small businesses and large brands.


Doug:    Why should product strategy professionals consider co-creation a business imperative at this point in time?

Riley:     First it was email. Then it was social media. Now it's co-creation and crowdsourcing. Every new communication channel is an opportunity to build customer loyalty and gain insights in new ways. And eventually every company has to do it to remain relevant.

With a platform like Napkin Labs, companies can finally have real-time, engaging conversations and gain real insights from their customers online. We believe co-creation and crowdsourcing is the future of marketing and consumer research and that the brands that win will be the brands that know how to build meaningful communities.


Doug:    Our clients often want to prove ROI before pursuing new engagements. How do you help clients prove ROI for co-creation contest projects?

Riley:     We don’t believe you can quantify ROI for co-creation projects any more than you can for social media or regular conversations. You can’t boil relationships down to a number – you just know it has real value. But if you had to quantify it like so many companies do, all you'd have to do is look at the volume of quality user engagements to know that there is real value being created via the contributions that push agencies and brands forward, and the loyalty that is gained simply through engagement.


Doug:    Last question: How is your business evolving to meet clients’ future needs for co-creation?

Riley:     We are building a library of apps to make the co-creation process simple and unique. The ability to mix and match apps within a challenge gives companies new ways to engage and learn. 

Next up on Wednesday: Answers to the same questions from Dr. Johann Fuller, CEO of Hyve AG.