Intel Innovators was launched as a contest on December 1, 2011, on the firm’s Facebook page. It gives young people in the US a chance to change the world through technology by coming up with ground-breaking business ideas. Every month, Intel awards up to $100,000 to the best ideas based on support from members of the Facebook community and a live pitch where the top five innovators face off.
The programme’s initial run is for three months. It’s possible that, if the contest does well, it would be rolled out internationally later this year.
Participants register for the competition by filling a form, answering a few questions related to Intel and uploading a 30-second video that explains their business ideas. Once the ideas are approved, a selection committee comprising professors, executives and entrepreneurs select the 20 best that go into the ‘Pitching Room’. Fans and entrepreneurs are given social capital (points) to invest in their favourite ideas there.
The five ideas with the most social capital go into the final round, dubbed ‘The Battleground.’ Participants such as Pascal Wagner (founder of Wordio) promoted their ideas across social media to accumulate as much social capital as possible:
Round 2) After being selected as one of the top 20 ideas, our objective was to get as many people as we could to accept the Intel Innovations Application and invest “social capital” points they were given into our idea – something requiring a lot more work than just clicking the “Like” button. I found that most of the people who you stay in close contact with are willing to help you out on these types of occasions but to get your extended network to help you out requires an action I don’t enjoy at all – nagging. We found that other groups in previous rounds made a video explaining the process on how to help our team and decided to make something similar.
The finalists make a live pitch to a panel of four, which awards the winner $50,000. The judges are influential personalities in the fields of technology and innovation and include venture capitalists, executives and entrepreneurs. The ‘Top Fan’, who earns and invests the most social capital, gets to give another $50,000 to his/her favourite finalist.
The Battleground is streamed live on the Facebook community and is later posted on Intel’s YouTube channel.
The winning ideas so far have been social-media-centric. December’s fan’s choice was Alex Adelman, a 22-year-old from North Carolina who came up with Cosmic Cart, a product tagging system that allows users to buy merchandise from any video online. The judges’ choice was Virgil Hare (24) from Detroit for LoginWill, a social networking website where people can designate beneficiaries to receive all their online login information when they pass away.
Intel positions itself as the pioneer in technology and innovations. Even though it has undertaken similar initiatives offline, it decided to go a step further and use the online medium to project itself as a technologically-savvy brand.
The community was created to source the best ideas from young people. Intel focuses on this age group because it believes that investing time, effort and money in the youth will create a more fruitful future. As Techcrunch writer Rip Empson puts it :
According to Intel, it’s illegal to award financial prizes to people under 18, so there’s that, and, really, they want to tap into college-aged entrepreneurs — to help the young Mark Zuckerbergs of the world take a step forward.
The idea also fits perfectly with Intel’s previous communication taglines ‘Sponsors of The Future’ and ‘Leap Ahead’. Here’s what Deborah Conrad, Intel’s chief marketing officer, said:
At Intel, we are on a constant quest to fuel innovation of all kinds. We never fail to be impressed by the power of the human imagination or the millions of people who are fueling the future with their amazing ideas. We are especially excited and motivated by this new generation of entrepreneurs. Through the new Intel Innovators program, we can show our commitment to these entrepreneurs by providing tools and resources to help them pursue their visions. We think we will see some very cool ideas.
This isn’t the first time Intel has focused on corporate citizenship through technology, innovations and entrepreneurship. It has always claimed it is all about fuelling innovation with programmes like the Global Challenge at UC Berkeley and the AppUp Fund show. Intel wants to put its money where its mouth is. Intel’s official web-page on Technology Innovation says:
Innovation is fundamental to economic growth. To encourage innovation and prepare today’s students to become tomorrow’s entrepreneurs, the Intel Higher Education program offers entrepreneurship programs designed to help move technology out of research labs and into local communities – where it can do the most good.
The Innovators campaign allows participants, fans and panellists to take part and make a difference. The competition is useful for entrepreneurs as it gives them a platform to showcase their ability. It also gives them the opportunity to win $100,000 to invest in their own businesses. Winners also get invited to participate in NCIIA’s immersive training programme, VentureLab, where they will learn to identify potential markets and create valuable connections with industry professionals. The winners will take away action plans and get visibility across the web.
Panellists, on the other hand, get to contribute to a better future by deciding which idea is most worthy of the prize.
Fans help judges decide which ideas go into the final round. Social capital is earned by fans by taking part in various activities on the app, such as watching a video or posting a comment. Fans invest this social capital in ideas that they like. The one who invests the most social capital becomes the Top Fan. Allowing the Top Fan to participate in The Battleground and rewarding his/her choice with $50,000 helps him/her feel a sense of belonging and ownership of the idea, which is essential in this age of relationship marketing.
Crowdsourcing is a good way of bringing a sense of belonging and ownership to enhance a relationship between customers and brands. While crowdsourcing is not new, social media has taken it to another level by turning consumers into brand advocates by getting them more involved and engaged.
Brands are increasingly turning to fans to help them develop products. Samuel Adams followed in the steps of Mountain Dew and Coca-Cola by turning to Facebook fans and crowdsourcing a new beer. Nestlé asked fans to help it pick the next flavour in their KitKat Chunky range to increase its uptake amongst young men.
Facebook is the ideal social media channel to source insights. From simple competitions to complex apps, users are able to engage with their favourite brands in a fun way in a familiar environment. It’s a win-win situation – brands invest in something their target audience will buy and give insights on and users feel they are part of the creation of something tangible.
As blogger Toni explains on his blog, The Bluedoor:
The theoretical win-win is that companies are able to not only engage customers and help nourish brand loyalty, but also get some great ideas which can be put into practice. Leading organizations which have executed this successfully include Starbucks withMyStarbucksIdea.com and Dell with IdeaStorm.
Intel differs from most crowdsourcing efforts as it doesn’t use the ideas for itself but for the development of society, making it a form of corporate social responsibility.
Intel Innovators worked on Facebook for the following reasons, as described by blogger Frank Gruber on Tech Cocktail:
• Ideas are game-changing businesses or concepts powered by technology.
• Seeds are spontaneous thoughts or inspirations about innovation for the community to share, shape and potentially evolve into Ideas.
• Fans can interact with Ideas and Seeds using standard Facebook engagement tools (share, like, comment, answer polls, etc.). As they do, Fans earn badges and Social Capital, the program’s virtual currency.
Social media also offers other benefits such as dynamism, ability to provide tangible results, aggregation of public opinion, push-button curation, etc.
The campaign benefits by combining crowdsourcing with gamification to attain the objectives of corporate citizenship.
Gamification comes into play when fans accumulate social capital every time they engage with the app and when users use these points to slug it out for Top Fan honours. Gamification works for crowdsourcing because it adds fun to what is a monotonous task. An editorial on crowdsourcing.com said:
By presenting a simple task in a playful manner you motivate the user through the introduction of a competitive dynamic. Tried and tested approaches are being adopted that are straight out of the world of electronic games, where settings are created where tasks are incorporated as actions within games, often in surreal environments, sometimes incorporated as part of a story, a journey through the game.
Other initiatives that successfully used crowdsourcing and gamification are freerice.com, a UN sponsored programme where correct answers in a geography quiz amount to certain quantities of rice being donated to the poor, and Fold.it, an interactive computer game that enables participants to contribute to important scientific research – users are provided rules and parameters that they have to follow while correctly arranging an on-screen protein model into small shapes.
Intel Innovators isn’t the regular kind of gamification for crowdsourcing, but is gamification for crowdsourcing for corporate citizenship, which makes it unique.
However, the idea still received flak, most notably for restricting the contest to 18 to 24 year olds in the US.
The campaign has these restrictions partly for legal reasons – brands cannot award cash to those younger than 18. The upper cap, 24 years, was introduced so that Intel could focus on college-aged students. Twitter user @stagester said:
Got to ask. Why is there an age limit? Does this play in the false assumption that older people cannot innovate or have good ideas? If you look at most patents the average age is over 35. Also Founders Institute has found that startups founded by older founders have a much higher average of success
Other criticism centred around the nature of the ideas being mostly social and basic. Many questioned whether the innovations would actually impact society. Youngsters aren’t venturing outside the comfort zone of social media, others said.
Even if it has its drawbacks, the concept is quite a marvel as it has aggregated more than 1,000 ideas and 100,000 visits in a little over two months.
There has been a recent spurt of crowdsourcing initiatives that has saturated the market; several brands have used it as a method of engagement without any real purpose. Without a clear objective, the idea won’t be taken seriously.
Intel, though, has thought it through.
This sturdy combination of crowdsourcing, gamification and corporate citizenship has made it a benchmark for brands aspiring to use novel crowdsourcing techniques.
(MSLGROUP’s People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform and approach helps organizations tap into people’s insights for innovation, storytelling and change. The People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform also enables our distinctive insights and foresight approach, which consists of four elements: organic conversation analysis, MSLGROUP’s own insight communities, client-specific insights communities, and ethnographic deep dives into these communities.
As an example, 50+ thinkers and planners within MSLGROUP share and discuss inspiring projects on corporate citizenship, crowdsourcing and storytelling on the MSLGROUP Insights Network. Every week, we pick up one project and do a deep dive into conversations around it — on the MSLGROUP Insights Network itself but also on the broader social web — to distill insights and foresights. We share these insights and foresights with you on our People’s Insights blog and compile the best insights from the network and the blog in the iPad-friendly People’s Lab Quarterly Magazine, as a showcase of our capabilities.
As you can imagine, we can bring the same innovative approach to help you distill insights and foresights from conversations and communities. To start a conversation on how we can help you win with insights and foresights, write to Pascal Beucler at firstname.lastname@example.org.)