thomas edison light bulbThere’s a good chance that you’ve had some random product ideas throughout your life. Like, “Boy, it would be great if there was a tortilla chip that didn’t get soggy when you put salsa on it?” But unless you’re a startup CEO (and hey, maybe even if you are), you probably haven’t done anything with those ideas.

A new company called Ahhha wants to change that. The goal is to take all those random idea and crowdsource the process of turning them into designs and products that you can actually make money from. People enter their ideas into the website, then other users can weigh in, voting ideas up or down and also contributing their own thoughts. In the tortilla example, someone could say, “Man, I would totally buy that!” and endorse the idea, or a food chemist might offer some ideas about the possible ingredients.

At a certain point, the most popular ideas will be refined to the the point that they’re monetizable. Or they might need a final push, so Ahhha might hold a contest where users could join up in teams to create the final product. Then Ahhha will try to actually sell it, either by licensing it to another company (which seems more plausible, at least at first) or even starting a new business.

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The money made from the product or licensing deal is then split among Ahhha users based on a set terms. The idea originator gets 1 percent, then the remaining 99 percent is divided among Ahhha and the other contributors, depending on how much the users actually did.

Of course, 1 percent of a licensing deal might seem like an awfully small payment for your idea, but founder and chief executive Matthew Crowe likes to repeat the common Silicon Valley wisdom that ideas are cheap, while execution is what counts. Or, as Thomas Edison put it, genius is “1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” After all, 1 percent of a real product is better than 100 percent of a daydream that doesn’t go anywhere.

After talking to Crowe, it also seems like the best way to use Ahhha is to have a stake in a number of ideas, some that you came up with and some that you contributed to, so that you’re not too invested in any one product.

“If this is your one great idea that you’re convinced you’re going to make your fortune from, then go do that, I don’t want it,” Crowe said.

Ahhha can make money in three ways, he added. First by licensing or selling the products developed through the site. Second by selling a customizable version to companies who want to crowdsource product development with their customers. (This sounds similar to products like Spigit, but Crowe said most of those idea voting products are focused on employees, not customers. Plus, Ahhha has developed a technology for weighting different votes and contributions, and also for determining when a product is ready to monetize.) Finally, Ahhha can also sell services to entrepreneurs who want to turn their ideas into products.

For some readers, the concept may sound like a patent troll in disguise, as former Microsoft chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures has been accused of. But Crowe was emphatic that he has no interest in pursuing that kind of litigious model, even though he does want Ahhha to develop and patent intellectual property.

Crowe said that he has raised funding for the Palo Alto, Calif. company, but that it’s too early to disclose how much or from whom.

Personally, I think it’s a compelling idea and with a lot of potential, but one with a lot of question marks. Its success will depend on the company’s ability to convince users to share their ideas, and on its ability to separate the good ideas from the random ones (current ideas in the system include “warp drive” and “time machine”).

Ahhha is slowly letting users onto the site. VentureBeat readers can get in by visiting this page and entering the code “edison”.


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