Global brainstorm sessions with 10K+ participants: Idealistic or a great startup idea?

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — For the founders of Opal Labs, changing the world starts with a million ideas.

The trick is to get everyone working together to come up with those ideas. And as anyone who has sat through a brainstorming session knows, it’s hard to get the creative juices flowing with just a handful of people.

“The mismanagement of ideas is happening all over the world,” said chief executive office George Huff at the DEMO Conference in Santa Clara, Calif. “They’re stuck inside of the heads of people you didn’t think to ask, and every single day each of us is guilt of snuffing out ideas before they have the change to breath … but humanity is at an inflection point. The scale and complexity of our problems is going to take all our ideas.”

Huff realized there had to be a better way when a client, global design and engineering firm Arup, asked his firm to host a company-wide brainstorming session.

“How do you host a global brainstorm with 11,000 people?” was how Huff put it in a recent email to VentureBeat.

The solution was Opal Brainstorms, which Huff describes as a “delightful, intuitive application powered by cloud-based social enterprise technology … a digital space where a team’s ingenuity and ideas can flourish, where big hairy problems can be solved in bite-sized bits with the power of hundreds of minds focused on solving the problem at hand.”

Opal Labs CEO George Huff

Above: Opal Labs CEO George Huff

Image Credit: Opal Labs

Huff’s description is long on buzzwords and short on specifics, so we’ll have to wait for the full demo today at DEMO Fall 2012 to let you know just how Opal Brainstorms works.

It’s worth noting that Opal is the latest in a long line of idealistic efforts to use computing technology to help humans solve global problems, dating back to the early work of Douglas Engelbart. Engelbart is remembered as the inventor of the mouse and the graphical user interface, but his work was actually focused more on helping people work collaboratively, through networked computers, through text, numbers, images, and video. While Engelbart’s research was massively influential in the field of interface design, his hopes to get computers to help us fix the world’s problems never came to fruition.

“The app was beautiful, holy crap, that’s a good lookin’ app,” said New Enterprise Associates partner Pete Sosini at the DEMO Confernce. “The thing that I haven’t seen done well is doing this on a mobile app, I’d like to see that.”

Clay Kellogg, chief executive of analytics company Chartboost went on to say that “they’ve hit a market that I think is ripe for a new technology.”

Let’s hope Opal Labs has success where earlier pioneers did not.

Portland, Ore.-based Opal Labs has been bootstrapped through customer revenue along with investments from the founders. It hopes to begin its first round of outside funding shortly after DEMO.

Opal Labs is one of more than 75 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Fall 2012 event taking place this week in Silicon Valley. After we make our selections, the chosen companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.

Opal Brainstorms screenshot

Top image courtesy of Dusit, Shutterstock; Demo image via Stephen Brashear


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