Zazzle’s Million Dollar Open Innovation Challenge

Published Apr-09-12

Open innovation competition to design the next and most innovative customizable product or business.

Zazzle, United States

The Story:

Zazzle’s Million Dollar Open Innovation Challenge If there’s one thing guaranteed to catch attention it’s a headline promising $1 million worth of prizes. The Zazzle Million Dollar Open Innovation Challenge offered just that and was a global search for the world’s next big customizable product.

Thanks to the Internet, advances in technology and the interests, passions and talents of the crowd, building custom made products is becoming big business. It allows customers to design exactly what they want when they want which means that companies don’t have to stock up with an inventory based on a perceived need. Zazzle is one of the industry leaders offering a range of customizable products such as t-shirts, mugs, greetings cards and posters.

Launched in late 2011 the open innovation contest was organised by Zazzle, MIT’s Smart Customization Group and UC Berkeley’s Center for Open Innovation.

Big Ideas

Those who wanted to take part had to create a one-minute video that described their product, explaining what was so special about it and how it could contribute to the growing movement of mass customization. And it could be anything, not just a new consumer product. For example, it could be a new service or a business to business offering, just as long as it would take mass customization to the next level.

The competition attracted nearly 1,000 submissions from all over the world and they were judged on innovation and economic viability.

Selection of Finalists

From this number five finalists were selected. They were:

Republic Bike – a service that allows customers to create their own custom bikes

Selve – high end customizable women’s shoes

YouBar – aiming to provide the perfect nutrition bar for each individual customer

DODOcase – gives you the tools to design your own handmade iPad case

Designscape – individually designed art and accessories for the home

"We were blown away by the volume and creativity of the applications for the Challenge," said Jeff Beaver, Zazzle co-founder and chief product officer.

Each of the five finalists were then given academic and expert industry help to refine their business models in preparation for the competition’s final evaluation and presentation to the panel of judges. These included Jeff Beaver, Professor Frank Pillar of MIT's Smart Customization Group, and Professor Henry Chesbrough, faculty director of the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation.

And the Winner is...

The overall winner was Selve and their award was presented during a ceremony at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.

According to the Selve website, the company offers a customizable shoe service that “modernizes the luxury, made-to-measure European footwear experience, while adhering to old world manufacturing techniques and utilizing only the highest quality materials.”

Customers are able to create their own unique pair of shoes or boots by picking a style from the collection, selecting a colour or colours and choosing from the selection of suede and leathers.

Million Dollar Prize Package

The million dollar prize package includes investment in building online configuration tools, development of a marketing plan, and product launch on the Zazzle platform. This has to potential to reach a global audience of tens of millions of consumers. In addition, the competition organisers will help put Selve and its concept in front of key investors.

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