Most college students order a pizza and cram for an next exam. But on any given night, students on MindSumo might just be inventing the next big thing in pizza.
MindSumo was started in 2011 as a way to help companies crowdsource innovative ideas and for students to get real-world experience problem-solving for corporate clients.
Co-founder Keaton Swett told Hypepotamust that MindSumo grew out his own experiences in college. Like many students, MindSumo’s co-founders were looking to build practical business skills that were often missing from textbook-style learning. “What really stood out to us was the times when a class would actually bring a client into the classroom setting to work on a project,” said Swett. One such class allowed Swett to spend an entire semester working on a marketing project for the Navy Seals.
Swett and his co-founders wanted to find a way scale such interactions between college students and companies.
The result was MindSumo’s two-sided innovation marketplace. Companies of all sizes can launch a challenge, which in turn is given to student and young professional problem-solvers. Users compete for money, but also gain valuable and tangible resume-worthy skills to talk about in an upcoming interview.
Challenges have ranged from improving a pizza crust to naming a new product line for a global consumer good company.
As Keaton pointed out, MindSumo also helps students get a taste of remote work trends that will only continue to grow in the years to come. “For many students, MindSumo is their first taste of freelance, project-based type of work online.”
The team started in in 2011 in Silicon Valley, and relied heavily on “sweat equity” while acquiring both students and companies to join the platform.
“I remember going around to all the cafeteria and lecture halls of Stanford and putting flyers on all the seats” in order to get their first few hundred users,” said Swett.
StartX, a well-known West Coast accelerator, helped them get the word out to companies to put project challenges up on the platform.
Swett smiled when telling Hypepotamus about the early days of building a platform and getting both companies and college students registered. “It was about doing unscalable things to try to figure out how to be scalable.”
Half a million users later, it’s safe to say they’ve figured out how to scale. Large companies like Ericsson, Pizza Hut, Mercedes-Benz and Coca-Cola have all launched challenges to create a new product or ideate on a problem.
While many users are college students, MindSumo also attract eager young professionals looking to work on a complex corporate problem from their own computer.
Swett initially moved to Durham after his wife got into a PhD program in 2014. But he told Hypepotamus that “a number of factors made it clear that Durham would be a great place to have the company headquarters.” MindSumo quickly got connected with the American Underground, and started seeing the talent pool from universities like UNC, Duke, and NC State made it possible for them to grow and scale a tech platform in the Research Triangle.
Behind the MBO Partners’ Acquisition
‘Marriage’ is a bit of an overused analogy when it comes to acquisitions. But for MindSumo, connecting with MBO Partners really was a natural connecting.
While other companies had approached Swett over the years regarding a potential merger, he said he couldn’t find the right fit until connecting with Miles Everson of MBO Partners.
Prior to joining MBO, Everson was one of the architect’s behind PwC’s Talent Exchange, a talent pipeline platform Swett had long admired. “Knowing that Miles was coming at these problems from a perspective that we could really relate to and be on board with, that was very important.”
Based in Virginia, MBO Partners works to connect independent consultants and their clients. For Swett, joining MBO helps MindSumo address one of the lingering problems the platform has always faced: how to bring a crowdsourced idea to life.
The acquisition, Swett says, helps MindSumo become an “end-to-end solution” because “MindSumo can provide a lot of these cool and innovative ideas and concepts at the front end and then MBO has the talent and capabilities to be able to act on those and execute on those for the clients we work with.”
MindSumo’s platform will remain up uninteruppted with the acquisition, and Swett will join MBO Partners as VP of Product.
“MindSumo is a uniquely collaborative modern business model that offers real value for both parties,” said Miles Everson, CEO, MBO Partners, in a statement. “Savvy enterprises are rethinking the way work gets done, increasingly shifting from purchasing services to purchasing results. Similarly, savvy individuals are eager to share their expertise and realize immediate benefits. MindSumo makes this seamless. Adding this capability to the MBO platform, which enables frictionless transactions and engagement between independents and enterprises of all sizes, is a natural fit for all.”