6 Sep 2012
By Aaron Broverman
So many entrepreneurs pour months of time, energy and money into building a product they believe will change the world, only to break their backs looking for customers who will buy it. Forget, “If you build it, they will come.” What if you knew with 100% certainty that, “Once you built it, they will buy?”
Enter IdeaBoost — a business development incubator for digital entertainment properties that allows people to vote on the projects they want to see admitted into the program and funded by the Canadian Film Centre’s Media Lab. Think of it as Kickstarter for business development, with a video, description and a “Boost This” button for each project. If you ask Ana Serrano, the Canadian Film Centre’s chief digital officer and the founder of the CFC Media Lab, the Kickstarter similarities are no accident.
“We’re entering a new model for the entertainment production value chain where audiences play a much more critical role than they ever have in the past,” she says. “Part of our thesis is that, for entrepreneurs creating these media products, the success of their business models is going to be predicated on the type of audience engagement models they create. Now, audience engagement no longer happens just at the marketing end of things, but from the moment you even think of an idea.”
Since audience engagement is so crucial, this voting process not only serves to shortlist the projects that get into the program, but allows the CFC, and the selected entrepreneurs, to find out how, why and where they should begin to involve the audience. “By boosting a project an audience member, when they give their e-mail address to a project that they deem worthy, and if that project gets into the program, they are invited to contribute to the project development as well, says Serrano. “It’s up to the participating teams to figure out how they will work with these boosters.”
The boosters will narrow down the candidates to between ten and 12 projects and then a jury of experts will further whittle them down to between six and eight. Once in, the selected projects will receive customized support through mandatory and universal workshops, including a VIP launch and an opportunity to go through their business strategy with CFC administrators. Following that, they are each assigned a lead guide who will help them refine their business, product and audience engagement strategies, not to mention give them access to networking opportunities and the CFC campus for four months. All in all, that’s $15,000 worth of guidance and an additional $15,000 will be given to each project to help develop a prototype.
Some projects fighting for votes include The Ghost Town Project: an effort to restore Canada’s ghost towns one building at a time with cameras documenting the entire process. There’s also Coupon Quest – a mobile app where users swipe through playing cards looking for stars that correspond with coupons to stores in their area. If many stars are collected, they can be redeemed for prizes ranging from a bike to a cup of coffee. Gamers might enjoy Rollers of the Realm, a medieval fantasy game that combines role-playing games with pinball. But the most bizarre project may be Chesterfield Inlet, an animated satirical webseries featuring characters made up of the crap found between sofa cushions. All of them are hoping to be commercialized with the help of this process.
“I’m extremely optimistic about it,” says Serrano. “Primarily because the participant teams that we’re talking to and are currently uploading projects are solid companies with a successful track record and many understand the value of the IdeaBoost program in helping to refine and evolve the business part of their creative venture.”
The teams include Pop Sandbox Productions and Publishing — best known for their graphic novel biography of notorious Toronto bicycle thief Igor Kenk – Phantom Compass, a Toronto-based gaming company that wrote an alternate reality game for the hit BBC series Spooks and a cartoon production group whose combined credits include Sesame Street, Care Bears and Shining Time Station.
“What’s really exciting is we’re getting the cream of the crop applying to the program,” continues Serrano. “Because of that, we’re really targeting our mentors, our resources, our services and the executives we’re flying in towards making these already successful companies even more successful as they navigate the world of digital.
If you’d like to check out some of the products worth boosting or submit your own, you can do so at Ideaboost.ca until September 18th. Participating teams will be announced on October 15th and the incubator officially begins on November 5th.
“At the end of this,” says Serrano. “All teams should have a better idea where their revenues are going to come from, who their audiences are and what they are serving those audiences in terms of value.”