Q&A Wednesday :: GuruStorms

Today’s Q&A Wednesday is with Edward Cruz from GuruStorms, which was a finalist in the SXSW Accelerator program. MobileRoadie won the category, but being a finalist should help the company’s visibility.

Q: Give us the elevator pitch that you gave at SXSW Accelerator?

GuruStorms is a new brainstorming site that offers a unique crowdsourcing solution:  a curated crowd of gurus that represent the world’s best and brightest online experts.  If you have a difficult question or problem that requires deep vertical knowledge, you can post it as a brainstorm on the site, along with a reward ranging from $1000 to $5000.  That reward is the financial incentive for our gurus to come and offer their best ideas.  Brainstorming lasts for 30 days, and at the end of that 30 days, the questioner selects the top three answers, and they each earn a share of that reward.

For gurus, this is a great way for them to further extend their brand and monetize their expertise.  It’s online and ad hoc, so they can fit it in when they have time.  It’s also financially rewarding, with up to  $2000 in rewards for a great idea.

For questioners, it provides an instant, on-demand team of experts who can answer those difficult questions.  It’s more than just Q&A though.  Since it’s an online brainstorm, it becomes more of an online virtual whiteboard, and an online conversation between the questioner and the gurus, and also amongst the gurus themselves.
The current business model for expert consultants is a brick and mortar industry with revenues of about 1/2 a Billion dollars per year.  What we are doing is extending the social web into that same arena, creating a new global marketplace for online ideas and knowledge.

Q: How did the company get started? Who had the idea? Was there an “A Ha!” moment?

The seed concept for the idea germinated 10 years ago when I created a simple way for my colleagues and I to brainstorm at work using a styrofoam cup and torn up pieces of paper.  We seeded the pieces of paper with words, concepts and phrases related to our brainstorming question written on them.  Pulling theses pieces of paper out two at a time created a random component that spurred ideation and produced great ideas.

In 2008, I decided to take this concept and implement it as a web site, so Molecular Thinking was born.  The site had a lot of bells and whistles and an open community model, and generated some interest in the online ideation world.  But when I was unable to develop an advertising based business model for the site, I reinvented it as BountyStorms, which has a traditional crowdsourcing scheme as its business model, a small but dedicated community of creative thinkers, and rewards ranging from $5 to $25.  BountyStorms launched in early 2009.

When I realized that BountyStorms was really useful for simple questions and problems, but not ones that required expert knowledge, I decided to create GuruStorms, which solves this problem by providing expert advise from a curated crowd of the world’s best and brightest Gurus.

Q: What brought about the rebranding and relaunch?

We had a wonderful opportunity to launch GuruStorms as an AlphaPitch company at DEMOFall 2009.  This is the same tech conference where large companies launch their new products, and we were able to launch an early version of the site there, receiving some great validation and press coverage as well.  Some of the other feedback we received (the tough love part) was that while the concept of the site was solid, the implementation needed some polish.  So we began the process of redesigning and refining the site, and recently completed this process just before our participation at SXSWi as an Accelerator company.

Q: How has the company been financed? Are you looking for additional capital?

GuruStorms has been completely bootstrapped thus far.  But the time is coming when funding will help us accelerate our launch/growth plans, so we are now starting to explore our funding options.

Q: How has customer adoption been so far?

So far, the response to the site has been extremely positive.  Guru recruitment has been very successful, and we have customers who are waiting for us to bring our first Guru team specializing in Hi-Tech startups online.

Q: What can we expect to see in the future from your company?

Next steps include bringing more Guru teams online, and also expanded what we call the “Storms Network” to include other crowdsourcing solutions for business.

About Bryan Menell

Bryan is the Managing Editor for AustinStartup and the CEO of Mahana. He is a co-founder of Capital Factory, an investor and advisor, and runs the popular Austin Tech Happy Hour with his wife.