A week ago today, news surfaced that Sharon Chang, formerly of 19 Entertainment, has launched Yoxi, a new media platform for social innovation rockstars.
19 Entertainment is the company behind popular U.S. based TV shows such as American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. This announcement comes on the heels of recent news from consumer electronics giant Philips, who also launched a social innovation platform just 3 months ago.
Back in 2009, Santiago, Chile based Pullcolab had a similar vision when they saw the power of open and social innovation layered over a virtual platform. And so the legend goes…
While we may not be in Kansas anymore, here in Latin America where more than an estimated 2/3 of the population lives in poverty, ‘open and social‘ innovation is still very much a vast, uninhibited and unexplored frontier.
And if you follow the yellow brick road, while it won’t lead to the Wizard of Oz (El Mago de Oz) – behind the curtain, you will find 3 wizards, each in their own right: Eduardo Hernández, a hacking and development rockstar; Stiven Kerestegian focused on design, service strategy and vision, and how that ultimately ties to the user experience; and Felipe Miranda, a research and benchmark encyclopedia who also manages the customer relationships.
These 3 individuals have been directly and indirectly responsible (mas o menos) for bringing the magic to both the public and private sectors along with NGO’s, and getting Chile hip to the game in terms of global technology adoption at the intersection of open and social innovation.
Up until very recently, their small, industrious and resourceful team of 3 people were responsible for launching Chile’s largest open and social innovation technology platforms.
Over the course of 18 months more than 15,000 users have registered on their platforms, with more than half of that growth coming in the last 5 months.
Today the team has grown to a staff of 5 people.
The Humble Beginnings of Pullcolab
Headquartered in Santiago, Chile, Pullcolab is a technology startup dedicated to implementing and managing social communities of innovation and entrepreneurship.
They are the first company in Latin America focused in the creation and implementation of its own Open Innovation platform which they call “Workcolab“.
Originally, launched in 2009 as a social media agency and web 2.0 company, the founding team at Pullcolab saw the power of open innovation and crowd-sourcing (integrated into a technology platform) as a valid, functional and affordable way to enable new ideas to flourish and evolve into actual projects and businesses.
However, founding partner, Stiven Kerestegian, recalls that about 2 years ago, about a year after Pullcolab was launched, they applied for funding from Corfo (Chile’s largest economic development agency – public sector) and were denied.
After being presented the project, a team of expert panelists commented ‘why do we need another platform when we have Facebook‘. I wonder if he threw a sheep at them. jejeje.
But seriously, nobody in Chile understood the concept or saw the vision, and as a result Kerestegian states that it affected their business negatively. But they stayed focused and committed to the dream. And now that patience is finally starting to pay off.
From Breakdown to Breakthrough
These days it seems that everyone from Chile’s most prestigious universities to international organizations such as Startup Weekend (Chile) have simplified their crowd sourced and social innovation influenced projects and competitions, big thanks to Pullcolab. As of recently, it appears that things are looking a lot brighter, with one of their most recent projects, Desafío Clave by Techolab leading the way and gaining strong interest at a national level.
Presumably, Latin America’s largest and fastest growing open and social innovation ‘virtual incubator‘, Techolab enables open innovation to happen on a large scale (beyond the borders of Chile).
The team at Pullcolab researched and prototyped for an entire year before they began the development process of what is today the platform that supports Techolab.
This engine of co-creation and collaboration focuses on a very specific yet very broad goal – raise the quality of life of the people living at the base of the economic pyramid.
Techolab was launched out of the Center for Social Innovation in Un Techo Para Chile (UTPC), one of Latin America’s fastest growing NGO’s, currently based in 19 countries in Latin America and in U.S.A.
Leveling Up Latin America
Techolab currently has more than 8,000 social entrepreneurs and innovators collaborating on more than 700 projects in a contest format where the finalist receives financing, mentorship and the methodology (subject to change based on the contest) needed to turn their ideas into real businesses.
Additionally, Pullcolab is gearing up their platform to accommodate four huge open social innovation contests, with four independent and very large corporate sponsors. And as their bread and butter, they are continually generating partnerships with Chile’s top universities (a space they are extremely familiar with) and institutes that will ensure their communities continued growth and a high quality of user generated content.
While Pullcolab’s Founder and Director and Innovation, Stiven Kerestegian, is pleased with their recent growth and upcoming projects, the feeling for him is bittersweet. He recalls that it was only 3 years ago when nobody in Chile understood the concept of open and social innovation (virtual/online). And ultimately, they had to teach both their clients and competitors alike.
Their initial clients were academic institutes but they have recently experienced rapid growth in the private sector. Beyond having to teach many of their clients the different types of social technologies, they had to teach them industry language and introduce the concepts of user-centric design, innovation, collective intelligence and social currency into their respective growth strategies.
With many organizations across industries looking at social environments to promote innovation and open collaboration, it appears that Pullcolab is prominently positioned to take advantage of this unprecedented growth currently taking place. Although it remains to be seen how the rest of Latin America will fit into this picture, one thing is for sure – as long as Pullcolab exists, the dreams that you dare to dream, really can come true.