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Business Profile: Napkin Labs, Inc.

Name of business: Napkin Labs, Inc.

Mission: Deliver game-changing products and services to clients by democratizing the process of innovation.

Description: Napkin Labs is an online, collaborative innovation service designed to rapidly deliver generation Y-centric new product and service concepts to our clients.  Our distributed model of innovation blends the creative energy of a worldwide network of emergent Gen Y innovators with disciplined design processes to yield breakthrough new offerings that are rooted in our client’s brand and strategy, fueling topline growth.

Began in (year): July, 2009

Revenues: Confidential

Initial Investment: 100k seed round closed in September – Currently raising a series A of 500k

Broke Even: 🙂 Not quite there yet – 12 months from now is our projection

Where: Boulder, Colorado (Unparalleled start-up community and we are absolutely blessed to be here.  Co-located with Threadless Inc.)

Your name, email, cell: Riley Gibson,, 503.784.5432. twitter = @rileygibson

Undergrad or Grad Student:  Undergrad – graduated May ’08

Employees: 3 but growing

Founder’s Past Life/Business:
– Babson, Studied corporate entrepreneurship and new venture creation – completed honors thesis on ‘The Synergistic Relationship Between Art and Science in the Process of Innovation’ – Napkin Labs, in many ways, is the concluding chapter I never wrote.

– Marketing at Nau, Inc. an outdoor sustainable apparel company

– Corporate Entrepreneurship at Intel Corp. in New Business Initiatives

– New product development at Sterling-Rice Group – Consulting

How The Idea Began (One or two sentence quote from Founder): Napkin Labs was an elegant coincidence of meeting my-cofounder at SRG, jointly identifying a profound need to reinvent the model of innovation within large companies, and discovering/developing the technologies and methodologies to enable this transformation. Napkin Labs was not an aha moment, but rather a solution evolved over time to solve a critical need we were observing in our positions as innovation consultants.

Initial Preparation to Germinate Idea: Warren and I threw together a working online community and technology platform and just experimented to see what would happen.  That first project truly opened our eyes to the power of distributed, collaborative innovation.

Favorite Thing about the Business: The community of emergent Gen Y innovators we have managed to recruit in such a short period of time.  They are what makes this business powerful and it is fascinating to watch the various functional disciplines interact and collaborate.  Where else can you watch a biomedical engineer, an MD/Phd, an industrial designer, and an journalist from 3 different countries work together to form an audio device!

Worst Thing About the Business (humorous): My non-existent Salary…One day…

Biggest Challenge: Evangelizing the benefits of open innovation and design methodologies to engineering and technology driven corporate cultures.

Lesson Learned: Prototype and iterate rapidly. The counter-intuitive lesson of innovation is to fail fast so you can adapt your course and build in your learnings (only if you are able to realize the utility of failure).  The worst possible thing any entrepreneur can do is do nothing!