Justin Brown is the CEO and Co founder of Ideapod, a place for people to connect through ideas. Justin is a frequent public speaker at TEDx NewYork and the United Nations and he’s writing appears in Forbes and inc.com. Ideapod was created as a spin-off to Justin’s doctoral research in global innovation and before this, he worked on large-scale change management programs in the financial services and mining industries.
This is an audio recording and transcription of a conversation between Justin Brown, CEO and Co-founder of Ideapod and Ludwina Dautovic, CEO and Founder of The Room Xchange. To listen to all episodes of the show, either click the ‘Podcast Show’ category link on the right or subscribe to The Room Xchange Podcast Show on iTunes. You can connect with Justin Brown on their website or with Ludwina Dautovic on Linkedin. To find out how to become a Host or a Guest on The Room Xchange and start changing the way you live, subscribe here.
Connect with The Room Xchange on social media using @TheRoomXchange.
Footnote by Ludwina Dautovic – I created my first idea on Ideapod today. It was a very simple process and I look forward to hearing your thoughts and your experience of using Ideapod. My idea is called ‘Smartphone Zombies’. Check it out.
Ludwina Dautovic: That’s quite a background you’ve got there Justin. When did you become this ideas person?
Justin Brown: I was originally doing a PhD in International Clinical Economy and at the time I was writing working papers in different areas, so I was covering topics like cognitive science, psychoanalytic philosophy, psychology and politics and trying to explore the intersection between all of these. I didn’t know what to do with these papers. I knew I wanted to meet like minded people, I knew I wanted to share this stuff on Facebook and Twitter and other places like that but it wasn’t really the right medium. I wanted to get this work published, but whenever I did that I’d just meet people within Academia and not people further afield. So I created a website where I published these working papers and over time what was a side project, I ended up turning it into a social network because I realised that there were other people that have these different arcane, alternative ideas they wanted to get out there. I wanted to meet like minded people but they just didn’t feel safe sharing stuff like that on Facebook. They felt like they’d be isolated from their friends; it just wasn’t the right medium. To cut a long story short, I turned a website that was originally called Research Nexus, a side project my PhD, into a broader social network for everyone to share their own ideas and that was the beginning of Ideapod.Click To Tweet
Ludwina Dautovic: Well I’m glad you change your name because I don’t know that Research Nexus would have worked too well.
Justin Brown: Well actually that was back when it was a little more focused on academia and academics building networks with industry professionals so it was much more research focused. I ended up quitting the PhD halfway through to try to make this applicable to a wider audience and that time we ended up shifting the research into ideas, Ideapod. We changed the format from working papers to be ideas limited to 1000 characters or 40-second videos via the mobile app. It’s all about shorter expression where people get straight to the point but it does induce more meaningful conversations that what we’re finding online.
Ideapod – Jason Silva
Ludwina Dautovic: I remember when you and I first got connected, you came to The Room Xchange launch a couple of months back and then we met up last week which was great. I remember when I first started researching Ideapod I actually came across a video from a guy I absolutely love- Jason Silva. Now Jason has ‘Shots of Awe’ and his videos are always quite short. I found that really quite interesting. When you were just explaining getting your ideas down to a few characters instead of extrapolating it, I guess you’re creating a space for people to develop that idea or that concept within themselves. Is that about right?
Justin Brown: Yeah. Jason Silva is a really great friend and someone I’m continually inspired by. His ‘Shots of Awe’ are delivered in such a way that it’s not just about what he says but it’s about how the message is being received. So I think he’s perfected the art of allowing ideas to transmit from mind to mind. He does it at scale with his videos that reach literally millions of people and the reason is that it just opens people’s mind that inspires them. They can take him the idea but then think for themselves and decide what to do with it. When you get an academic paper, you get the academic who really goes down the journey of exploring the idea in depth which is super valuable and we need more and more of that in this day and age. But Jason Silva’s videos are more about the shorter expression so that people can think for themselves and do something with it and that’s what Ideapod is all about. It’s kind of built on this movement of radical openness. The free flow, the free exchange of ideas moving from mind to mind at a pace so that we can be opened up, be inspired, experience, or almost experience the gift of receiving an idea and allowing it to impact you deeply inside. So that’s Ideapod. With the limited expression with a thousand characters, what it results in is that people share raw and half baked thoughts, that aren’t necessarily finished and then other people respond to the idea. So you end up building upon your idea with the help of others and that’s really what it’s all about.Jason Silva’s shots of awe inspire me as it’s not only about what he says but how… Click To Tweet
Ludwina Dautovic: So give me an example that. How does it work on your site. Say someone puts a short video up of their idea and then there’s a conversation that happens around it?
Discussing how an Ideapod works
Justin Brown: Yeah. So it works just like Twitter. You create a profile and then instead of creating tweets, you create what we call ideas. You hit that ‘New Idea’ button the top left-hand corner and then you can give an idea a title, you can give it a picture like a cover image, or put a video there so you can embed the video from Youtube or Vimeo. Then you’ve got a thousand characters to type out your idea. You can use hashtags and then click on other people’s hashtags which groups ideas together. Users can support your idea. There is a support button. They can create relationships between ideas via the related button and they can respond to ideas. It’s kind of like a micro blogging website. I’ve created hundreds of ideas and there have been thousands of responses and people have built upon it with me. Some of my ideas have spawned a hashtag where maybe there were 20 more ideas by other people just sharing their own perspective. One example is a user posted an idea up with a question saying, ‘what new businesses should Richard Branson and Virgin enter next? They used the hashtag #popmycherry, so it was all about a business he would de-virginize.
Ludwina Dautovic: Of course it would be ‘pop my cherry’. What else would it be?
Meeting Richard Branson and pitching ideas
Justin Brown: So what happened is that we promoted that idea a little but via our email list. What happened was, we had fifty responses to that idea with new business ideas and I think about 30 new ideas got created using the same hashtag. We were then invited to visit Richard Branson to pitch him for investments. So we went out to Necker Island, myself and my co-founder, we did our pitch and that all went really well, It was great.
At lunch, I was randomly sitting next to Richard and he started talking about how the best ideas come from the most unexpected places. The idea for Virgin money, which apparently recently IPO’d, was a throwaway idea in a meeting from someone who wasn’t in a management position and they realised it was a good idea and they decided to build upon it. He was telling the story, so under the table, I had my mobile phone and I started searching up the hashtag on Ideapod and I pulled up all of these new ideas for Richard and so at the right moment, I said hey Richard that’s a great story. Actually, I’ve got 50 new ideas for you right now for new businesses you should enter. He got me to stand up and after 15 minutes present every idea to everyone at the table so we could discuss what he should do next. There were new ideas ranging from different Bitcoin applications, through to vertical farming in cities, through to sea burials so we can free up the land within cities so there is more real estate if we bury people at sea.
He ended up writing a few articles about it which were great. So that format kind of inspires the explosion of new ideas and a lot of creativity between lots of people.
Ludwina Dautovic: That’s fascinating; quite a story. So just from you actually sharing your idea on the Ideapod and people engaging with it, you ended up having a lunch and sitting next to a man who I think is just extraordinary.
Justin Brown: I know and it was so inspiring to meet him. I found him to be so humble and he listened to everyone. I really respected his listening powers where no matter who he was talking to he would just listen to them in a genuine way where he would really engagement conversation. He just seemed down to earth and humble, obviously super successful. We were on his private island and it was a very glamorous location and he does enjoy the glamorous side of life. But I really found him to be down to earth. So it is certainly a lifetime highlight for me.
Ludwina Dautovic: As you’re describing him, I know this word really isn’t the right way to describe him, but he seems ordinary like an everyday kind of bloke. When you describe him it’s like he’s just sitting there with you, no airs or graces about him, but he has got this extraordinary ability to do what he does. But I think he simplifies things and really adds that human element in connecting with you.
Justin Brown: He does and any other thing you does that I admired was that he brings playfulness into everything he does. So it’s always a lot of fun there’s a party you know you need to enjoy your work, he values his team members having a really, really high work satisfaction. They need to enjoy themselves so it was a lot of partying, a lot of fun and I realised with ideas they need to be sexy, ideas need to be fun, ideas need to be playful. W e need to not take ourselves too seriously and that’s where I think a lot of the internal change happens when you’re able to embrace a new idea and actually be shifted by it.
Ludwina Dautovic: I agree with you on that. From a business context, I think we can make things too complex. If you bring an idea back to the core of what it is, to the experiential value of it, to how it has meaning to you and if you can just relate that on a human to human level and then build from that I think that it doesn’t need to be as complex. I think that we just overthink things. What do you think?
Justin Brown: I totally agree with you. I think that’s part of our values. As you know, what’s the simplest way to express that idea so that it can actually move hearts and minds? I think that as human beings we’re so much more powerful when we work together. We have to be united by common causes by common values. We have to have shared principles that we’re going to stand for. When we can actually articulate those, or have them articulated and then joining a cause together, I think that’s when we’re most powerful. That’s not just Ideapod, that’s just how I think communication works best when people can speak and move hearts and minds and we can all rally behind a common cause.
Ludwina Dautovic: Collaboration is obviously a big part of what you doing, so that the core idea of it… no pun intended, the core idea is you’re creating these platforms so people can share their ideas. What do you find is the intention mostly behind people sharing ideas? Is it to help extrapolate an idea for a business or is it to help them better understand themselves in life? Are there a massive cross section of ideas?
Justin Brown: The platform is pretty basic. The amount of features is not so high; it’s a very core product. I think when we build it on the features and we’re going to create some private groups soon where people can brainstorm ideas together in private. When we’ve got some more advanced features I think we’ll see a lot of new business ideas; ideas that can be commercialised. But at the moment everything is open and available to the public, so we’re not seeing so many ideas people want to commercialise, but more ideas that people want to see change the world or ideas that reflect people’s internal growth.
So I think there is a lot of self-exploration going on. It’s almost like an idea journaling tool right now. People are discovering who they really are, what ideas matter to them, how they’re changing over time. When I look back at 2 years ago and the ideas I shared, I feel like a fundamentally different person from the last 2 years. I almost can’t recognize myself anymore and for me that’s a really valuable repository of information that I can go back to, because it’s just there and available to me and it helps me to understand who I was, who I am, what my values have been, how I have changed over time and ideas are a great reflection of this.
Social Media (Facebook)
Ludwina Dautovic: You did call it a social media platform earlier on it our chat when I likened that to existing social media platforms. People can share their ideas, say on Facebook, or whatever it is, but they don’t get to really extrapolate it out. I think people have their Facebook face on.
Justin Brown: They do, they do. If you look at the comments on Facebook, first of all, if you sharing it from your personal page, I don’t think the conversations going to a lot of nuances because people are so polarized and it’s hard to actually flesh things out and things could quickly turn into shouting matches. If you look at the big pages on Facebook that maybe have millions of fans, and then you going to the comments, it can be a little bit sickening as people start yelling at each other and there’s no ability to understand someone from their perspective.
I feel the internet is a little bit broken in that way, particularly social media. We’re not presenting the real and authentic version of ourselves. We’re alway presenting how we want to be portrayed by others. LinkedIn is representing a very slick professional profile. We’re getting our messaging right and it just feels a little bit broken to me. So I’m hoping that Ideapod can be a place for a little more authenticity, a little more honesty, much more constructive conversation, much more listening and understanding each other. So far it’s been that but it’s still quite small, so one of our aims is to keep that ethos to it as we hopefully grow.
Ludwina Dautovic: You said it’s still quite small I think you telling porky pies there hun. How many followers do you have? You’ve got quite a lot of subscribers right now.
Ideapod users and social media following
Justin Brown: As a social network, the core part of Ideapod, we’ve got about 60000 registered users. I think in terms of regular users as much less than that. It’s probably a few thousand core users that are coming regularly and contributing ideas which is an amazing start, it’s huge and that’s great. But what you are referring to is the strength of our social media following. We have created a blog called The Power Of Ideas, www.thepowerofideas.ideapod.com and that gets over 2 million unique visitors monthly. That’s content that we create in house based on the ideas that are shared, and then we’ve got a Facebook page with 155,000 fans. We operate My Science Academy which has 545,000 fans on Facebook and a few other partnerships in place where we’re getting the word out. We’re definitely getting a lot of distribution for the ideas that are coming on Ideapod and the community itself is much smaller, but it’s more focused.
Ludwina Dautovic: I take my hat off to you. I’ve been in the online digital space for years and creating any kind of authentic gathering online is not an easy feat. I just wanted to give you the opportunity there to actually show what you’ve grown in such a short amount of time. I think that’s wonderful.
I think we live in an extraordinary time right now, because we have so much information available to us all the time, all around us. I was in our shopping centre the other day, and as I was coming down the escalator, they have got this new digital screen up with Sky News on it. You walk down the steps of Southern Cross Station and even the ground that you’re walking on has got advertising on it. I remember when my children were young, you know fifteen or so years ago, just being annoyed at the amount of messaging that was out there all the time bombarding us and obviously, it’s a lot more now.
How important do you think it is to have platforms available like yours that really do enable people to share what they really think. I think we are actually quite limited and I think we are used to this short-form messaging or short form ideas in a way that are not discussed. How important is that?
Enabling people to share what they really think
Justin Brown: I think it’s hugely important. I often think about the future as being a battle of ideas and the ideas that we share and we engage in today going to shape the world that we’re creating. I also often think about the economic framework within which we’re creating this future. At the moment our dominant technology platforms are advertising driven and they’re incentivized to create worlds that are going to be overloaded with more more advertising. So we just stimulating more consumerism and our whole value systems being built around these platforms.
Two examples being Facebook and Google both their business model is advertising driven. If we think that virtual reality is going to be the next medium in which we are going to communicate and create new worlds effectively, we are going to be overloaded with advertising there. Or imagine augmented reality when the walking around whether it’s going to be glasses we’re wearing or whatever is going to project his holographic images in front of us, we’re going to see more more advertising and that’s what’s going to lead the way.
I worry a lot about the amount of messaging that’s just bombarding us right now. I think we really do need new kinds of platforms, like The Room Xchange, which is probably why we have become friends so quickly is that I think we’re united in some common values about creating almost a new economic paradigm moving forward. I was at your launch event just over a month ago now. I have never heard a founder so passionate presenting a vision. I can see this for you, is certainly a business and has got a huge future and it will be very successful on those terms, but it’s a movement, it’s a new economic paradigm. It’s a new way we can relate to each other while still monetizing it but doing it in a way that actually allows human beings to connect in very authentic ways. I think we’ve got that in common in terms of seeing that as very important and it’s just up to us to make it happen now.
Ludwina Dautovic: Thank you I really appreciate your kind words about that and I think at the core of it, it’s about being fair and equitable and we can create win-wins for people, for all people, where we can profit and have a solid company and structure around it but at the same time make things accessible. I guess at the core of any conversation that I really want to have is it’s about change. What we say about The Room Xchange, is that we are creating micro communities in the most intimate place of all which is our home and within those micro communities there are conversations, there’s change, there’s ideas that are shared, there are ways of living that become open to us. Why do we need to leave our home? We’ve got flat screen T.V., surround sound, comfy couches, gourmet food that we have access to, to be able to cook for ourselves, and you can just get so caught up in your rut and your day to day way of living, that unless something comes along and disrupts that thinking or challenges that thinking, you can stay the same forever. I think that’s where there is the power of Ideapod, is that you are creating a space or a platform, a community where people can come and share those ideas, be open to be challenged by them and also have the opportunity to have those ideas extrapolated.
The power of ideas
Justin Brown: Absolutely, that’s the power of ideas isn’t it? When you think back in history, slavery was once totally conventional and accepted and so was racism and xenophobia, whereas today these kind of ideas just are not accepted anymore. We’ve gone through a massive, collective shift as a species all around the world and when you think about it, in 100 years, what are we going to look back on today and just be horrified at what we were doing.
I can imagine a whole range of different ideas that will become more and more important like animal rights. Why shouldn’t any conscious being on this planet have rights in our political systems? I think once we start to talk more and more about some very alternative ideas today when we actually can connect with each other and not just talk about it but connect with the right people who build new kinds of systems around these new ideas, then I think that’s when we can accelerate the pace of change. That’s when we get back to the future being about the battle of ideas and ideas can be pretty positive but can be pretty negative as well so that can set us backwards. That’s why we definitely want to continue to try and create a better world.
Ludwina Dautovic: Yeah absolutely and the world needs more change makers. Thank you so much for your time. How can people find out more about Ideapod and also where they can connect with you on social media.
How to connect with Justin on Social Media
Justin Brown: The best way is to go to ideapod.com and share your first idea. Often people find it a little daunting, to get an idea out there but it’s a very positive and welcoming and constructive community and I’m positive that just by getting any idea put there, good things will happen.
You can find me on our website. You can add and mention me in any of your ideas and I’ll respond. I’d love to get in conversations with you. We’re also on Facebook. If you type in Ideapod into the search bar at the top, I’m sure you’ll find us. We do live videos and salons and a whole range of different things that hopefully you can join in and be apart of.
Ludwina Dautovic: I’m certainly looking forward to becoming part of your salons as well. If you would like to find out more about The Room Xchange, just go to theroomxchange.com and you call also find us on social media @ TheRoomXchange or you can connect with me on Linkedin.
Justin thank you so much for your time today and I will definitely be getting you back on in the future.
Justin Brown: Thanks so much for having me, I really enjoyed it.
Ludwina Dautovic: Absolute pleasure. Bye for now.