Cloud apps are great.

They’re quick to set up, they’re scalable, and generally don’t require huge capital expenditure to set up. But if you’re in an industry where watertight security is imperative – government, financial services, pharma – the risk may not be worth the reward.

So when does it make sense to choose an in-house solution over a third-party cloud-based app? When innovation is on the line.

While there are several cloud-based innovation management platforms on the market, acquiring an in-house platform ensures your data and IP are safe from prying eyes.

That was one of the motivations for Carter Wigell, founder and CEO of the Ideator Innovation Network Platform. Inspired by his time working with Marc Benioff at Salesforce (back when it only has around one hundred employees), he wanted to bring enterprise-level innovation management capabilities to large organizations – with less cost, less risk, and less complexity than current solutions.

Today, Ideator has users in over 100 countries. We sat down with Carter to find out a little more about the platform, how it helps corporates be more innovative, and why the unique opportunity of acquiring it in-house is the best choice for organizations.

Everyone talks about innovation, yet few are doing it “right”. How do you look at this and where do you see it’s not really yet effective, or not really working yet?

We’re obviously in an extremely exciting time. There are more and more innovation-focused programs being deployed at universities. We’re working with a number of big brand universities like NYU, Cornell, UCLA, USC, which is great. But we’re also working with a number of community colleges and youth entrepreneurship programs. So we’re supporting innovators in the classroom and on campus with a number of different initiatives.

And now, we’re seeing a similar thing evolve within enterprise and corporate. We’ve seen a lot of opportunity for intrapreneurship programs. A lot of corporations are creating different innovation hubs.

In general, the challenge we see most often with organizations, not just corporates, is they don’t start with their vision, and they don’t track and measure correctly.

Even if they use an innovation management platform, they need to understand and make sure they’re getting the right throughput through the platform – so the KPIs and metrics they want – whether that’s through open innovation or through different structured innovation programs.

And when deploying an innovation platform, they need to have a clear understanding of their needs and the requirements, what resources they need to support an innovation platform. Often, companies are resource-constrained within their corporate and university programs, so having the right amount of resources available to administer a full-time innovation management platform is important. We see a lot of challenges there with universities and corporates.

So your platform is catered to involving external people as well as internal people, correct?

Absolutely. We built Ideator from the ground up so you can have an open community – anybody who has access can go ahead and join – or you can have a closed, invite-only community. And then within the platform you can also layer in a number of different security parameters.

So let’s say that we all work for Coca-Cola: within a Coca-Cola Ideator environment you can have private teams, so you can keep data private until you want to expose it to the rest of the community.

Security is a huge issue. Many companies, and certain industries in particular, are hesitant to jump on a cloud platform simply because of that. How do you tackle that issue?

Security is a huge issue, and one we take seriously. We built Ideator on Heroku, which is a Salesforce product. So it’s highly scalable, and we’re able to adopt a lot of cloud security from We have deployed to a few Fortune companies already today, and a number of big brand universities.

But yes, certain companies – especially governments, pharma, financial services – have additional security needs. That raises questions: do you build a homegrown innovation management platform?

Do you look to leverage an existing platform on the market, something like Spigit or Brightidea or HYPE? Or do you look to acquire and bring the technology in-house?

The third option is basically where you come in. So why should I choose option three versus the other two?

At the end of the day, total cost of ownership is one factor that comes into play. If you look at some of the traditional innovation management platforms – there’s a number listed by Gartner and Forrester, at this point it’s an actual category – there are some older technologies there that have been used for ten-plus years by corporates. Since it’s older tech, they often have a hard time customizing the platform. So it doesn’t meet some of their requirements. They have a hard time getting ROI out of these platforms, and the analytics and data that they need.

So that really goes to build vs. buy, where corporates will look to build platforms that best meet their needs mapped to their methodologies. Of course, over time things change, and the different requirements they have around an innovation program change, so you need a platform that’s highly flexible. That’s where Ideator comes into play. It’s a platform that is highly customizable and easy to map to an organization’s needs.

Any wild numbers around how the ROI of acquiring you is better than just using your platform as a service?

If you look at the total cost of ownership for some of the current market solutions, on the high end you could be upwards of $500,000 to a million a year, year over year. So if you do the math on that over a ten-year period versus doing the math on acquiring a solution like Ideator, then the total cost of ownership definitely comes into play. Ultimately a company needs to make sure that they want to own it, that it’s better for them in the long run.

How long will it take for me to be up and running?

Ideator can be up and running with a click of a button. It’s a cloud-based environment today, so we can light up a new environment for you immediately. We heavily focus on the onboarding and implementation, and we developed a whole methodology around that – communication, change management, and training.

For most organizations to get fully deployed, depending on whether they’re going into one business unit or group, the fastest is typically about a month. Maybe two months. From there, it depends on the complexities around customization and on how they want to deploy to their organization.

So if we were to acquire you that all comes with the package?

We’re actually talking to several different companies right now that are interested in acquiring the Ideator platform plus our team, so the whole package, and we have a few organizations that are interested in just the technology itself. So we’re actually open to either.

From an IT perspective, it’s really easy to adapt to whatever tech environment you have. Our infrastructure is well documented. It’s a pretty short migration to bring it on to the servers. We’re talking with a couple organizations now and we’ve estimated it can happen within weeks.

Would you say this finally gives innovation leaders in industries like banking, pharma and government the peace of mind to go “all in”?

Governments, financial institutions, and pharma have been innovating, but ultimately they’ve been using fragmented solution. They’re using email, they’re using Box or Dropbox. That’s okay, but it doesn’t work well when you’re trying to change culture, create community. It’s really important to engage with the community, to collaborate with people in the community.

If you want innovation to go anywhere, it’s vital to measure and have real-time visibility into data, into analytics, into key metrics and results.

Many organizations need to demonstrate results to the senior management and c suite; they need to provide some sort of return on investment and be able to demonstrate the success of their innovation or intrapreneurship program.

At the end of the day, an innovation management platform is going to do that best. And if your industry requires watertight security, your best option is an in-house platform. 

If you are interested in acquiring Ideator please send a note to Carter Wigell via