How We Designed A $200K/Month Idea Management Software

Published: July 28th, 2021
Charlie de Rusett
Founder, Idea Drop
Idea Drop
from London, UK
started January 2014
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Note: This business is no longer running. It was started in 2014 and ended in 2023. Reason for closure: Acquired by Wazoku.

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello, my name is Charlie de Rusett and I’m the CEO and Founder of Idea Drop. We are a software-as-a-service (SAAS) that helps businesses identify, refine and execute their most innovative ideas. Our company was founded on the premise that the best ideas already exist, they just need to be discovered!

Our platform is entirely cloud-based with a ‘social media’ style interface that makes it easy and cost-effective for teams to collaborate on new ideas. Via an intelligent ranking algorithm, the platform automates the curation process, by scoring every idea in real-time based on social signals and interactions. This enables the most promising and exciting ideas to organically bubble to the surface for the attention of managers and decision-makers faster. Out-of-the-box social tools including Twitter-style hashtags, bulletins, and status updates make it easy for colleagues to collaborate, enrich and validate ideas. All of these features are designed to help nurture the best ideas to completion.

We’re excited to have recently launched a new feature - Public Challenges that enables our clients to more easily crowdsource ideas and solutions from external stakeholders. This is the first step towards creating an open digital ecosystem that captures and matches the most powerful ideas with the people, companies, and resources that can develop and launch them into the market. Check out our own Public Challenges here.

Companies across multiple global industries have seen success with Idea Drop. Examples range from multinational enterprises such as Ericsson and MTV to public sector organizations such as the NHS and Kent Police Force. We have an established track record of delivering long-term value for our clients. For instance, Covea Insurance found that an idea implemented as a result of Idea Drop would save them £2.5m over the next 5 years.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Idea Drop is the third business that I’ve founded. Before Idea Drop came Vine, a regional UK publishing group that was acquired by Local World, a division of Trinity Mirror, in December 2013. Next came Yellowball, a full-service creative consultancy, of which a majority stake was acquired in February 2015.

Start your business with the purpose. Then you will be able to easily attract the right people, including your team, partners, clients, and investors, who will be able to help you succeed.

As we grew Yellowball, we realized that we’d benefit from a tool to help us digitalize the process of capturing ideas from our team. We researched the market for this in detail, looking for an off-the-shelf solution that we could quickly deploy. What we found was clunky, out-of-date software that lacked UI/UX focus, primarily based in the US with complex pricing structures.

Unimpressed, we decided to use our own internal team of engineers at Yellowball to build a quick web-based idea-collection prototype. We rolled it out internally and within a couple of weeks had gathered over 50 ideas from our 20 or so staff. What struck us was not the volume of ideas, but the fact that there was an interesting cross-cultivation of ideas across different teams and most excitingly, that there were at least two ideas that we were able to immediately implement that had a tangible impact on our profitability.

It was at that moment we realized that the problem of capturing, curating, and implementing ideas transcended organizational size, sector, and location. We knew the competition was weak, the market was growing and we could do something better.

Describe the process of launching the business.

We pitched the idea to an angel software investor network, and after a round of pitches, intense interrogation on our vision, plan, and proposition, managed to secure a £50k seed funding investment, and the business was founded in March 2014.

We used our early funding to develop the product and engage in extensive market insight and discovery – we spent weeks and months meeting hundreds of companies and people ranging from senior executives at global banks, law firms, public sector organizations, engineering companies, and SMEs. We sought to truly understand their problems – how they were capturing ideas currently, what was broken and how we could fix it.

Following our simple strategy of “building something, people want” began to pay off, and we onboarded and closed our first ever clients – including Lear Corporation, a #154 on the Fortune 500 with 140,000 staff globally, and Kent Police, one of the largest and well-regarded police forces in the UK.

This early client traction served as validation and confirmation that global demand existed for Idea Drop, across multiple industries and locations. But we knew that bringing our technology to new customers and markets wouldn’t be possible without increased investment in our global marketing and sales activity. At this point, in early 2016, we sought to close a further, and more significant, round of funding.

After reviewing the potential of angel investment clubs and crowdfunding platforms such as Crowdcube and Seedrs, we decided to run our own self-managed fundraising round, utilizing contacts within our direct and extended network.

Our Idea Drop fundraising journey in the summer of 2016 was exhausting, exhilarating, and relentless – undoubtedly one of the most challenging spells in our business journey to date; grueling and thrilling in equal measure. We raised £1 million.

One element of the fundraising process that we underestimated was the negotiation of specific legal terms and conditions of investment. Whilst we had an existing shareholder agreement and Articles of Association in place, it soon became clear that these would need to be replaced by something far more bespoke. This is where the expertise and knowledge of a specialist corporate lawyer really help.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

We’re assembling and growing a world-class team here in London, comprising product designers and engineers, implementation and support teams, and marketing and sales specialists.

One of the most valuable assets we have, owing in part to why our clients choose and remain with us, is our Customer Success team and their support. They action our 12 step implementation plan that comes together with the software. At the end of the day, software on its own is not going to solve the problem, because successful innovation needs processes, the right attitude, mindset, and culture. And this is what our Customer Success offers!

Over the years, we’ve realized that business is really just about people – relationships, talent, knowledge sharing, problem-solving, and teamwork. We believe that if the focus remains on people, over time most other areas fall positively into place.

Hosting events is one of the best ways to attract and retain customers. These events are not targeted at selling - they are about connecting with people on topics that are important to them and driving new partnerships through shared value. Check out the event program on the six pillars of successful innovation strategy here.

Product marketing is another key area that we are tapping into more to increase usage among our customers and to excite prospects with key differentiators from competitors. Our Slack and MS Teams integration is one we are delighted to have launched this year as it enables our clients to broadcast their Innovation Challenges on apps their employees already have open all day, reaching more people and collecting more ideas as a result. And so is our newly released Public Challenge feature that lets clients crowdsource solutions from external stakeholders. Over time, we’ve learned that having a clear and actionable product roadmap is vital and as customer needs/market landscapes shift, you need to keep up and in some cases anticipate these changes!

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

With our pursuit toward maturing our product function with client-designed roadmaps, securing funding, and making new strategic hires - we’re on course to making Idea Drop synonymous with impactful innovation and harnessing the world’s ideas to drive positive change in business and society!

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. This is an all-time favorite of mine that I cannot recommend more. It was published more than 80 years ago and is still relevant today. It is full of practical instructions on how to handle people, win friends, bring people to your way of thinking, and how to be a great leader.

Atomic Habits by James Clear - startups require a lot of effort and good habits to build. The book helps crystallize how to entrench good habits while helping get rid of some of your worse ones. A definite must-read.

On the fiction side - it may be trite but The Alchemist byPaulo Coelho was a great read about purpose, failure, and passion. Three aspects of building an organization that is never far from the surface and are pivotal for success.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

  1. Start your business with the purpose. Then you will be able to easily attract the right people, including your team, partners, clients, and investors, who will be able to help you succeed.

  2. Think like a big business from the very beginning. Pay attention and invest time in building processes because that’s the only way to scale your business in the future.

  3. Your idea is important but not as important as its execution. You may be able to come up with hundreds of ideas every day but can you turn at least one of them into a reality? Do you have the patience, discipline, and persistence to make it happen?

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!