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Crowdsourcing is a growing trend in the startup world with established companies like Kickstarter and Indiegogo dominating the crowdsourced funding scene.  And now Zooppa, a startup based near Pioneer Square,  is bringing that model to the advertising world.

The startup signs on companies and offers its members opportunities to create and submit advertisements on their behalf.  The submissions are then looked over by the client company along with the Zooppa community, who votes on which is best.  Those chosen are awarded with cash and special prizes based on the feedback.

Zooppa has an interesting backstory.  It was founded in 2007 near Venice, Italy where they were incubated as a part of the H-Farm Ventures program.  They have made impressive strides, not only signing on clients that include big names like Buick and P&G but also attaining over 135,000 users that contribute to advertising campaign ideas.  They’ve also recently announced a new campaign with Renton-based Wizards of the Coast.

We caught up with founder and CEO Wil Merritt for this installment of Startup Spotlight.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it:  “Brands such as Google, Nike, Procter & Gamble and 100+ others work with us to crowdsource on-demand videos and graphic ads, created to their brief on our global production platform.”

Founder and CEO Wil Merrit has four years of experience working with Corbis Corp, Bill Gates' private digital media company.

Inspiration hit us when: “One of our largest clients told us this week “I really like the results … you have the future of advertising in your hands!”  This is exactly how we felt starting out when we thought about how crowdsourcing principles could be applied to the creative advertising process.”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap:  “None of the above.  We got our start via an incubator based in Italy of all places (hence the name “Zooppa” which sounds the same as zuppa, Italian for “soup”).”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Our secret ‘soup’ would be our growing community of highly talented creative professionals and amateurs around the globe who produce the ads for our brand clients.  The ads are produced by our online community for online use with the new generation of online customers.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Realizing, from talking with our clients, that they see Zooppa as a social media platform. Crowdsourcing cool video content for brands is a unique offering, but it’s just the starting point of how we build consumer engagement through to conversion and action.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far:  “It’s been great to get our name out there, but PR has been a costly investment for us.  In hindsight we have had much better success generating leads and speaking at and attending industry conferences.”

Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Bill Gates — I used to work for him, an amazing mind for problem solving and unmatched strategic vision.”

Our world domination strategy starts when: “Advertisers realize crowdsourcing beats traditional modes of content  production and distribution in an “always-on” social world.”

Rivals should fear us because:  “Zooppa is dominant in a business where there is likely to be one winner.  Talent will not want to work in the second-best creative ad network.”

We are truly unique because:  “Only Zooppa has matched the creative qualities of crowdsourcing content (authenticity, selection, low cost and speed) with the power of social media engagement and distribution.”

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Convincing ad agencies that we can deliver amazing results for brands when we team up with each other.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Focus on the customer.  We have had no shortage of advice on how to grow the company by non-customers who don’t know shittake about the ad business.  Fortunately the searing reality of the burn rate kept us focused on paying customers.”

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