By Tom Denison
Startup Grind Chicago Premier – Not Even the Bears Can Stop Us

Despite being the same night as the Chicago Innovation Awards, the Bears on Monday Night Football and the final presidential debate, the premier event of Startup Grind Chicago was a rousing success.  Nearly 60 startup founders gathered to listen, to learn and to get inspired from Ross Kimbarovsky, co-founder of crowdSPRING. The spark for crowdSPRING like many successful startups arose from a personal need.  Ross had always displayed a spirit for entrepreneurship, but was in the midst of a very successful career as an attorney.  As fate would have it, Ross took on the responsibility of getting a new website built for his law firm.

Frustrated with traditional agency solutions, the thought of offering the web design project to the “crowd” seemed intriguing.  The intrigue grew to a passion and inevitably the launch of crowdSPRING. Ironically, the initial attempt to build crowdSPRING was given to an agency.  Plagued with personas, project planning and a real lack of being nimble, the agency proved to be a major disappointment, but a bellwether moment.  Laying it all on the line, crowdSPRING opened design of their own site to their nascent crowd. crowdSPRING became its own beta test.  It was a make or break moment.  In short, the design today is largely unchanged from the original crowdsourced design. That was 2007. Fast forward to 2009 and suddenly the crash or what Ross calls their black hole.  No, not the financial crash, but site crash.  For five weeks, crowdSPRING was down 70% of the time.  This was no bug, this was architectural and it was a challenge.  During that period, Ross’ passion committed him to 22 hour work days and seven day work weeks.  Needless to say, it tested his metal.  Thoughts of giving up surfaced, but Ross and his co-founder stuck to their guns.

Today, crowdSPRING has produced more than 35,000 design projects with a crowd of 125,000 designers and writers.  As their number one competitor raked in $35 million in funding, Ross passed on several additional funding opportunities.  crowdSPRING has proven to be the most efficient, highest quality and highest margin solution.  Now that is inspirational.

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