An ad agency gets into the software business

Matt Britton's new on-demand participation platform

When you’re in the service business, the client and his demands have to take priority. Which means it’s hard as hell to free up resources to invent something for yourself, whether a platform, app, piece of software or the next Groupon. Even if you have an idea, assemble a team, and start to work, you’re still screwed. For the moment a prospective client shows up with an RFP or an existing client issues a new assignment everyone abandons the internal project and focuses on the real job.

At least this is how Matt Britton, founder of Mr. Youth, a Fast Company most innovative agency in 2010, and more recently the entrepreneur behind Crowdtap, explains it.

The new on-demand consumer participation platform rewards consumers for collaborating with brands, entertainment properties and startups, while giving marketers a chance to involve customers in everything from testing products to promoting them. Unlike closed communities that are dedicated to a single brand, Crowdtap can leverage the network effect. The more brands that employ the service, the more consumers are attracted; the more consumers who join, the greater the value for brands.

It’s exactly the kind of platform you would expect an ad agency, especially one that specializes in word-of-mouth, to invent. Then again you’d have thought an agency would have conceived Groupon or SCVNGR.

But it turns out that thinking like a service company and thinking like a software company couldn’t be more different. The former is client focused, the latter has to be product focused. According to Matt if you want to actually develop a product you have to take it out of the agency environment and create a product environment. Though it certainly doesn’t hurt to know something about advertising and marketing after you’ve created your product.

I caught up with the dynamic Matt Britton in Boulder a couple of weeks ago and we had this conversation about advertising, IP, specialization and the creation of Crowdtap. Hope you enjoy.