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Initiative to polish fresh ideas moves toward reality

John Seelmeyer

Ideas are like rocks even the most promising ones need some rough tumbling before they become gemstones.

Chase Whittemore and Amanda Pratt hope a Reno-based version of Austin’s “House of Genius” can polish some rough ideas into valuable gems.

Pratt, a Reno marketing executive, explains:

House of Genius brings together a carefully selected, diverse group of about 20 businesspeople for one three-hour session to hear three ideas concepts for new companies, new nonprofits, new products or new corporate direction.

The creator of the idea provides a five-minute presentation. Each of the participating businesspeople provides immediate feedback about what works, what needs more detail, what’s hopeless.

It’s not a dialogue. The creator just listens. The creator can answer questions if any time remains in the allotted 50 minutes.

That’s it. No follow-up meetings, no consulting, no negotiations over funding.

But the simple process has proven so valuable that the idea has spread from Austin, where it was launched only in July 2011, to Denver and Boulder in Colorado as well as a fourth location in Singapore.

“It was all about the ideas,” says Pratt, who attended a House of Genius session in Denver with Whittemore, an office-space specialist with NAI Alliance in Reno. “They solved some major problems in just an hour.”

Participating experts don’t network beforehand, nor do they make a big deal about their professional experience. They just offer observations and solutions.

“Diversity is the key as you are filling the room,” says Pratt.

Whittemore and Pratt hope to launch Reno’s version of the program by late February or early March. They’ve nailed down a commitment from Basin Street Properties, a major downtown landlord, to provide meeting space.

Now, says Pratt, they’re looking for potential panelists, folks who want some feedback on an idea and sponsors to help underwrite the estimated cost of $300 a session. (Pratt can be reached at apratt@marketlinkre.com.)

At least initially, Whittemore and Pratt expect that sessions will be conducted quarterly more often if there’s a plethora of good ideas, less often if the creative wells are dry.

“If we don’t have the right ideas, we’re not going to do it,” Pratt says.