Interview with Tom Vollmer
CEO & Founder @ Collective Brain

Collective Brain access thousands of creatives from every corner of the world to procure marketing content for corporates and agencies. They enable companies to access the creativity of the many by tailoring crowdsourcing solutions. From sourcing initial ideas to producing finished video content, their Crowds are on standby.
Hi Tom! Could you please introduce your work with Collective Brain and what led to your founding the agency last year?
Hi, I'm Tom. I'm the founder of Collective Brain. We started the company last year, together with my co-founder Ollie Wegner. Why are we doing what we're doing? We noticed that nowadays all the big brands like Coca-Cola, BMW, etc, they need a lot of marketing content because back in the day it was basically TV and it was print. But nowadays, you have all kind of social media channels like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, where you need to publish a lot of content. Marketing agencies they have this issue nowadays that they need to procure a lot of content for all their clients and, do this on a daily basis, because you constantly need to engage with your consumers, with your followers and, with your customers. Hence, there is a lack of organisation and, also a lack of marketing material that can be sourced efficiently. On the other side of the equation, there are a lot of creative people around the world, which is beautiful, and they're all organised in different platforms and different crowds, that's what we call them. There are over 4000 online platforms. There are a lot of design platforms, video platforms, co-creation platforms, innovation platforms, etc. What we at Collective Brain are doing is, we are taking this whole bunch of creators which are organising platforms, accumulating them in one system and enabling companies like marketing agencies, media agencies, digital agencies and end customers to utilise this big network and source content efficiently. That could be videos, that could be social media designs, that could be out of home holsters. It depends what kind of marketing content you want to source but, generally speaking, all kind of content can be sourced through this crowd.
What is your main channel for accessing new creatives, innovators and designers to be part of your network?
That's actually quite a difficult question, because there are so many platforms and they're developing and creating one platform, they then leave and go to the next platform, because the compensation is better or there are more interesting projects. Generally what we tend to do is, we go to conferences, for example, The Global Crowdsourcing Week that Epi Ludvik is organising, happened in Sweden last year. What happens there is new platforms introduce themselves and what they're doing, because, there's a lot of movement from creators. Some creators leave a platform and they go to a different platform because the compensation is better, etc. The market is quite complex and you really need to stay on top of evaluating all the different platforms with different creatives. Generally what we do is, we take test projects, for example for the existing clients we have, if there are projects which aren't as mission critical and where there's a bit of a smaller budget, we take these projects and use them to source new creatives and test new platforms. What we do is, we do a test project on the platform to see how it works, if we're happy with the content we might integrate them into our system and, use them generally for bigger projects. If they don't work as well, we work very closely with our client and go to one of our existing platforms where we know they can produce extremely high quality. It's generally an ongoing and iterative process.
What are the main benefits of crowdsourcing marketing and content? How do you ensure that only the high quality work is executed by the Collective Brain team?
I think there are three key advantages to crowdsourcing. First of all, it's the volume that you receive. Second of all, it's the timing. Third of all, it's the level of creativity. In terms of volume, let's say a partner of ours, a digital agency wants to procure content for Instagram for the client. Instead of thinking every day what should we post? What we do is, we set an anchor and crowdsource for a topic, for three months or so and say, what's your favourite sneaker love story? People from all over the world send in cool videos, how they polish their shoes, etc. This digital agency can take these videos and push them all towards all different channels in one go. The second biggest advantage, is the timing aspect. Let's say we work together with a media agency who are doing a pitch and they need poster designs by the end of the week. Within 72 hours, we can procure these posters through our crowds. The third part, is the global creativity part. Since people from all over the world participate, send in their ideas, send in their work, get on these projects, you end up with a diverse set of ideas. This is also the biggest or the most fun part, to see all these different creatives working differently throughout the world and giving their creative input for brands in Europe or Germany, or wherever they are based. I think, in order to ensure quality, how do we do that? We basically look for very talented designers and use small pools of designers that work with us. We normally don't, extend it to a large amount of people but rather expert teams. I'd say we have 40 to 50 creators from different countries which are vetted to make sure that our clients receive high quality and the best product that they can get.
How did you build up the Collective Brain platform? What did the development process of the platform look like?
Generally speaking, our roles as co-founders, Oli and myself, we are more the faces of the company, the outward appearance, looking after sales and operations is our forte. This question is more aimed at the development part which is taken off our hands, luckily, because we both are more tech guys. But, we choose a very lean approach. If you might say so. We set up a MVP, tested the MVP with existing clients and are currently developing it on an ongoing basis through test projects. We are incorporating a lot of quick feedback from our customers and, right now it's still in the advanced MVP stage. It's very pretty and it works but, there's still a lot to build and we look forward to doing more this year. We've also just received an Innovation Prize from the Government of Hamburg, to help us develop this platform even further. It's online right now at collectivecreation.co. We called it Collective Creation because Collective Brain is our parent company behind everything. The brains and the collective creation part is about optimising the whole process and making sure that whatever digital agencies are out there, whatever media agencies are out there and whatever enterprise customers are out there, they can use our software to procure marketing content of any kind in the most efficient way.
What's next for your work with Collective Brain? What are the main projects, partnerships and acquisitions you'll be focusing on throughout the next year?
For 2019, we have two key objectives. On the customer side, we want to partner with the biggest media agencies in Europe, to help them develop a new strategy through content procurement. Partner with the biggest digital agencies in Europe to do exactly the same. On the vendor side, we are looking to integrate more crowds through an API to our platform, to make the whole process even more efficient. I think these are the two key main strategic objectives for this year. On a more personal note and, more a team focused note, we're looking to extend our team and also to keep moral high because, I think, this is one of the biggest challenges in a growing startup, that you have to keep everybody on-board, you have to make sure that people feel fairly treated, work towards a common goal and, are organised. I mean this was one of the biggest struggles that we started off with. At the beginning of last year, we had to think about, how do we organise different teams, how do we make sure everybody works in the right direction, how do you split work most efficiently, etc. On the team aspect, I think there's still room for improvement and we look forward to working with our guys and girls in Hamburg and also our team in Switzerland to pursue this agenda and, make sure everybody's on-board and ready to go.