A lot of companies are born out of brainstorming sessions. IdeaPaint, however, might be the first company that set out to improve them. As a freshman in Babson College's entrepreneurship program, founder John Goscha would often hang large pieces of paper on his dorm walls, creating a makeshift canvas where he and his classmates could sketch out their business ideas. The tedium of hanging paper got Goscha to thinking, "Wouldn't it be great if we could just paint the walls and write right on the them?"
And that was the inspiration behind IdeaPaint, a paint that essentially turns any smooth surface into a dry-erase writing surface. Of course, turning that inspiration into an actual working product wasn't easy. Goscha spent time in Babson's chemistry labs experimenting with all kinds of paint to develop a crude prototype on his own, but turned to contract laboratories to perfect the formula after his sample got rave reviews from fellow dorm residents. With some angel funding for his idea, Goscha commissioned two labs, which tried for nearly a year to develop a working formula, only to come to the conclusion that the idea was impossible. The seemingly simple concept was actually proving to be very technically complex. As Goscha would often point out, "We can land a man on the moon, all we want is a paint that you can wipe markers off from." Luckily, a third lab, based in Michigan, stumbled upon the proper chemistry and successfully developed a paint that would work.
Goscha recruited fellow Babson classmates Jeff Avallon and Morgan Newman after the trio graduated in 2006. Long hours ensued as the three spent their time pitching investors, securing distributors, and researching the market. "Initially, if there was a really important task to be done, it kind of went to whoever had slept more than four hours the past couple of days," Newman says. As the business evolved, their roles became more clearly defined. "Now we essentially have our dream jobs, since we got to craft them ourselves by figuring out what we each loved to do as we were building the company," Avallon adds. Today, Goscha primarly focuses on product development, Avallon handles business development, and Newman manages IdeaPaint's international expansion.
IdeaPaint officially launched its product line in June 2008 through distributors, who sell it to schools, universities, government agencies, and businesses. Since then, IdeaPaint has garnered heaps of praise and a legion of followers. At the 2008 NeoCon, one of the design industry's largest showcases, the company was awarded two "Best of NeoCon" awards in the "Innovation" and "Wallcoverings" categories. Comedy Central uses IdeaPaint in its conference rooms to map out show schedules, and the CIA and MTV are also IdeaPaint users, proof of just how diverse IdeaPaint's potential market could be.
Having conquered the chemistry behind IdeaPaint, the trio is now working to tackle the business end of things. "Right now, it is really just a matter of learning how to scale the business -- learning how to take it from just an idea and paint in a can to a real business with distribution and sales and all those things," Goscha says.
For now, Goscha, Avallon, and Newman are on a mission to turn every wall into an opportunity for creativity. "We're not selling a dry-erase board, we're hardly selling a dry-erase surface -- we're selling a dynamic environment," Avallon says. "Whether it is in your work, school, or home, it is something that just energizes you. There aren't really any other products like it on the market."