I met Farzad Eskafi and Dr. Kenes Beketayev, the founders of Berkeley-based SparcIt, at the Crab House in San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf for the first time. They had both just exited their previous logistics application startup, PINC solutions, and wanted to move on to create a new "sound research based" startup. The area they chose is online assessments, and specifically of employee creativity. 

Eskafi claimed that the idea came to him when watching his nephew playing with Lego, ignoring the user manual, and using his natural creativity.

They immediately started reading every piece of research on creativity, and that's when they met with Mark Runco, a researcher and an authority in the area of creativity research.

Their request for an NSF (National Science Foundation) grant was initially rejected, as the NSF evaluator assigned to them believed what they wanted to achieve cannot be done. "We convinced him over the phone that we can do it," said Eskafi, "and eventually we got the grant." The grant was for $150,000.

"It took us less time to develop the engine than it did to test and validate it," jokes Eskafi, telling me that they spent 6 months writing code, and 12 months testing it.

The online creativity assessment tool was officially launched by SparcIt in February 2015. Runco, who serves on their advisory board, refers to SparcIt as a "giant leap in creative thinking assessment." To test the efficiency of the tool, he competed with them over the assessment of 300 participants. He graded the creativity of the participants in 3 days. SparcIt completed it in 10 seconds.

SparcIt measures the four elements of creativity, as determined by the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT), first developed in the 1950s, and used until now:

  • Fluency: the quantity of generated ideas.
  • Originality: how novel those ideas are.
  • Flexibility: the variety of ideas, and how different are they from each other.
  • Elaboration: the level of detail that ideas have.

SparcIt partnered with the State University of New York (SUNY), Buffalo, which is offering a free online course (MOOC), to increase the level of individual creativity. SparcIt conducts the pre-, mid-, and post-testing for them, and 7,000 students have already taken that combination of assessment and online class, resulting in improved creativity.

Since the online assessment tool was launched in February 2015, over 35,000 people took it.

The bad news is that the SparcIt online creativity assessment tool is available only to organizations, and not directly to individuals. The cost is a mere $35 per person. It takes 20 minutes to complete, completely online. I took it once. My results will forever remain with me...

Published on: Mar 28, 2016