For IdeaPaint’s expansion, the writing is on the walls: Corporate clients

Many walls at PayPal’s Boston office are coated in IdeaPaint, which turns any smooth surface into a whiteboard.
Many walls at PayPal’s Boston office are coated in IdeaPaint, which turns any smooth surface into a whiteboard.

When Ashland startup IdeaPaint introduced John Stephans as president in April, the company that can turn any smooth surface into a white board promised to “significantly expand its track record of product innovation.” Three months into Stephans’s tenure, the wheels of change already are turning.

For starters, IdeaPaint is now focused on business customers. Kits that cover 50 square feet are still available to the masses for $225 at home improvement stores, but the company sees more growth potential in catering to a corporate clientele.

“It’s fundamentally provided a stronger coherence around what we’re going after,” Stephans said in an interview at the Boston office of PayPal, one of its biggest clients. “It leverages our resources, both fiscal and human, much more directly.”

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Paypal moved to One International Place in February and quickly slathered many of its new walls with IdeaPaint, enabling workers to jot down ideas whenever — and, practically, wherever — inspiration strikes.

PayPal had to place decals on IdeaPaint walls to distinguish them from other walls because workers have become so accustomed to writing all over the office that they produced some accidental graffiti.
PayPal had to place decals on IdeaPaint walls to distinguish them from other walls because workers have become so accustomed to writing all over the office that they produced some accidental graffiti.

“It’s in almost every room where there’s a collaborative space,” said David S. Chang, chief operating officer of the PayPal Media Network. “We use it very extensively.”

IdeaPaint is so ubiquitous at Paypal that workers have inadvertently vandalized walls coated in regular paint, thinking every surface is erasable.

“That’s why we started putting up these,” Chang said, pointing to a decal that identifies IdeaPaint walls with the invitation to “write your bright ideas here!”

Soon, IdeaPaint will join PayPal in Boston. The company plans to move its staff of about 30 to 40 Broad Street in September, positioning itself nearer to its customer base and potential employees.

“The other thing is just the energy level, being downtown, being right on top of the Innovation District as more and more companies are moving here,” Stephans said.

New products could be on the way, too. Stephans said he and his staff have been brainstorming ways to preserve the work scrawled onto surfaces coated in IdeaPaint, perhaps with a mobile application that uses smartphone cameras.

“Say you spend two hours brainstorming, coming up with something great,” Stephans said. “What do you do with what’s on the wall next?”