Quirky doesn’t have much to do with China but I think it’s such an interesting and brilliant online business model that I had to write about it.
Have you come up with a brilliant idea to solve a real life problem that you feel others experience too? You start to think, “I wish there was a device to do _____!” But then you think, “I have no idea how to make it…” then that idea fades into the air, leaving you wondering “what if?”
Unlike other crowd-sourced based models like kickstarter.com that help people turn their ideas into reality by helping to raise money, Quirky takes things to a new level by actually making the product for you!
It works like this, let’s say I have an idea for a teleportation device (which I’ve always wanted). I submit my idea to Quirky (for US$10), people in the Quirky community then give comments and feedback about it, the idea is improved then scored. Ideas which are the most promising and commercial are then put through a process of research, design and branding by the Quirky team. Then the cool part happens; Quirky then sends its expert team of product designers and engineers to actually create a prototype. After smoothening out all the kinks, a small batch of product is manufactured. This batch then goes on pre-sale to test product validation. If the sale reaches the threshold, they know there is a market demand for this product and so it starts to go into mass production. Now things are starting to get serious! Quirky then starts to push into a sales effort through social, direct and retail channels. The reward? The inventor (me), the community that helped and Quirky of course, will earn cash in from the sales made! WOW!
The power of crowdsourcing in the online space has been around for a few years now, but I really like how much of a difference people in Quirky can make. Part of the coolness factor is how involved the community can get. People who contribute to the product development and influence in terms of sales can also be rewarded in cash! Participation can take the form of voting, commenting, rating ideas, researching and committing to pre-sale orders. There is currently no scientific way to calculate influence; instead it’s at the discretion of Quirky. The community that contributed is entitled to 30% of total revenue generated from sales on the website and 10% of indirect sales and is split depending on their influence percentage.
Some of the products that have actually been created and sold are Pivot Power, a power board that flexibly moves so you can fit all your electronic devices to fit. This solves the problem when you have too many devices which can’t fit on a normal straight power board. After being on sale for 508 days, it has racked up more than 100,000 sales.
Another simple but very practical product that was made was something called Digits. Imagine all the tablet and smart-phone addicted Chinese people during winter wearing gloves. How do they press their screens through their gloves? Digits is basically a conductive silicone pin that fits on top of the glove to give you the same responsiveness as real fingers.
Quirky was founded by a very talented and imaginative 25 year old named Ben Kaufman. In his senior year of high school, Ben started a company that created iPod accessories called Mophie. He started it the day after graduating from high school and was acquired in 2007. After spending two years research and development, Quirky was born in 2009. It’s amazing how people so young yet so entrepreneurial can impact change in the world so much!
Go forth and invent!