19. Quirky

For connecting inventors and brands to turn ideas into reality

Is it possible to have independent inventors and large multinationals working together for a common goal?

Established in 2009 by former mophie founder Ben Kaufman, Quirky is a platform that provides inventors the opportunity to turn their ideas into physical products - users submit and share their inventions online, which are then voted on by the community to decide which products should go into development. During their first two years, the Quirky community created and marketed 150 products across an ever growing list of categories including home, office, toys and fitness. PivotPower - the rotatable 6 plug power adapter became one of Quirky's most well recognised products after being stocked in mainstream retailers like Target, Wal-Mart and Staples. 

But it hasn't all been plain sailing, despite building an online community of over a million and shipping over 4 million products, in recent years there have been high profile product failures and recalls, and reports that the business wasn't working - that Kaufman had "burned through millions of dollars" with a model that did not scale.  Something needed to change, and after the appointment of a new CFO, Kaufman announced a change of business model in a streamed 'townhall meeting' to the Quirky community in February.  The new model, called PbQ (powered by Quirky) is built around working with large brands, who will 'own' certain categories of product on the site - the Quirky community will then be invited to answer specific briefs and innovate around new products for launch. This new model means the inventors stake in products goes down to 1.5-5% however the turnover of successful products can be assumed to be much higher, resulting in more revenue for the inventors overall.

Currently on the Quirky website, alongside individual proposals for a self measuring salt shaker and a new type of clothes peg, are calls to submit ideas on the future of toys for Mattel, headphones for Harman, invitations to 'make products smarter' for GE and the introduction of a new brand, Poppy, an 'intelligent home appliance' brand developed in partnership with Amazon. 

“We’ve gone from being a company that only makes products for ourselves to a company that makes products for some of the largest brands in the world” 

We expect to see more of these partnerships as the year goes on - in April of the year Quirky acquired the creative management consultancy and innovation agency Undercurrent,  a move that demonstrates the dramatic shift to a client centred approach.

Quirky are walking a fine line between balancing the business needs of the large manufacturers while harnessing the hive-mind of their million strong community and maintaining the integrity of the independent inventors IP. If they can keep to their course and leverage their new connections with the big guys - this might be the year that Quirky finds its feet - we look forward to seeing what new products, brands and collaborations emerge as the business grows.