Reinventing Invention: Quirky Lets You Be a Modern-Day Edison

Mashable Mar 19, 2013 Back to press

Ever had a great idea but not known where to start to bring it to reality? Or you've had a great idea and went through hell to bring it to fruition? Ben Kaufman experienced the latter — he founded Mophie, the iPhone juice pack case, in 2005.

To launch Mophie, Kaufman had his parents re-mortgage their house, but once he had money is his hands, he realized there were more hoops to jump through — manufacturing, supply chain, retail and more.

"The odds are just stacked against you, and that led to a realization that the products that are on retail shelves at Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond aren't the best ideas in the world

"The odds are just stacked against you, and that led to a realization that the products that are on retail shelves at Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond aren't the best ideas in the world, they're just the ideas of people who have access to those shelves, and that just didn't seem right," says Kaufman. "I realized that there is a big opportunity to make invention accessible, and to start a company that had a mission statement of just that."

Kaufman founded Quirky in 2009, and the company has since grown to 110 people, sent 313 products to market, worked with 188 retail partners and developed a 373,000-strong community, fueled by more than $91 million in venture funding (2012 revenues topped $20 million). The Quirky team brings a product to market every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at noon, and the entire Quirky process is extremely collaborative. First, people submits an idea and the community votes it up or down. On Thursday nights, the Quirky team livestreams a process in which they evaluate the top ~15 products of the week and pick three to five to work on. As Quirky's product designers and industrial engineers go to work, the community pitches in with branding feedback — if their idea or input is accepted, the user earns "influence," which translates to real dollars when units are sold.

How much can you actually make on the site? One of Quirky's most prolific community members is Marc Zech, a copywriter in Hamburg, Germany, who was one of the site's first members and has ideated 12 successful products so far, raking in $45,971. "Everything he touches is gold, and everything he touches, I think is stupid," says Kaufman. Perhaps simplicity is underrated — simple gadgets that solve universal problems sell like crazy, so much so that a Quirky store is in the works, though Kaufman declines to divulge any timeline details.

Mashable sat down with Kaufman at the Quirky digs he designed himself, where he spoke with us about Edison, simplicity and manufacturing the future.

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