Have you ever had a great idea for an invention but wasn’t sure how to make it a reality? That’s what Quirky.com is all about. This New York based startup is literally the stuff dreams are made of.
“We started the company to make invention accessible,” says founder and CEO Ben Kaufman. “People come to our site, submit their ideas, and the best new ideas make their way all the way to retail shelves and we do all the heavy lifting in between.”
Kaufman came up with the idea for Quirky in 2005 when he was a frustrated high school student trying to create iPod accessories.
That led to him creating Mophie, a company that now makes add-ons for the iPhone. He sold the company for an undisclosed amount in 2007.
“I wanted to build a business where the best product ideas in the world actually got out there into the world,” Kaufman told Breakout. “So we started the company to make sure that no matter what disciplines you know or don’t know, you’re augmented by both an expert team and a community that can make sure your product idea gets out there.”
Community is key for Quirky. Every idea submitted online is screened and voted on by Quirky employees and an active group of online users during weekly meetings that are streamed from its New York headquarters.
Once a product gets the green light, the online community submits ideas about everything from the color of the product to the name and tagline. If your idea is selected you become a part owner of the project and receive royalties for every unit sold.
It’s a new business model, one that weighs all opinions equally. Not even the CEO can stop a good idea from moving forwards.
“Bandits is a rubber band with a hook,” Kaufman uses as an example, “There is video of me saying this is a terrible idea no one will ever buy this. We’ve gone on to sell tens of millions of rubber bands with a hook.”
But perhaps Quirly’s bggest success story so far is the Pivot Power. It puts your ordinary power strip to shame with the ability to bend in different directions allowing you to fit all your plugs, big and small, on one strip.
“Everyone asks what makes a successful product,” Kaufman says, “I think the biggest commonality is that it solves a problem everybody has. “
The problem solver behind the Pivot Power is 24-year-old Jake Zien.
“I think it was just one too many minutes spent fiddling with plugs under my desk and trying to get them all in the strip,” he says. “During a summer product design program at the age of about 17 I came up with this idea for a flexible power strip.”
That one idea has sold more than 600,000 units since Quirky sent it to market in 2011 and had made Jake more than $388,000.
We’re not just inventing new products,” says Quriky’s Kaufman, “we’re inventing a new way to do business and we work everyday to try to hone that and figure it out. I don’t think we’ve quite nailed it yet, but everyday we get better and better.”
And as they improve Kaufman has his sights set on some lofty goals. “In five years, I would like Quirky to be the best consumer product company in the world,” he says. “In ten years I would like us to build the spaceship that brings us to Mars.”
More from Breakout: