Posting in Technology
The inventor of this ice scraper unsuccessfully spent 10 years trying to get his idea commercialized. Then he decided to give it to the Quirky community.
The inventor of the ice scraper pictured above unsuccessfully spent 10 years trying to get his idea marketed, patented the concept and approaching both manufacturers and distributors before he decided to toss it to the Quirky community for good measure. Although the product that eventually emerged, called Thor, looks quite different from his initial concept and prototype, engineer Jim Johnstone said the crowdsourced invention model that Quirky offers helped validate his vision. "Sometimes there are ideas that are way beyond the capacity of an individual to bring to life," Johnstone said.
The concept of Quirky is pretty simple. As the video below explains, the platform allows inventors to share an idea with the community. The community, in turn, offers feedback and suggestions for refinement. Every week, the community rates ideas that it thinks have a shot of becoming commercially viable, offers pricing suggestions and the Quirky team meets each week to decide which ones will move forward. Quirky's founder created the site after his own challenging experience getting a product to market. The crowdsourcing community now greenlights approximately one product every few days.
Tiffany Markofsky, Quirky's director of communications, said the site receives thousands of submissions every week, many of them from inventors with multiple ideas. Approximately 40 percent of the community comes from outside the United States. Products that move forward are marketed under the Quirky brand name; the company focuses not so much on flash branding but on highlighting the specific problem that the invention solves, she said. Products are shipped to more than 20 different countries; you can buy them online and Quirky has now forged plenty of relationships with high-profile retailers.
Johnstone, who works a day job in Urbana, Ill., said once he got past the realization that he would need to share the revenue generated by his idea, he was willing to cede some control of his idea to the community. He hopes to submit more ideas in the future. There are three big reasons he believes other inventors should consider the Quirky model:
- The community will offer useful refinement suggestions and feedback suggestions that can make a product more commercially viable. In Johnstone's case, Thor originally didn't have a handle. Now, it has one that is adjustable so that you can reach farther over the windshield while scraping.
- Retailers and manufacturers will take a cut of your idea anyway; it may be more appealing to share the profits with a community of entrepreneurs.
- The start-up expenses of manufacturing and sourcing prototypes, and developing a marketing campaign are cost-prohibitive for an individual -- especially someone who invents things on the side and not as a full-time occupation.
Feb 2, 2012
Although we are huge Quirky fans, the downside that still bothers me is that these entrepreneurs - such as the one in the article who invested10 years with his idea - walk away with very little of the upside. Leaves me wondering why they are not all using sites like ours (http://peerbackers.com) where they can pre-sell their items (ie., use them as the pledge "rewards") to generate the cash they need to manufacture. We are also developing relationships with retailers to help in the sell-through but either way, seems like crowdfunding would be an option that leaves them with 100% ownership in their product.
Full disclosure - I've had 3 ideas picked by Quirky last year. I realize the upside is limited, but I don't have the means to fully design, add innovation, market, manufacture and distribute or license. And what if the idea doesn't sell? It's just that Quirky takes all their expertise, and all the risk, so really while the upside might be limited in certain cases, there's virtually no downside.