Got a cool invention idea? Quirky takes your concept and turns it into a real product -- and pays you too

Mar 31, 2011 By Eric Gwinn

What are you going to do with that can't-miss gadget idea you've had in your head all these years?

You can continue to let it sit till someone else makes it, or you can go through the hassle and expense of designing the thing, making a prototype, trying to get someone to manufacture it and bugging some retailer to buy a bunch and put them on the shelves.

Or you can pay $10 and suggest your to Quirky, which just might build it and get it into stores - and hand you some cash for your troubles.

That's how Brian Shy, 29, of Chicago made about $3,000 over the past 18 months - "not bad for not really doing anything."

Quirky accepts ideas from anyone with $10 to spend, and members vote on their favorites. Every week, Quirky looks at the ideas with the highest feedback and potential to succeed, and holds a wild Friday afternoon staff meeting where Quirky's 40 workers plead, cajole and vote for their favorites. Two are picked and analyzed for their potential success, then the product design team makes a mockup.

Products usually must sell for $150 or less - the higher the value of the idea, the more complexity, and the more cost in getting it made.

The item then goes on presale, when anyone on quirky.com can commit to ordering it. If the item gets enough presales, it goes into production, the money comes in and Quirky shares it with the inventor and any other Quirky visitors who suggested how to make it better, so-called influencers.

Sometimes, before the presale concludes, Quirky finds a retailer - such as Fry's Electronics; Bed, Bath and Beyond; Amazon; OfficeMax; Home Shopping Network and others - who'll order the product at wholesale and sell it at retail. Again, Quirky shares income with inventors and influencers.

Quirky is a community of everyday people who like inventing everyday problem-solvers. If you're not feeling inventive, you can earn influence by commenting on others' ideas and proposing ways to improve the product. The more you contribute, the more you'll get out of it.

That's how Shy made his money, in what he described as a series of highs and lows. He pitched Quirky the idea of Digits, little stubs for the fingertips of your gloves, so you can easily use your iPhone or other portable gadget in the Chicago's frigid winters.

"I submitted idea year and a half ago," he said, "and got a lot of positive feedback but lost at first" - even good ideas can be outvoted. "Losing it's a humbling experience."

He resubmitted and had his idea picked - "an awesome surprise" - then Digits sat in presale for a year because preorders lagged - "That sucks." Just when Shy thought his project would never receive enough preorders to be made, "Quirky, working behind the scenes, announced retail partners had picked it up and it would be in my hands in a month. Very cool."

But the highs and lows didn't stop there. Next came the roller coaster of seeing his invention, his baby, in real life:

"I can't explain it. It was amazing. I got the box - looks cool. When I was opening it, I was hoping that it's awesome but worried that it's crappy. Then I started testing them on different phones, trying to find flaws, but it was really responsive, better than using my fingertips. I was happy with outcome and felt great. A bunch of friends and family bought them."

Quirky is the invention of Ben Kaufman, a social-network-savvy inventor who wanted to help others by coming up with a process "that's not left up to luck or pedigree, but whether or not it was a good idea."

"I don't have to think of products anymore," he says. "I get more of a kick helping people become inventors than being an inventor myself."

Knowing what inventors go through, he offers generous revenue-sharing with and those who help an idea come to life.

"We want to be fair businesspeople," he says, adding that the revenue sharing "is 10 times better than if you did it on your own. And we still make money."

A win-win? Check it out for yourself at quirky.com.

Explore further: Britain's UKIP issues online rules after gaffes

3 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mathematicians prove the Umbral Moonshine Conjecture

Dec 15, 2014

Monstrous moonshine, a quirky pattern of the monster group in theoretical math, has a shadow - umbral moonshine. Mathematicians have now proved this insight, known as the Umbral Moonshine Conjecture, offering ...

Quirky and GE unveil seven products for smart home

Nov 12, 2014

New York-based Quirky and GE have seven new smart home products. Each product represents the building blocks of an affordable and accessible smart home, said the Quirky CEO, Ben Kaufman. The other special ...

Is our solar system weird?

Jul 18, 2014

Is our Solar System normal? Or is it weird? How does the Solar System fit within the strange star systems we've discovered in the Milky Way so far?

Twitter tweaks website to attract new users

Apr 09, 2014

As Twitter looks to broaden its appeal beyond its 241 million users, the company is introducing a redesign of profile pages that includes bigger photos, more user controls and a distinct resemblance to Facebook.

Employers step in to prevent worker burnout

Dec 03, 2013

Volkswagen turns off some employees' email 30 minutes after their shifts end. Goldman Sachs is urging junior staff to take weekends off. BMW is planning new rules that will keep workers from being contacted ...

Recommended for you

Britain's UKIP issues online rules after gaffes

15 hours ago

UK Independence Party (UKIP), the British anti-European Union party, has ordered a crackdown on the use of social media by supporters and members following a series of controversies.

Sony saga blends foreign intrigue, star wattage

15 hours ago

The hackers who hit Sony Pictures Entertainment days before Thanksgiving crippled the network, stole gigabytes of data and spilled into public view unreleased films and reams of private and sometimes embarrassing ...

Digital dilemma: How will US respond to Sony hack?

Dec 18, 2014

The detective work blaming North Korea for the Sony hacker break-in appears so far to be largely circumstantial, The Associated Press has learned. The dramatic conclusion of a Korean role is based on subtle ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Skepticus
not rated yet Mar 31, 2011
1st April
KingDWS
not rated yet Apr 03, 2011
Nope March 31.

If you look into this it can be said to be a bit of a scam or at best a waste of time. Trying not to disparage anyone's idea but when you see the successful projects it does make you really wonder if the potential lives up to the excessive hype. A friend went through the process which is free but was told his product wasn't what they were looking for even though it was exactly what the guidelines had mentioned. I would have rather invested in that instead of a movie short of the sex lives of the common office stapler.I really wouldn't expect much if anything from using this as a result. Your mileage may vary but no far from zero.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.