A Crowdsourcing Community for Inventors AND Influencers!

You walk into your bathroom early morning; half awake and BOOM…your foot hits the bathroom scale! Your toe is red and you think angrily, I wish there was a way to fold away this stupid scale! You then go on with your business, and off to the rest of your day, forgetting about this idea that might have been your missed million dollar opportunity.

How many times have we had those very brief and passing thoughts that usually start with “I wish that item ABC could do XYZ…life would be much easier”? But we never give too much thought to them because most of us think that our ideas have no market value. This is exactly what the social media site quirky.com is all about.

I stumbled upon this amazing website when someone on my Twitter account was advertising for his “invention” through quirky.com. So I curiously right-clicked, opened a new tab, and started reading what Quirky is all about. To my amazement, I found an incredible community!

Quirky is a group of “Inventors” that have such “I wish…” thoughts for little gadgets.  They suggest their ideas to a mass audience called “Influencers” whom, with the help of the site’s administrators, guide the invention process and refine it through different stages until it is ready to be produced and sold.

At this final stage, a minimum number of products have to be pre-ordered to justify the mass production, after which the “Inventor” gets about 30 percent of the sales, quirky.com takes another 30 percent for their investment in design time (quite significant, about $100,000 for some products), and the rest is divided amongst all the “Influencers” that helped make it happen.

So, I quickly registered using Facebook (how convenient!) and started influencing product ideas  that I thought would be useful. To be frank with you, after helping with a few products, I found that the monetary gain is not that attractive.  It’s the thought and feeling of having successfully influenced a product until production that seem the most gratifying. And therein lies the power of this digital community!

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What I really love about this company is its openness. The owner and his team are in direct relation with their members and are honest and straight forward with everyone. Everyone has tons of fun suggesting and influencing products, and comments are accepted as constructive criticism that allow for great products to emerge.

Now, how is intellectual property managed? I won’t go in details but the site is also very clear about that as well, and stipulates that the entire idea becomes Quirky’s property (unless there are patents of course).  Quirky is free to leverage the idea as it wills, always rewarding the inventor and influencers of course. This is the perfect example of an efficient crowdsourcing process.

This seems to work for smaller gadgets now, but could this basic and instinctive process be the next PLM standardized evolution?

Next time you start a thought with “I wish…” try to take note of it, you never know, it might be the next big thing!



  • It costs you 10 dollars to submit an idea. Did you know that? Wow, what a business. Pay to give them ideas that might be used to make a lot of money. It is a win win for the web site builders. No thanks on this one.

  • Hey,

    Thanks for your comment. Indeed you are absolutely right about that point except for one thing. You do not have to pay $10 for every invention submitted, which is the reason why I forgot to mention your point (my bad!).
    See, if you submit an idea that is related to a specific topic of their choice, you don’t pay a dime. However, if you really think you’ve got the next big thing, and you need some help to get it evaluated in the market, AND it is not related to a specific topic of their choice, you do have to pay $10 which I find fair.
    For example, I’ve submitted to quirky about three times and I did not have to pay anything. I actually never paid them anything yet (maybe one day).
    This month’s topic is camera accessories, if you think you’ve got a good idea for a camera accessory, submission is free.
    Thank you for reading and mentioning out this important point! Have a good week!

  • I think the future of crowd-sourcing is fascinating. Co-incidence – I just wrote about Quirky- http://beyondplm.com/2011/04/12/noplm-and-quirky-social-product-development/.

    Last year, I had a chance to discuss crowd-sourcing and engineering marketplace on my blog too – http://beyondplm.com/2010/10/14/marketplaces-and-engineering-software/

    Best, Oleg

  • Thanks Oleg,
    As you said it is indeed facinating. The key will be in the hands of the one that makes it an enjoyable experience. CATIA V6 allows for live collaboration with webcams, chat and history logging (like GoogleDocs), I can’t wait to see how other PLM vendors shift their strategies in that direction. PTC seems promising, I hope they won’t delay deployment once more!!

  • Yaser, I think asynchronous collaboration (not live) is actually more promising. Most of the people are NOT working at the same time. However, to have an access to other member’s activities and coordinate – this is what needed. Just my thoughts… Best, Oleg

  • Hey Oleg! Thanks for your comment! 🙂

    Your thoughts definitely make sense although live collaboration can unlock some doors asynchronous collaboration cannot… so I’d say we need both: just like e-mails and video chats at work, sometimes you need to speak directly to your co-worker.

    If you look at e-mails and live chats (like MSN or Skype for example) they are meant to fulfill different needs but both are needed, although not at the same time.

    What do you think?

  • It is interesting to see this type of business model becoming so successful in our new global economy. The original concept actually started with a company called CrowdSpirit, but they have since disappeared. I will be keeping my eyes open as new companies join the Quirky space and begin competing (if not indirectly) with one another. Such as Vancouver based Big Dreams Big ideas