The Growing Pains of Quirky’s Innovative Business Model

 

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“We make invention accessible,” boasts Quirky, a company that develops products designed by everyday inventors through online submissions, and which currently offers 400+ products submitted by more than 1,000 inventors. It’s a complex, ambitious model for a startup– perhaps overly so.

Despite glowing reviews from a variety of publications, cracks are beginning to show in Quirky’s infrastructure. At Quirky’s most recent town hall forum, CEO Ben Kaufman acknowledged that customer service is under strain.

A tour at the end of the forum showed 3,200 emails sitting untouched in the company’s inbox, and delays in product distribution — consumers can expect at least seven extra days in processing and shipping from the order estimates.

But Quirky’s problems seem to go deeper, and may have also infiltrated the products, as some may have hit the market before they were ready. One example is Quirky’s take on the smart home by way of their Wink app, which claims to be able to control home devices with just a few taps on your smartphone.

“People are using it, and people are loving it,” Kaufman said of Wink at the forum, and touted gaudy numbers such as 1 million anticipated new users of Wink in 2015, along with 3.6 million Wink-related products shipped.

But when Gizmodo’s Adam Clark Estes received a large installation of state-of-the-art Wink-related products (worth about $4,500 total) to review, his assessment wasn’t glowing. With the exception of the window shades, none of the products functioned as advertised, and many didn’t work at all. This is in sharp contrast to Wink’s tagline “building a smart home is easier than ever before”, an assertion Estes deemed “misleading”.

On top of these setbacks, Kaufman admitted that the company was “not necessarily making money”. Although the Quirky community — inventors, developers, etc. — has collectively earned $9 million from product sales, Quirky itself has lost over $100 million.

One fix would be to scale down the sheer number of products accepted for development, a concept Kaufman says he is looking into. This could not only help with both service holdups and product quality, but also give Quirky some breathing room to save capital and only spend where necessary.

Overall the Quirky’s model is a novel idea, but one that may need adjustments if it wants to endure past 2015.

0 thoughts on “The Growing Pains of Quirky’s Innovative Business Model

  1. You are really nice to Quirky. I’ve been a member for five years now and everything that Quirky has finally figured out was told to them years ago! I put my neck out and made lots of comments about them moving too fast. Slow it down Ben! Concentrate on QUALITY AND NOT QUANTITY! But he was too busy getting in front of the camera and not manning the ship. I knew Quirky wasn’t making money years ago. Too much cash infusion happened for them to be making money. Over pricing the products they sold didn’t help much. For the life of me I begged them to listen to what I was saying from my soapbox. But all the fanboys and girls outnumbered me. Those are the members who have products picked by Quirky and don’t want to rock the boat.

    It got to the point where I think I was Blacklisted from ever getting a product past the 1st round. I made those claims because I was so vocal in trying to get them to understand that what they’re trying to do just wont work long term. I’ve put up over 230 product ideas into their system and they ignored all of them. Some I’ll admit were just fillers and junk, but many of them are very good product ideas. yet they continue to make crappy products that no one wants.

    Who needs a lemon (stem) spritzer? Like you can’t squeeze a lemon yourself or buy real lemon juice? You’ll never come close to getting all the juice out with that thing. Yet they pick that as innovation. And to make matters worse, some of us in the more vocal community found out that the product already existed before Quirky made it. Here are more of Quirky’s blunderous innovation wisdom;

    A thing that whistles when water boils…. Uhh ever heard of a tea kettle? A bangle bracelet maker that’s not even invention?… And then there are those oversized platform shoe thingies for reaching on and over the top of your car when washing it by hand….You can find lots of these products on Quirky. None of them you need or want! I think the whole team needs to fired and then start all over fresh because it’s the staff that makes the product selection.

    Yet Ben’s next move is to keep the same airheads and move onto Quirky 2.0 in hopes that the system will work out… Heres a bright idea Ben! My Universal Multi-pod submission. Something that people would use and want. There’s nothing like it on the market. But yet the staff will look at who submitted it and then go no way!

    Which is another reason Quirky needed to have access to the hundreds of millions in ATM cash they burned through. Nepotism has been rampant there for years. Friends and family, business partners, lovers can get there products fast tracked through the checkpoints, and the CEO does nothing. Even when it was exposed by the community they didn’t care, they just went on doing it without a care in the world. Yet the investors kept the cash flowing. Mostly because of the crapshoot that they might score another pivot power. Which btw is just redesign of another expanding power strip.

    You see Quirky’s problems are at the top, it’s fundamental idea that they can pick what we all want from the thousands of products idea they see a week is doomed when they focus on the wrong things. Pay attention to ideas that are not the easy ones to make. Plastic gizmos are easy and cheap to make, but people are sick of buying cheap junk. Stop choosing simple and fast and make Quality stuff. And Ben leave the TV appearances for a time when your empire makes money.

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As an athlete with a neuro-astro-legal background, my writing interests involve just about everything. Current hobbies include kickboxing, Netflix binge-watching, and concocting the perfect mac n' cheese recipe.

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