Quirky Opens Up
Quirky is a platform for invention. Unlike many platforms, though, until recently it only had one customer… its own consumer brand.
For years, the idea of partnering with another brand and allowing them to tap into our invention machine rubbed us the wrong way. We were so protective of our community, that the risk of an outside brand betraying their trust seemed too high. Since our launch in 2009 we have been frequently approached by some of the world’s largest companies — hoping to tap into the power of our community and bring new products to life. To some it was a marketing schtick — to others, a way to augment a shrinking internal team — to us, it was always a non-starter.
We resisted each one of these inbound requests with great effort. We believed very deeply that every prospective partner would endanger our community. We thought that the introduction of third parties would make it harder to protect our community’s IP, assure royalties were paid, etc. On a personal note, my lack of what a friend calls “frustration tolerance” led me to believe that within a month of working with a global brand i’d tell ‘em to go fuck themselves — which would ruin the partnership and reflect poorly on the community.
Then in 2012, a small company called Undercurrent introduced us to a big company called GE.
GE was the company I idolized. The original invention company. The company that in many respects, we were attempting to build in modern form. They truly believed in us and for a company like GE, we were willing to look past all of the risks. We embarked on an expansive partnership with them in early 2013.
Our partnership with GE was (and continues to be) deeply transformative for Quirky. Not only did we learn a lot about technology and engineering from them, we learned a lot about ourselves.
We quickly learned that we (together with our community) were capable of taking on a much more sophisticated type of invention (not just the small plastic stuff we had been commercializing earlier). We realized that our way of working taught GE how to be a bit faster and more responsive to consumer trends. Most importantly, the partnership opened us up to an enormous opportunity — our community inventing alongside a company like GE. This was a huge milestone in our never ending quest to “Make Invention Accessible.”
You see, by the middle of last year the “invention” part of “Making Invention Accessible” was becoming the easy part. The “accessible” bit was becoming increasingly difficult (as we were operating a full stack invention brand across 12 consumer product categories):
- We were receiving more ideas every single week, but only manufacturing the same amount (or less) of product every year given the increase in product complexity that we were taking on. Quickly making Quirky more of a lottery than a meritocracy.
- While we were manufacturing a lot of products across different categories, many of the products did not sell because of a lack of distribution in the category, or a lack of scale that could provide competitive pricing to the consumer / retailer.
- The Quirky name / brand wasn’t right for every category. No one wants a ‘quirky’ home appliance, they want a ‘good’ one.
We realized that to “Make Invention Accessible” across all categories of consumer products, we can’t do it on our own and that partners like GE bring a massive amount of opportunity (and accessibility) to our Inventors.
Introducing Powered by Quirky
Announced earlier this year, “PbQ” will allow some of the world’s largest consumer product brands to tap into the creative excellence and speed of the Quirky community.
Quirky will continue to own the full value chain in categories that represent emerging invention opportunities (Connected Appliances, Connected Home, and Electronics). It will launch consumer products under brands solely focused on excellence in their category- See for example our recently launched Poppy brand.
In all other categories, Quirky will have a partner brand. For instance, you won’t be surprised to hear that our partner in lighting is GE. ☺.
Last week, we announced that Harman and their consumer brands (JBL, AKG, Infinity, etc) will be our partner in the Audio category.
Later this week and in the coming weeks and months, we will be announcing many more partnerships with global brands. Each partnership representing a large brand’s belief in the Quirky community’s ability to provide them with a level of creativity and speed that they would not be able to achieve on their own.
Powered by Quirky partnerships will allow us to scale into an infinite amount of categories while leveraging the consumer trust and scale already present in brands like GE and JBL.
This represents an enormous opportunity for our community, and provides Quirky with the ability to stay absolutely true to its mission without the costs and brand constraints that were present in our ‘own everything’ model.
The Acquisition of Undercurrent
My lack of patience for corporate bullshit is alive and well, however. Which is why I’m incredibly excited to announce that Quirky has acquired Undercurrent, a company founded by Josh Spear & Rob Schuham in 2007.
You see, not only was Undercurrent the company that introduced us to GE many years ago- but they were there all along the way. Every time it seemed like GE and Quirky weren’t understanding each other, Undercurrent jumped in and helped us push through…
They acted as translator, mediator, coach, and therapist for both sides of the partnership.
Undercurrent is one of those things that is incredibly hard to explain until you see it in action. The 33 members of their amazing team help the country’s largest companies prepare for and embrace our ever-changing world. Quite simply, their work inside these large companies greatly reduces all the forces that stand in the way of a great idea being implemented by anyone, anywhere in the organization.
Aaron Dignan, Undercurrent’s CEO will join Quirky and run our Powered by Quirky business. He and his team will assure that our partners are fully embracing all that the platform and community has to offer. Undercurrent will also continue the organizational design work that they have become known for over the past 8 years.
Building an Invention machine is complex, and often unpredictable. One thing has remained constant in the last six years, and that is our belief in our mission (Making Invention Accessible), and our community (now 1.2 million people strong).
We love the fact that “Making Invention Accessible” isn’t a goal that can ever be attained, and will remain tireless in our desire to make progress every day.
I truly believe that of all the things we’ve done in the past six years — the introduction of strong partner brands and the deployment of Undercurrent’s methodology within partner companies will have the most profound effect on the accessibility of invention since our inception.
Here’s to an “Ever Better Future” of “Making Invention Accessible”