Why Our Little Dustpan Company Is Jumping Into The Connected Home.

The story behind Quirky’s investment in the connected home, and the launch of Wink.

The New York Times recently broke the news that Quirky will be setting up a standalone company that will provide a platform for connected devices. For those who don’t know us so well, or just see our products (like our dustpans, and powerstrips) on the shelves of Target and The Home Depot— the move may seem odd.

Following our tradition of letting people peek behind the curtain, here’s the full story of why we’re playing in an extremely competitive space— and why I believe we’re well positioned.

Why Quirky Exists:

I started Quirky over five years ago with a simple 3 word mission. I say it so repetitively that the Quirky team has practically made it into a drinking game….. “how long until Ben says…”

Making Invention Accessible

Drilling down deeper, we’ve come to believe that there are two big things driving the inaccessibility of Invention:

The Creation Of Invention- We believe the best ideas in the world are not actually in the world, they are locked in peoples heads. There are tremendous barriers and skills needed to successfully launch a consumer product idea and it is truly preventing us all from seeing the best the world can offer.

… Our community of close to a million creative people and inventors have been working together to tear down these obstacles. We have been building three great new consumer products per week for several years- by simply unlocking the creativity of the world.

The Adoption of Invention- Invention, while awesome- is often hard to understand and grasp. Often times it takes years for technologies to propagate off of the coasts and into the real world.

…. Our investment in platforms such as Wink will hopefully allow the general public to adopt invention at a greater rate.

Our Beginnings:

While you may think our roots in spoons and dustpans are a disadvantage to entering this incredibly tech focused & crowded space, it’s precisely the opposite.

Quirky is an incredibly complex machine. In the end, it’s truly a company focused on the execution of consumer product ideas— and that’s not easy.

We are a Product Design Firm, Manufacturing Company, Retail Distributor, Social Platform, Marketing Agency, and Engineering team all bundled into one nice little package.

We’ve kept a generally low profile for five years while we have built up all of the necessary disciplines to deliver invention. Each year that went by we increased the level of sophistication of the products we brought to market.

We are not ashamed of our rubber bands with hooks. We are proud of our egg yolk sucker, and we are damn glad to have solved the frustrating problem of your power bricks not fitting into your power strip…. These products are not only real things that the world has asked for (and probably wouldn’t exist without us) but they have allowed us to quietly build and tune a machine that will, as time goes on, consistently deliver invention of increasing impact.

How Wink Came To Be:

In early 2013 we began to see a trend within our community that connected devices were going to play a large part in the future of consumer products. By mid 2013 roughly 20% of our idea submissions were in the connected realm.

When we started to bring some of these ideas to life early last year- we had to design an app and a set of cloud software. The vision was that one app would allow dozens of products to all work together with one simple interface.

This effort was headed up by Nathan Smith, who previously held the position of CTO at Quirky.

As soon as we began to show the Wink app to retailers and partners, we realized that we were uniquely positioned in an extremely underdeveloped marketplace:

  • As a community company, we believe deeply in open architectures- something few others in the space truly embraced.
  • We are truly a hardware company born on the internet. Not a internet company trying to get into hardware, or a hardware company trying to get on the internet.
  • The retail community trusted Quirky, after 5 years of servicing them with transparency and grit.
  • We are a design lead organization and always put consumer experience first (read: we are just as much focused on the art as we are the science)

Around September of last year we tossed around the idea of setting up Wink as a standalone business focused on making connected devices accessible. We contacted some of the world’s largest consumer product companies to gauge their interest in allowing us to help them on the software side of their connected hardware efforts.

The response was positive. We knew the work would be difficult, but “someone had to do it”

Quirky incorporated Wink as a wholly owned subsidiary in early November of last year.

Since then Wink has built a truly phenomenal team— and taken on one of the hardest user experience and technological challenges in the market today— patch cabling the connected world.

Why this makes sense for Quirky:

To make invention truly accessible to consumers (not just inventors), Quirky needs to invest in platforms.

The original invention machine (our friends at GE) proved this to be true:

During the great depression no one could afford to buy GE’s great new appliances— so GE needed to build a platform to make their invention accessible— that was the beginning of GE Capital/Finance… one of GE’s strongest businesses.

The world is becoming more connected and there is nothing connecting the great things that already exist in the marketplace. Wink is here to bridge the gap and make this category truly consumer friendly.

Wink is the key to Making Connected Devices Accessible—- one of the most important categories of invention today.

Our launch of Wink will not affect Quirky’s consumer product machine- but will bring us closer to achieving our overall corporate mission … To Make Invention Accessible.

How Wink will work:

We were able to build Wink because of our amazing partnership with The Home Depot, GE, and over a dozen of the world’s top consumer product manufacturers.

Wink is only as powerful as its partners allow it to be and we are lucky to have some of the best partners one could ask for. Together they make up nearly all of the key household items from the most trusted brands in the marketplace. Most importantly, because of their scale, our partners are able to deliver product at an extremely reasonable price— something this category has previously struggled with.

Wink will work with everyone, including some of Quirky’s largest competitors (which is why we spun it out to be its own business with its own leadership and physical location).

Wink will be truly open to all and accepting of all of the standards and protocols that exist in today’s market.

Wink’s goal is to hide all that techie stuff from consumers so all they see is a great product packed with a great user experienced connected by Wink.

We believe the Wink platform will open up the connected world to millions of consumers who want it and can be helped by it—but currently cannot afford it or do not understand it.

Important Notes:

To answer some of the questions that are out there:

Wink is not owned by GE. it’s wholly owned by Quirky, and operated as a Standalone entity (Wink has their own office, leadership team, etc).

Wink is no longer an app for just Quirky & GE products- it’s an app for all brands and all products.

Wink does not (and will not) favor Quirky, we will be treated like any other brand/partner.