Leading multinational giant GE is no stranger to open innovation having backed campaigns seeking innovation in the medical field. The company's latest move brings them into partnership with Quirky.com, a venture that might be small in comparison but within a relatively short period has grown into a multi - million dollar enterprise. This David and Goliath team have announced the creation of an inspiration platform for inventors to browse through a selection of previously inaccessible patents and devise new consumer products.
To some, a behemoth company like GE partnering with a platform like Quirky might seem like an odd choice. Yet the sudden rise of Quirky, whose young founder Ben Kaufman is himself an inventor, makes the partnership an ideal one. At only 18 years of age Ben Kaufman convinced his parents to remortgage their home and loan him the sum of $185,000 to help fund the design for a prototype of a new form of headphones. This product a retractable lanyard headphone known as the Song Sling went onto to help Kaufman's company Morphie win Macworld's Best of Show award for 2006. The young inventor/entrepreneur returned to Macworld the following year and set up a basic version of what would become the working model for Quirky.
The ideas was simple; inventors pay a small fee (usually around $10) and submit their idea or design onto the platform. There they will be reviewed by Quirky's community of registered users, which number over 220,000, who will rate the design and offer any suggestions. Those that rank the highest are then reviewed by quirky's team of experts to assess it's uniqueness and market potential. On average the team select one to two ideas to per week for development into a product that will grace the shelves of some of the top name retail outlets. Quirky reviews as many as 120 products across a development cycle with more than 75 products on sale, and 35% of revenue sales going to the inventors. One of Kaufman's favourite products, the PowerCurl earned its inventor over $80,000.
Quirky's partnership with GE will help fuel their latest concept, the Inspiration platform through which inventors will have access to a portfolio of GE's selected patents. There is a potential barrier to some inventors not well versed with GE's technically rich and rigidly structured patents. This could make it difficult for some to extract key pieces of information to make any potential design viable. However the aim of making these patents available is to inspire and invigorate the inventor/entrepreneur, enriching Quirky's already established community and for GE access to some truly creative and innovative products.
Image Credits; KrossBow