Got a Product Idea? Quirky Makes it Real, Makes You Money

PHOTO ?Social product development? site Quirky helps bring product ideas out of people?s heads and into consumers? hands.

It was just an idea tossed around the dinner table a few months ago.

Jenny Tyler, 32, was out with three iPhone-toting friends who wished that their phones had a camera flash like Tyler's BlackBerry.

So, throughout the evening, the group played armchair inventor and came up with the concept of an iPhone case with a built-in flash. And instead of letting the idea die after that night (as most do), Tyler logged in to Quirky.com.

The Web site, which calls itself a "social product development company," lets anyone propose or influence a product idea. The site's users then help refine the products, and they all have a chance to profit.

Each week, the site's registered users vote to greenlight one pitch for development and then continue to weigh in until a tangible, packaged product is ready for the marketplace.

When the product goes on sale, each person who played a role in its development earns a cut of the profit proportionate to his or her contribution.

The site charges a fee for users to propose products, but in turn the inventors gain access to creative and manufacturing resources that could otherwise be expensive.

Inventor: Quirky Product Could Be Primary Source of Income

Tyler, who lives in Vancouver, Canada, decided to give it a shot. She paid the $99 fee to submit a product proposal, spent a week lobbying and rallying support on the site and, ultimately, her idea was greenlighted.

Now, she said, the final product -- the "Beamer" -- is only a couple of weeks away from reaching consumers' hands and starting to make her money.

"People don't realize how much work it is to bring a product to market," said Tyler, founder and CEO of Innovative Air Quality, a company that sells a real-time environmental monitoring system that she invented.

Between raising enough capital and figuring out the production process and more, it took her 10 years of "sweat and tears" to get her first invention off the ground, she said. With Quirky, she invested just one week of work.

Now she expects profits from the Beamer to be her primary source of income.

Every time someone buys the $38 device, she'll pocket about $5. It's already reached about 1,000 orders in pre-sale, and given the buzz the product has generated in the blogosphere, she's hopeful it soon becomes a hot seller.

Entrepreneur Develops Group Decision-Making Software

Quirky, which launched six months ago, is the brainchild of 23-year-old entrepreneur Ben Kaufman.

In high school, Kaufman convinced his parents to remortgage their home to give him $185,000 to fund his first invention -- retractable lanyard earbuds for the the iPod shuffle. That single invention led the creation of Mophie, a popular brand of iPhone and iPod products and a new approach to innovation.

"I took a step back and noticed that the industry was over-crowded and decided to become a brand," said Kaufman. "We let customers design products."

At the 2007 MacWorld Expo, a giant conference for all things Apple, Mophie invited conference attendees to doodle ideas for the company's next product and then vote on them.

The conferees came up with a product called the Bevy, an iPod case that includes a keychain and bottle opener, which reportedly sold by the tens of thousands all around the world.

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