By using the collective might of social networking, rapid prototyping, and advanced manufacturing, Quirky has created what has been described as the world’s most innovative consumer products company. “Anyone can be an inventor,” says founder and CEO Ben Kaufman. “We truly believe that. We open up invention to the world.”
In the course of a week Quirky fields some 2000 ideas—the kind people toss off in the cafeteria over lunch or sketch on a Starbucks napkin—from an online community of 600,000 would-be inventors. Working in small groups, the staff reviews each pitch and whittles the list down to roughly 15. On Thursday nights in the company’s New York City headquarters, a former brick warehouse outfitted with weathered wood floors, sleek glass walls, and lofty white ceilings, Kaufman assembles the staff and a handful of honored guests to help him choose two or three winners. (PopMech’s Jerry Beilinson is an occasional participant.) The online community observes the entire process on a live Internet feed, offering input along the way. After a few minutes of discussion Kaufman asks for a show of hands from the attendees seated in the eight rows of folding chairs in front of him.
Photographer: Ryan Pfluger
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