The crowdsourced product developer aims to boost production--and build more in the U.S.
Ben Kaufman, founder of Quirky
Ben Kaufman’s company may be called Quirky, but investors haven’t shied away from making big bets on it.
The company, which makes products whose designs are crowdsourced from customers, on Thursday announced a $68 million round of Series C funding, led by big-name venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers.
The funding will enable the company to launch new product categories and introduce more products per week, says Kaufman. Right now, the bulk of Quirky’s products are tech accessories and housewares, but he hopes to engage inventors in other areas, such as outdoor accessories and baby products. “We are going to build as many invention machines as the world can support,” he told Inc.
As part of the deal Quirky adds two high-profile investors to its board: Scott Weiss, general partner of Andreessen Horowitz, and Mary Meeker, general partner at Kleiner Perkins.
Crowdsourcing the Design Process
Kaufman, 25, founded Quirky in 2009 as a vehicle for aspiring inventors to see their ideas developed. Designers submit product ideas on the company's website; the ideas are then put to a vote by the site’s community of more than 250,000 users. Quirky’s staff selects two of those top-rated ideas for production each week. Community members then have the opportunity to suggest design modifications, as well as colors and pricing.
Everyone who contributes to the development process receives a share of the product’s sales.
Since its founding, Quirky has released more than 200 products, which are sold on its site as well as at chains such as Bed Bath & Beyond and Target. This year, Kaufman says, he expects it to surpass $20 million in sales--a big jump from Quirky's 2011 total of $6 million.
With its new round of funding, Quirky also plans to bring more of its manufacturing to the U.S. The company still makes most of its products in China, but recently, it has begun working with factories in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and North Carolina.
Kaufman believes that by expanding those partnerships, he can do his part to revitalize the economy. “There’s empty and struggling manufacturing plants across this entire country,” he says. “We think there’s no better way to put these guys back to work.”