Here’s an interesting one. Quirky.com, launched in 2009, brings crowd-sourcing to the world of product design through an online community of inventors. Inventors post ideas for new products to the site to show off and get feedback on their design. After evaluation by Quirky, if the idea is determined to be feasible, the product moves into the development phase. Here users help to design the features of the product and develop the brand image, earning “influence points” along the way. If the product goes into production, users get a cut of the sales based on the amount of influence they earned while working on the project.
The business model behind this system is pretty crafty. First of all, Quirky charges $10 to post an idea on the site. Considering the number of ideas that get posted weekly, this generates a small but steady stream of cash for Quirky. The $10 charge is justified by the fact that if the product is successful inventors will recoup the cost quickly, and even if the product isn’t manufactured, the creator will still have gotten some good feedback on their design. Additionally, this is an effective means of preventing the site from getting cluttered with ideas that are essentially spam. Once a design is selected, Quirky is free to sit back and watch as the community develops the design of the product in exchange for influence points. To ensure that products will actually be profitable, Quirky requires that the product pre-sell to a certain threshold before it goes into manufacturing. Once sold, Quirky keeps 70 percent of the revenue and distributes the remaining 30 percent amongst the community based on earned influence points.
Inventors have the potential to make some good money through Quirky without having to worry about the details of actually creating the product—but this is rare. Most of the products found on Quirky are gimmicks and gadgets that would probably be found in your local Brookstone or Radio Shack; they’re cool but they don’t really sell. Users have made some real money according to the site’s leader boards, but the money-making opportunities for the average user are probably quite slim. Either way, check out the site. If you’ve got an idea that you’ve been itching to share with developers, $10 isn’t too bad. Or if you feel that you can offer up some great critique, fight for those influence points and hopefully you can start earning some cash on the side.