Much like it is for entrepreneurs, being an inventor isn’t easy. From the moment that magic light bulb appears, product developers have to navigate a bumpy road of financing, engineering, legalities, patents and more. As a result, many great ideas never see the light of day. Quirky is on a mission to help the Idea Men and Women of the world bring their ideas to life. In fact, the startup aims to bring two consumer products to market each week, along with building an online community and a communication network around inventors.
Back in August, the three-year-old product development network raised $16 million in Series B and today is adding more coin to its coffers with a sizable $68 million series C round, led by Andreessen Horowitz. Kleiner Perkins is also a “significant participant” in the round and is joined by previous investors Norwest Venture Partners and RRE Ventures. The round brings Quirky’s total funding to $97 million.
So why all the excitement from VCs? Quirky is building a platform that intends to redefine product development by pairing inventors and creatives to its growing in-house team of product designers, engineers and manufacturing and retail professionals. The startup’s team focuses on two ideas each week and helps their founders bring the ideas to market. Since 2009, the team has developed over 200 products that have made it into stores like Target, Staples, OfficeMax and Bad, Bath & Beyond and its community has grown to over 250K-strong. The average product has 800 contributors.
In May this year, Quirky teamed up with GE to launch a contest that asked the community to pitch ideas for how everyday objects could be improved with technology. Somewhat surprisingly, the winner was a smart milk jug. Yes, a milk jug called, fittingly, the “Milkmaid.” The futuristic milk container basically tracks (and displays) whether or not the milk therein is turning sour. When the pH dips below normal, the jug (really, its base) sends a text to the owner’s smartphone to tell them to start crying over sour milk.
It’s actually pretty cool. (Find Chris’s coverage here.) Obviously, the Milkmaid serves as a perfect example of how Quirky is trying to bring technology and smart design to everyday products with the help of an on-demand design and development team, though its scope isn’t only limited to the quotidian.
With its new funding in tow, the startup plans to grow to fix its community (idea) submission process and add more tinkerers and advisors to its development teams, as well as to create a new distribution program that will allow inventors to get more involved at the retail level.
The startup’s series C also sees Andreessen Horowitz General Partner Scott Weiss and Kleiner Perkins veteran Mary Meeker join its board of directors. According to the WSJ, the round values the startup at $150 million.
Crowdfunding has made a splash in many areas within the tech world, and companies like Kickstarter have helped successfully fund a number of memorable consumer products. However, most crowdfunding platforms exist to help facilitate funding, whereas Quirky’s approach to actual involvement in product development remains in the minority. And its great to see that, according to the company, it doled out more than $600K in royalties to its community members. Quirky expects that to grow quickly in the coming year, so it’s good to see that it’s already started to bring inventors that much-coveted ROI.
For more, find Quirky at home here.