In an effort to scale its product development capacity, Quirky, the creation funnel for crowd sourced invention ideas, has hired as president Doreen Lorenzo, formerly the president of design consultancy firm frog design. Prior to Lorenzo’s arrival, Quirky operated without a president.
Quirky CEO Ben Kaufman said that Lorenzo will be running product organization, the department devoted to transforming an idea submitted by a community member into a commercial good. Product represents about half of the company’s operations and is Quirky’s fastest growing department, Kaufman said.
As it has scaled from one person to a 75-person team, Quirky’s product development department has been able to move from creating plastic kitchen gadgets to more complex designs, like electronics.
“Next year we’ll move into more product categories,” Kaufman said. “That’s why Doreen has been brought into the scheme.”
Those categories could include further work with electronics, sustainability projects, products requiring chemical engineering — anything that is needed for Quirky to serve as a machine for the world’s new ideas, essentially.
Six months ago, Quirky announced a partnership with General Electric to develop smart home products, like an app-enabled milk jug. The partnership opened up GE’s patents and technologies to Quirky’s product development, giving the latter the capacity to scale its capabilities.
“With every new category that we decide to take on, we bring on a whole cross-functional team. With GE, we brought in electrical engineering, firmware design, software, and user experience,” Kaufman said. “We’ll be doing that similarly with all the new categories. There will be a lot of new people, and I don’t have numbers, but it will be significant.”
The company, which Kaufman hesitates to call a startup any longer, has also begun its international expansion with the announcement a little over two weeks ago that it was launching a French division in conjunction with French retail group Auchan.
Kaufman said that Quirky would be continuing to build its platform with localized invention sites (if you have submitted a project in the US, you are unable to do so in France, too). He would not reveal which market Quirky will take on next, noting instead that there are a lot of design centers that people look to for the next iconic product.
“We project by the end of this year we’ll be around 5 to 20% sales internationally, and by next year 40 to 50%,” said Kaufman.
Quirky now launches three products each week, each of which is voted on by the community and prototyped the company’s New York headquarters. Those products are sold in 30,000 retail stores including, the MoMA design store, Target, Home Depot, and Best Buy. Everywhere except Walmart, Kaufman said.
[Image from the New York Times]