Group Commerce Startup Massdrop Is Working With Its Users To Design New Products

Massdrop‘s investors have argued that the group commerce site is more a community than a straightforward marketplace. Here’s one way that Massdrop is doing things differently — a new initiative called Massdrop Collabs.

The startup has built specialist communities for folks such as audiophiles and mechanical keyboard fans, and it offers group-buying opportunities to those communities. With Massdrop Collabs, co-founder and CEO Steve El-Hage said the community can actually get involved in creating those products.

Apparently Massdrop has done this kind of collaborative design before, for example with its Infinity Keyboard Kit, but now it’s pursuing these efforts in a more systematic way.

The company says it worked with “select enthusiasts” from its audiophile community to design headphones, then it took those ideas to electronics company Fostex, resulting in the Fostex x Massdrop TH-X00, with more than 15 elements (including the sound signature and the mahogany hardwood earcup material) chosen by the community. El-Hage described this as a process of “many, many people coming together.”

“Everybody contributes a little piece,” he added. “We’re not allowing for individual components to be voted on, we’re taking all ideas and combining them into one big product suggestion.”

El-Hage contrasted this approach with communities like the (now-bankrupt) Quirky, which allow users to participate in the process of inventing new products. This isn’t for inventors, per se (“There haven’t been professional inventors in the United States since 1840s,” El-Hage said), but rather specialists who want a role in designing the products that they’re going to buy.

The headphones, for example, cost $399 and saw $1 million in sales in under 48 hours, and they ultimately sold to 3,167 Massdrop users.

Massdrop Collabs isn’t just for headphones. In the coming year, the company plans to roll out the collaborative design process to other communities, including men’s style and everyday carry.