Practice doesn’t make perfect. Passion makes perfect.
That’s Ben Kaufman’s mantra. The 27-year old founder and CEO of Quirky—a New York City based design and engineering company—is using that passion to unlock the product ideas of wannabe inventors everywhere.
Quirky’s 500,000-strong online community submits over 2,000 product ideas every week. The community votes on the best ideas which are then turned into products in less than a month and shipped to big-box stores like Target.
Quirky’s über-fast turnaround time recently attracted the attention of manufacturing giant General Electric.
“GE came to us and said, ‘We’re really good at making huge things like MRI machines and jet engines, but we need some help with our small stuff,’” Kaufman explains.
The two companies have partnered to build a line of smart, connected products for the home. From egg trays that tell you when your produce is bad, to a multi-purpose sensor that can work as a baby monitor or let you know when your wine cellar gets too hot.
Until recently, all products from the products from the Quirk + GE line line were novelty items, but late last year 63-year old Garthen Leslie came to Quirky with an idea for a smart AC unit for windows.
While driving around his neighborhood, the former Department of Energy worker noticed how many AC units hung out of old apartment windows during the summer. He wondered how much energy those units were wasting, spewing out cold air throughout the day while residents were likely at work.
Leslie didn’t know what to do with his idea until he saw Kaufman on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Leslie took his idea to Quirky and within 90 days his smart air conditioner—the Aros—was built and ready to ship. The Aros gives users full control of air temp during the day via a smart-device app and provides insight into energy use and efficiency.
“This is truly a different way of developing products,” Kaufman says. “One of the largest companies in the world meeting a random dude in Maryland. We were able to dial in an air conditioner that doesn’t even look like an air conditioner in less than three months.”
Rapid product development—both cost-efficient and lightweight—is part of Quirky’s secret sauce. But Kaufman insists it’s his dedicated employees at the core of Quirky’s success. “We have a team that comes into work everyday passionate about what they do,” Kaufman says, and that’s what drives the business.
He’s being modest. Voted one of America’s most promising CEOs under the age of 35 by Forbes, Kaufman’s vision and contagious enthusiasm are at the center of Quirky’s rise.
What’s next for Quirky? “We try to take it one day at a time,” says Kaufman. “We have a three-word mission statement: Make invention accessible. At some point every great idea in the world will be unlocked and that’s when Quirky will truly be what it was meant to be.”