Crowdsourcing invention platform Quirky has had quite a year. After announcing a $68 million funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz last year and a partnership with GE six months ago, it is now adding a president to its ranks.
Today the company has announced the hiring of former Frog Design President Doreen Lorenzo to work alongside CEO Ben Kaufman as President.
New York-based Quirky, which launched in 2009, provides a forum for the crowd to facilitate new products. It lets users submit ideas for products they think should be invented, and then every week the company meets with friends, experts, and community experts to decide which ideas to take on. From there, the company’s products development team works to make them a reality (this process can last months, if not years). From there the products are put onto store shelves at places like Target, Staples, and OfficeMax.
The inventions range in categories, from electronics to kitchen gadgets to fitness devices. Kaufman even told me that the company has been dabbling in chemical engineering with some recent projects.
Kaufman sees Lorenzo as a natural fit to the company’s vision. Kaufman will continue to handle the CEO-related business end, making sure the overall Quirky vision is met, and Lorenzo will take her experience at product consultancy firm Frog Design to oversee Quirky’s research, design, and product development.
“Doreen brings with her the ability to lead,” he told me. “We’ve been looking for someone who can take the Quirky product infrastructure and take it to another level.”
Lorenzo’s background at Frog Design does seem to align quite nicely with the Quirky community. “I’ve spent my career working with incredible designers and developers,” she told me. During Lorenzo’s 16 year tenure at Frog, it changed from being a design firm that focused on one designer into a company that hired “a group of diverse people… [to make] a diverse group of products.” This meant that instead of being one company that caters to a designer’s singular vision, Frog became a place that invited myriad design skill-sets to tackle multiple projects.
She sees Quirky as taking that ethos a step further. Instead of a client telling the firm what to make, it’s “the end users [who] are telling you what you want.” That dovetails off the company’s tagline (“Real people know what’s up”), and highlights, to Lorenzo, why the design world needed a shift in methodology.
I asked Kaufman and Lorenzo if, following this, there are going to be any other big changes at the company. They both reiterated that the current focus is scaling up with Quirky’s increasing popularity. The company used to take on two new products a week, now it’s at three to five. As of now, it has shipped more than 110 of its inventions already with 600 still in the design stages. In addition, Kaufman says there are currently well over a half million members of the Quirky community.
And with the upcoming launch of the connected home products made through Quirky’s GE partnership, the company anticipates 28 more products being launched before the end of the year.
This latest hire, along with the Wall Street Journal claiming a valuation for more than $150 million, Quirky will indeed have to continue ramping up. Both Kaufman and Lorenzo, however, are excited about this. As Kaufman put it, “the machine hasn’t slowed, and it won’t.”
[Image Credit: World Economic Forum on Flickr]