Why Didn’t We Pick That? Some Reflections On Our Review Of A Whole Lot Of Ideas
Posted ago by Steven
If I had a nickel for every time a community member told me “I see so many great ideas not getting picked by Quirky,” I’d have at least a dollar. But seriously, to anybody who says “I see so many great ideas not getting picked by Quirky,” let me assure you: we saw those ideas too.
So why might an idea you think is great not be placed under consideration, chosen for live product evaluation, or picked for development? Let me run through a few of the most common reasons Quirky doesn’t move an idea forward.
It Already Exists
By far, the number one reason Quirky doesn’t move an idea forward is that the product already exists, in one form or another. I cannot overstate how important it is to conduct market research to ensure that your idea hasn’t already been made into a consumer product. One time, I took a random sampling of ideas from the list of active submissions, and 7 out of 10 of them failed on this basis. These were ideas with high vote counts and attractive presentations. However, the products existed (in fact, a couple of them were already in the Quirky shop). If you’ve ever received an email from me, you know my signature includes the definition:
1 : an original device or process
2 : the act, process, or power of inventing
Note the word “original.” If it is being sold, or if someone online has already rendered the product, we are inclined to stay away from it.
There are a lot of people in the world thinking about problems and solutions. No matter how original and creative you think your idea is, it is quite possible that someone else already had it. Please do take the time to find out.
Closely related to the “already exists” fail, an overcrowded market means that the exact product proposed may not exist, but that there are many products that attack the same problem in slightly different ways. It’s certainly possible that Quirky will take a crack at a crowded market if our team thinks a solution is particularly brilliant and unique, but most of the time we just skip over minor changes to existing product spaces. Again, my number one piece of advice to the prospective Quirky inventor is to understand the competitive landscape really, really well, and then do more research. My wish list of research every ideator should do before submitting includes:
- Google search
– Amazon search
– Patent search
– Quirky search
It is tempting to write “Nothing like it” in the Product Comparison section of a submission, but the truth comes out eventually.
Not A Big Enough Problem
It’s easy to encounter a problem and think a solution needs to be invented for it, but it’s important to consider whether or not it is widely suffered and if so, how it is currently addressed. We receive tons of ideas that solve incredibly minute dilemmas, which if brought to Eval would earn Bill’s famous “juice is not worth the squeeze” appraisal. As I stressed above, make sure to do your market research before submitting an idea – you may discover that existing solutions do the job better.
Closely related: Too much solution for too little problem. We aren’t interested in Rube Goldberg-esque machines that automate tasks not exactly begging for automation. Well, we find such inventions interesting, but we aren’t likely to build them.
We get a lot of submissions that are attractive and appealing, but are not inventions. We’re not interested in making action figures, unless they are reinventions of the action figure.
Not A Physical Consumer Product
We don’t make standalone apps (as opposed to apps incidental to app-enabled products) and we’re not focused on industrial processes, legislation, promotions or anything else that isn’t a physical consumer product.
Unfit For Retail
Quirky is an invention machine, but one that specializes in certain types of inventions. While we geek out at ideas for new wind turbines and electrical grids as much as the next nerd, we have nowhere near the capacity to make either. As I mentioned in reason #5, we’re looking for physical consumer product inventions, so ask yourself “can I see this on a shelf my favorite retailers?”.
Not Physically Possible
Sometimes this is obvious: no perpetual motion machines. Other times submissions simply misunderstand the capabilities of solar tech, magnetism, suction, or other current engineering. We are trying to provide some background on these technologies, so please follow the blog for more posts on this subject.
Resubmitted Without Change
I know, there is always the hope that if you resubmit an idea over and over again, someone at Quirky will see it and like it. This may have been true at one point, but it is becoming less and less likely as we focus our idea review, and the same people are looking at the same categories each week. If you’re resubmitting an idea, it should be improved in some way from the previous iteration of the idea.
Line Extension When There Is No Line To Extend Yet
Our general rule is that we don’t develop line extensions (or accessories) to a product line until the product is shipped, in stores and selling through.
Remember that Quirky is an evolving company. We look to move forward and increase the complexity, ambition and diversity of our portfolio of products. So if you’re looking at what we’ve done in the past and trying to emulate that, you’re missing out on our vision and direction. The best product idea you can submit is one that convinces us to take a step forward outside of our comfort zone. Sure, we will always be interested in a great, simple solution that we can design and engineer and add to our portfolio. But what gets us really excited is the new stuff. As an aside, more complex products tend to sell for more money at retail, so your share of influence on a $50 or $100 product is going to be worth a lot more than that same share of a $3.99 product.
A word about the way I personally think about ideas during the pre-evaluation phase: I look for game changers. A game changer can reveal its game-changing nature in a big or small way. It doesn’t have to be faster-than-light transport or artificial intelligence. To me, a new way to grate cheese can be a game changer for people who grate a lot of cheese (that’s just an example — I actually think the cheese grater category is profoundly saturated). I look for ideas that make me wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that!”
Also, a word of advice to frequent inventors: sometimes less is more. I think it’s more productive to develop the heck out of a few strong ideas than to submit a sketchy outline of every idea that comes to mind.
Finally, I should add: Yes, sure, we know that some things slip through the cracks. It’s entirely possible that an existing product — especially if it is being made by an obscure producer and not well publicized or distributed — can make it through Eval. But why would you want to invest your time in such an endeavor? And these occurrences will become less and less common as Quirky’s capacity increases. As we see better and more original ideas, they will crowd all lesser ideas out of the Quirky ecosystem. So if you want your ideas to have a place, make it truly original.