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.

Overcrowded Market
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.

No Invention
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.

Comments (47)

bob wezer
..............................................................k Thanks
e a s t
nice thoughts
Debra Stone
It would be great if these categories were on a drop-down list that the reviewer could select from when looking at a submission. The problem I see is that the community may really like the idea and give lots of comments and show enthusiasm. I think this leads to the resubmits as well as the skepticism that the product has not been reviewed or seen by Quirky staff.
original? marketable? That's crazy talk! LOL Great article, it gave me some insight into Quirky and a few thoughts for my next submission. peace.
That does not explain why Quirky only seems to make gimmicky products and not inventions.....For the most part It seems what Quirky makes can already be found on the market or already patented:(
Sebastien Lauzon
Nice article, anything that help us understand how Q is working is always welcomed! Thanks for the tips and advices :)
I like this! It would certainly make it a lot easier to check out ideas if everyone would follow this advice. Thank you!
Kyle Dulan
Interesting perspective Baron.
Kyle Dulan
My apologies. Steven. I could not edit comment.
Hamada Taleb-Agha
nice article, but I think it would be nice to have new registrant at least read it before allowing someone to post new idea, that way saving time for everybody. Thanks.
carmen vanstraaten
As a new Quirky member, this answers most of my questions. Thank-you!!!
It Already Exists Overcrowded Market Not A Big Enough Problem No Invention Etc ETC,,, if you made a template up with these topic headings and a link to this post, and dedicated on member or two from the team, to paste these comments into the ideas comments section as you were reviewing them, it should not take so much time to do as if you look at every idea, it only takes a Baron Von Fast fingers to do it. and presto you have told the idea creator what they did wrong. without causing you extra time and effort as such. If you feel however a more complex reply would be in order, then Great. but a simple copy and paste would be better than people trying to second guess the reasons. I know its a bit of an automated process, but as you are splitting the tasks it should be slightly easier to accomplish, why not try it out to see how it could work? community would love the feedback im sure.
apart from that nice insight
Pamela Cummings
I think that if you limit the amount of submits a month, it would help take care of the not so wonderful ideas submitted here. I have thought 5 would be enough for one month of ones ideas. People would take more time for thinking of what they would like to post. Still is a big savings over the $10 per submitting.
Have your tech guys set up the website so everyone has to read these rules before joining up, and after every 10 submissions or they get booted off! Very timely article. If everyone followed these rules, it wouldn't take me 2 hours a day to wade through 50 iPhone cases, 15 solar failures, 25 products already on Amazon, and a couple dozen more from "Pros" trying to get their cost per submitted idea down to $.01 each. Honestly, sometimes I find it hard to find something to vote on that I think has a chance. It is so exciting to see something totally innovative submitted by someone who obviously spent a lot of time and thought on their idea. My deepest sympathies to all the Quirky staff members who have to sort through all the daily dreck. May I never be guilty of sending in dreck myself.
Paul Patrocky
Thank you for this post, any way to get it in front of people, if they can't google it, check q's store what are the chances they are reading this? I am guilty of this stuff from time to time, however I think that addressing the unlimited posting of pro accounts would make this a usable for both Q and community. I have tried to vote everyday but after an hour of sorting every random thought that people post, I give up most days it may also stop the chain re-subs that instantly consume the whole page, really the people here are great but how is posting random thoughts or resubs x 20 a week helpful, to them it's ground breaking, to most it's a hassle to sort through. if nothing else give pro accounts 1 free per day and $10 for additional, I doubt that random thoughts at $10 a pop will show up often....
Ernesto Tan
Still a big Questions for me ?????????????????? I'm still Confused ??????????????????????????
1. Wouldn't it be a good idea for Q to rank members on the value of their ideas based on Steven's Parameters(SPs) and give voting rights only to those members who measure up? Then Q may be able to ensure that only the ideas that measure up to SPs get voted in... I understand that the voting gives Q a sense of what would be salable but I've seen some ideas with 'high vote counts' are just not it... 2. The fact that Q finds an idea beyond value wouldn't mean some other entity feels the same... so wouldn't it be a good idea to NOT have member ideas, with the explanations, visualizations and videos in the public domain? They may just get poached.... Instead a case study of each idea that is accepted and produced can be put up when the product is launched... I can't say to what end though... 3. The fact that every member gets 15 votes a day can make money if any idea they vote for gets to become a product, makes for a lot of 'voting happy' Q members, which is not helping the cause on SPs 4. Wouldn't it would be a good idea to add 'Personal Grooming' to the Idea Category? Unless personal grooming products are to be under ‘Accessories’, which brings us to the point that each category may need an explanation...
Robert Murphy
Most of the ideas I see on here are just embarrassing...especially for the people who submit them (whether they know it or not), for those of us who are serious about innovation it makes it hard to show anyone Quirky's site when the first things you see are ridiculous. Great article, hopefully most of the Q community actually read it.
Michael Taylor
I was told Quirky loved my window/mirror cleaner idea/design, but there was not a big enough problem or market. Less than two months later you picked an idea almost identical to mine in solution and design solving the same problem in the same market. Huh?
So to summarize our ideation obligation is to invent physical consumer products fit for retail that don't already exist and address a big problem in an uncrowded market. And to only resubmit ideas with major change. And to only submit line extension ideas when there is a line to extend. Such a simple formula but so profoundly difficult to carry out.
Baron Nagy
@Chet: In one paragraph, you have summed up what it means to be a product designer or career inventor. Bravo.
Great post. If someone has resubmitted their idea for the nth time (5th maybe?), and their idea has received a lot of votes in each progressive submission (over a hundred each time?), it would be helpful to know why it is skipped over-not just for the submitter but those who support the idea as well. Just a thought. Cheers.
The web site is first and foremost designed to facilitate and provide general market research data and information to individuals or entities that submit a product.
Jason Hunter
With all that said, what makes you pick a similarly submitted idea later with no real good way of handling it? (At least Imo)Thanks for the read!
Thx! Very helpful to a new Quirky member. Am now asking these questions even when I vote on a project.
Nice read
It seems that little to no feedback, or no information, could be a contributing factor. Quirky Inventors could use more feedback from the Quirky Community regarding their proposed inventions, many items seem to be either voted on, or skipped, without leaving comments and without identifying an exact same product currently on the market. I could only guess that some members may not want to spend the time to comment because of the high volume of content to sort through, and some may not want to insult the inventor or get into an argument. This does not help guide the inventors toward a redesign and resubmit, or toward retiring the idea at some point because the market is saturated with similar ideas and their idea can't be made unique enough. I would hate to deter anyone from their dream but some sort of easy feedback could go along way toward guiding an inventor toward success. Perhaps more check boxes near the 'Voted' box that will allow us to quickly ck a box to show how we feel about an idea… Allowing you to still vote, or not vote, but also add a fast comment (fast comments buttons) Such as; "Voted: Good idea but Needs redesign to distance the idea from other products on market"; Voted: interesting idea but may be too complicated to produce & needs to be refined; Did not vote, unrealistic, not possible, solution/invention needs to be created and explained, Did not vote: found exact item on market, ect. Similar to Voting this will allow only the inventor and Quirky to see the tally of comments, and no method of identifying the user that selected the comment.. Users could still provide full comments for the public, or choose to add their check box choice to the public comments area and / or expand on it.
Ernesto Tan
Hey! That's my line! I tweeted before when I designed 3 buildings and I said that , I just don't want to design a building , I want to ask a Question what it means to design a building ! It's O.K , anyone can you use my spoken words or line...
Elizabeth Wingfield
Love this, Steven! Please put a link to this on the submission forms for new members and on their welcome email. Very nice overview of "Quirky Common Sense"! You should write more stuff here, it's fun to read.
Elizabeth Wingfield
With a list of the top 50 oversubmitted things as told by the community--now there's a survey I would gladly fill out!
Bradley Sippl
Bradley Sippl
Why not add a "cull" button. If a submission is judged by a community member to have some of the flaws mentioned above, they can click on the culappropriate submissions.l button. This would put a limit on the number of members that have to read things that are not up to par. Shall we say 25 cull clicks, and you're out! This would minimize clutter and discourage half baked, in
Bradley Sippl
That is...cull out poor substandard or flawed submissions by community action.
Brian Tracey
Brian Tracey
Hui Cai
I am Chinese and live in China,can I join Quirky team? I have new_ product_ideas,can I get the same pay as Americans? Can I send you my new_ product_ideas from Internet? What issues need attention?
So Quirky is looking for people to invent the "wheel" (an idea that hasn't been done)? Sounds pretty difficult to me because our society is so advanced. There's only room for tech and service companies nowadays. . If they could create a community that would only buy Quirky products instead (I might be reaching here but hear me out), it would be more beneficial to everyone involved instead of looking for game changers (game changes would be naturally included). Products for the people influenced by the people. The best validation of a product is if people would buy it not if one person or a selected group think it's a good idea or not (that's pretty subjective). Just think of the successful start-ups that investors pass up all the time (I wouldn't be shocked if Quirky went through this themselves). . Why not create products the community votes for and let them pre-order the products through a flat reserve fee with a discount off the final pricing. If the final price is lower than the reserve fee the difference is returned, if it's higher the member has the option to pay the difference, and if the product is not developed the reserve fee is returned. Pre-orders coupled with votes would be a strong indication of a products potential. . In the invention definition provided, it says, "an ...or original process". Does Quirky truly have the time to thoroughly determine if a process is different from existing products (some maybe clearer than others)?
Ernesto Tan
People read this again !
Giuliana Furlan
Hi! The quirk site could have a "no way" kind of feedback on our ideas, so the staff could mark our ideas as "bad ideas", so we can adjust our brains to make better ones :) But this article has helped... thanks Steven...
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