Should I submit an invention idea for someone else to develop or promote? If i can't handle the development mysef should the idea at east get its chance to see the light of day? can i make money of it still?
This is a question many aspiring inventors often wonder about. Anyone with invention ideas in their head, who is debating whether to pursue those ideas, spend the money and take the risk, often wishes there was a way for them to cash in on their ideas, without having to shell out the cost, or go through the efforts and risks associated with actually protecting, developing and licensing or selling their invention.
One way to do that is to submit your invention idea to a crowd sourcing invention site. One of the most famous ones is Quirky.com. But is Quirky worth it?
Let's start from the beginning: what are crowd sourcing invention sites? These sites essentially solicit your invention ideas, by inviting you to submit an invention idea, they then qualify them through the opinions and comments of the site's community members, and then take the best ones and design, develop, manufacture and sell them. The make a profit and you, the original inventor, earn cash through royalties.
Different sites have different models as to how exactly the process works, but the gist of it is that you forgo some of the potential earnings from your invention idea, and agree to getting just a small percentage of revenues, but you also let go of the cost, investment, work and effort associated with launching a new product, as all this is done on your behalf.
Let’s look at one of the most successful sites for crowd sourcing product development, Quirky.com, and what they offer.
Quirky.com is a relatively young website, which brings the concept of crowd-sourcing to new product invention and development.
If you have an idea for a new product, you register for an account and submit an invention idea to the site by filling their easy invention idea submission form.
Submitting your idea costs just 10$, which is a miniscule investment for the chance to have your invention idea developed and royalties potentially coming in.
The invention idea submission form asks you to choose a category, write a catchy descriptive title for your invention idea (only 140 characters long), describe the problem you are trying to solve with your invention and detail how your invention concept’s features will actually help solve it.
You are also asked to provide names of other products in your field, that can potentially compete with your invention idea. Having similar (but different) products in your field, communicates the message that there is demand for these types of products. If you can show that your solution is more innovative and provides a better answer to the problem – you might have a winner on your hands.
You can (and should) add any images, illustrations or videos that can illustrate your product’s potential to those reading about it.
Once you fill all the details, you are done. You pay your 10$ fee, submit it and you are ready to go.
Your invention idea is now live, and will remain that way for 30 days. During that time Quirky’s community members will vote on your invention, as well as comment on your idea and design. You will get good input on what resonates with people and what doesn't, as well as ideas and suggestions on how to improve your invention.The first step, though, is to get votes and comments on your invention idea, so that you have a better chance of grabbing the attention of the Quirky staff and have a chance to be chosen for consideration.
This is how the quirky process works –
Your invention idea page (essentially the form you fill when you submit an invention idea) will be live for a period of 30 days. During that time, the inventions with the highest number of votes and those that seem most interesting are chosen for Quirky’s stuff review. Quirky are quite vague on which criteria they use to select inventions, and there is no strict criteria, but generating interest among community members, definitely helps.
The staff at quirky then looks at those inventions that caught the attention of the community and marks a few of them for consideration. They then evaluate those ‘under consideration’ finalists for design potential, Marketing potential, and Viability and choose those products they want to move forward into design and production. Members of the community can still comment and collaborate in the development of your invention idea further, until this happens.
If the staff at quirky decides to go ahead with your invention idea for production, the fun begins. Your invention submission will go through several stages of product development, all done by Quirky, with input from the community. Once the product is launched and starts selling, you as the original inventor of the product, will be entitled to lifetime royalties from sales of your invention.
This is the question on everyone’s mind. Quirky is a collaborative crowd-sourcing platform, and as such they want to incentivise members of their community to contribute to a product’s development.
They also want to allow them to share in the profits of any product which was actually manufactured and sold. The result – Quirky will be sharing 30 percent of all revenues they generate through direct sales on quirky.com, as well as 10 percent of indirect retail sales revenue of your product idea, with the entire pool of product's influencers – not just you. Out of that total number, you as the inventor are entitled to about 35% of that sum. Something like a third of a third of revenues.
There are two other topics worth considering before you submit an invention idea to Quirky.
It’s important to note, that if Quirky accepts your submission and decides to develop it and possibly even commercialize it, you will be assigning all your ownership in all IP in your invention submission to Quirky.
This means that if quirky decides to commercialize your product, you will never be able to reclaim it or have the power to decide what happens with your invention. You will not own any intellectual property rights in your invention, and could only enjoy cash royalties and maybe some fame.
This is definitely something to consider. Yes – you are putting your idea on the web, for everyone to see, and yes, theoretically someone could decide to try and pass it as its own.
It is always better to protect your invention idea, through a patent application or otherwise before exposing it.
However, Quirky does have several factors going for it that help mitigate the threat of having your product idea copied or stolen.
The terms and conditions of the site prohibit users from using the content on Quirky outside of the quirky process. Quirky also has a track record of moving its product ideas from idea to distribution relatively quickly, so that ideally they can be first in the market with your product concept, by the time a potential copycat has started the process of developing a product based on your ideas.
Another thing to keep your mind at rest is the fact that many of the submissions are merely a concept. They still require a lot of work in terms of design and development in order to be able to sell well. Unless your invention idea is fully fleshed out (in which case you might be better off patenting and developing your product idea yourself), you have relatively little to worry about, by exposing your invention idea online – and you might have more to gain.
So is it worth it to submit an invention to Quirky? Like every good question, the answer to this one is “it depends”.
A bit over a third of just a third out of sales revenue is not much. Unless of course, your product becomes a really big hit and is sold in great quantities for a hefty sum, in which case you might earn some good cash. You have to remember that with Quirky’s business model, you have no costs involved in developing your invention and selling it, and very little effort on your part other than the miniscule cost and effort involved when you submit an invention idea to Quirky.
Here is an example of one of the most successful invention submitted and sold on Quirky – The Pivot Power.
This adjustable power strip that allows you to hold large adapters in every outlet, without the need to make sure they don’t ‘clash’. It was invented by Jake Zien –a member of the Quirky community. It was developed in one month, from the moment it was chosen for commercialisation, and has, since its launch in the shop, sold 279,361 units for 30$ apiece. According to Quirky’s stats, the original inventor Jake ZIen, has so far netted 297,000$ in royalties (as of July 2012). That’s a very nice amount of money, which Zien is enjoying quite passively.
You do, however, need to consider the alternative. If Zien wasn’t to use Quirky’s services, and didn't submit an invention idea to Quirky and instead would have chosen to develop the Pivot Power by himself – how much would he have made?
If all sales were to go to him, we are talking 8.3 millions$ in sales! However, he would also had to bear the brunt of the costs of development, licensing and marketing the invention, and the costs associated with manufacturing it. So the sum would probably have been much lower. Our analysis also needs to take into account that fact that had Zien chose not to submit an invention idea to Quirky, he wouldn't have benefited from the input of the community or the expert advice of the professionals involved. His product idea might not have ended up as such a success, or his product might not have received the same kind of exposure it ended up getting.
So is it worth it?
It depends. Both on the success of your future invention (you will enjoy royalties for life) and on how much you are willing and able to invest the time and money in developing your own invention ideas, for the potential additional revenues you can get from selling your invention yourself. If you choose to submit an invention idea to Quirky - you lose a lot of potential money, but you do earn peace of mind.
Our take on it?
If you have an invention idea you think has merit, but you have been sitting on it for a while and it doesn’t seem like you are going to invest in protecting or developing it, choosing to submit an invention idea to Quirky.com, might be the right path for you. In all other cases, it’s probably worth it to go ahead and develop your invention yourself. There is more headache involved, and much more work, but the financial potential is much higher.
Good luck with your invention idea! And if you do decide to submit an invention idea on Quirky leave a comment and a link below, so that we can all vote for you!