Ben Kaufman wants more people to try to become inventors. "It's a great feeling to see your product being used by a complete stranger," says Kaufman, who founded and sold an iPod accessories company before he launched Quirky in 2009. The site turns two community-submitted ideas into sellable products each week. Hopefuls pay $10 each to post an idea online for the 85,000-member Quirky community to vote on. Ideas must be be physical goods (not software) that can retail for less than $150. An in-house team of engineers and designers examines the two most popular submissions and builds a prototype. If enough units are presold to cover the cost of bringing a product to market, Quirky will contract to have it manufactured and distributed. Kaufman says Quirky retains all rights to the products and takes 70 percent of the revenue; the rest goes to the creators, many of whom earn tens of thousands of dollars from their ideas. The company has completed nearly 200 products, including such best-sellers as a power strip with a flexible body, a collapsible hanger, and a modular pocket knife.
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