I've created six products: Poetryslam magnetic word game (scrabble with words), Dada Box (surrealist word game), Story Glasses (novellas on drinking glasses), Alien Questionnaire (answers the question, Are you an alien?), FoundObjects.com (only in the Internet Archive now) and Magnetic Line Art (art on refrigerator magnets). Creating products speaks to a human desire we all share. We create therefor we are.
Creating these six products almost killed me. After working for great product companies such as P&G and M&M/Mars I thought creating cool stuff was easy. It is "easy" when people return your phone calls because you work for a brand they know and trust. It is easy when there are hundreds of talented people helping. It is easy when money isn't as important as message. Every product I created back in the day, early 1990's to about 2004, required betting my 401K on hunches, dreams and desires. Creating products was like pulling teeth. It took twice as long as expected, cost three times as much and hurt more than was imaginable. Ben Kaufman has changed all of the product development pain.
Ben Kaufman is a "Startup Heroe". Ben's creation, Quirky, helps people realize their product development dreams without betting their house, retirement or marriage. Before I started creating stuff I was happily married for 20 years. After I became somewhat obsessed with creating products my marriage was the most expensive cost in a very expensive dream catcher experiment. Quirky uses the Internet to craft wisdom of crowds into actionable feedback and real products. The Quirky community votes on products, provides feedback and makes making stuff fun. Ben and Quirky understand social process creates a ready made market for their new products. Process, as I outlined in a 2009 ScentTrail Marketing post, is product. When you work on something (or vote on it) you are sure to buy it and tell five friends. Maybe the coolest difference with my product development days is Quirky foots the product development bill. They put their money where their wisdom of crowds tells them. Call this eating your own dog food, walking the talk or just being tool cool for school, Ben is my startup hero and he should be yours.
Ben and Quirky are examples of another favorite ScentTrail theme - the gift economy. My friend Seth Godin wrote about the gift economy in his great book Linchpin. Quirky uses technology to form the gift economy. Our new "gift economy" always starts with a gift. Ben freely gives his time, expertise and love. Seth Godin shares his creative, kinetic grey matter. You may write a blog, tweet or share stuff on Facebook. The gift economy always starts with someone willing to selflessly share.
Favorite authors including Robert Wright (NonZero), Michael Shermer (Mind of the Market) and Seth have written about our human desire to selflessly share. Internet rocket fuel is meeting our innate genetic desire to share discussed by Wright, Shermer and Godin exploding into new, cool creations like Quirky. I've added Ben to my Startup Hero list and one day soon, when I'm writing Hope, Heroes and Startups again for Technorati, I hope to speak with this special wizard of a man whose magic makes magicians of us all. Best part is we get to be wizards without betting our farms, 401K's or cherished loved ones :).
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