4 02, 2013

Lego CUUSOO: How Lego Turns Your Ideas Into Cubic Reality

By | 2018-05-07T15:19:22+00:00 Februar 4th, 2013|Cases-Consumer, Co-creation, Crowdsourcing, Design, MC Alternatives, Open/User Innovation, Technologies & Enablers|

LEGO's Factory (later called "LEGO Design by me") has been one of the pioneers of mass customization.However, times change and Lego closed this "build on demand site" about a year ago and focused entirely on customer co-creation in the innovation process.

For this, they are partnering with CUUSOO; the mother of all crowdsourcing sites for product development (we described them in our 2006 paper on Threadless already!).

The project is called Lego CUUSOO and wors fairly simple: Everybody can submit an idea of what he would deem a great Lego product. Customers get to vote online and if the proposal gets sufficient buyer pledges the company turns it into reality and produces the toy.

Noew, there is a nice video giving more detail on this idea, it makes you instantly grab a pen and paper and start drawing your own powertoy idea…


11 11, 2011

Your Opinion on the Future of Mass Customization: Participate in two short surveys

By | 2018-06-14T07:15:19+00:00 November 11th, 2011|Events, MC & Art, MC Alternatives, MC/OI on the Web, MCPC2011, T-Shirts|

We would like to tap into the joint intelligence of the MCPC community and ask your to participate in two short conference surveys — results will be posted here:

Mc-future Dominik Walcher and Frank Piller want to learn about your opinion on the market development for mass customization. How is the market of mass customization (MC) and personalization growing? What will be the developments in the next years? Please help us to get a better picture of the MC future! Participate here:http://www.tiny.cc/mc-future 


MIT_MCRyan Chin and Daniel Smithwick of the MIT Media Lab, are studying product life-cycle energy use of customized dress shirts to understand how to develop more sustainable products.  Please complete their 6-8 minute survey (https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MCPC2011) on your current dress shirt wardrobe and you'll be entered into a lottery for a FREE custom men's dress shirt worth $100 retail value.  Pretty fancy stuff.  Survey and prizes are open to both men and women!

14 10, 2011

Crowdsourcing and crowdfunding meets mass customization – Innovative investment model for startups

By | 2018-06-14T07:16:19+00:00 Oktober 14th, 2011|Crowdsourcing, MC Alternatives, Open/User Innovation, Technologies & Enablers|

InnovestmentA group of entrepreneurs from RWTH Aachen university have developed an interesting model of crowdfunding in the early / seed financing sector — and one of their first projects is a mass customization start-up in the game market.

The start-up, Innovestment, is a crowdinvesting platform for startup-investments. It is not a micro-financing site, but more one that allows people with a real demand for investing money the opportunity to participate in innovative conceots with low risk.

The model is based on "silent partnerships" (a well established legal form in Europe),  and the pricing/valuation will be done through an innovative auction mechanism.

The first auctions start at the end of October, and the first three profiles of participating ventures are online. Investing is possible with amounts starting from approx. Euro 2,000.

One of the first ventures in the Innovestment line-up is a mass customization project called Ludufactur. Drawing on the Germans’ fondness for board games (think of "Siedler"), Ludufactur will exclusively personalize many best-selling games using technologies like 3D modeling and printing (e.g. modeling a pawn after a fotograph), thereby mainly catering to the market for gifts.  Their website is not yet online, but a few promising examples can be viewed on their profile at innovestment.

So if this is successful, a new way also for other mass customization sites may be open!

More info at www.innovestment.de.

28 07, 2011

Quirky in Numbers: Entrepreneur Magazine shares new data on Quirky’s social product development business model

By | 2018-06-14T09:43:56+00:00 Juli 28th, 2011|Cases-Consumer, Co-creation, Crowdsourcing, Long Tail, MC Alternatives, User Manufacturing|

Entrepreneur-magazine-august-2011_lrg In the August issue of Entrepreneur, Jennifer Wang has a great story on Quirky, featuring the person of founder Ben Kaufman (everyone attending the MIT SCG Seminar in 2010 still remembers his presentation), but also sharing some great info on the company.

Read the full article here, but here are some of the facts I found most interesting:

Old world: If you have an idea and want to turn it into a product "Kaufman puts the upfront costs of building a company around a single product at about $200,000–just to get the paperwork done and the first prototype out." Combined with the risk, most people never get their product idea anywhere near retail shelves.

Quirky's approach:

Create an online community of 65,000 members (growing by 20 percent every month).

Have "every week hundreds of inventor hopefuls, or "ideators," submit their concepts online".

So called "influencers" than vote on the ideas and develop them further, together with Quirky's inhouse design team.

Requirement: Product ideas must retail for less than $150 and should not require integrated software.

Examples of products in the making and development: "an auto-stirring microwavable bowl with steam-release function; a modular tent-making kit for use with couch cushions and throw quilts; a yoga mat with magnetic or Velcro closures."

30% payoff: "Thirty cents of every revenue dollar goes back to ideators, and a number of them have already earned tens of thousands of dollars."

Typical income of inventors:

Michael McCoy, inventor of Cloak, a two-in-one iPad stand and case, that retails for $29.99. This item generated total sales of $100,128, and Michael got a share of $38,007 for this.

Jake Zien, inventor of the Pivot Power, an adjustable power strip with six outlets, that retails for $29.99. This item generated total sales: $13,021, and Jake got a share of $4,919.

Quirky's take: "The company retains the rights to all the cool ideas that are voted into the development process, and because the company gets validation from thousands of potential customers before making a move, Kaufman avoids all the costs associated with early design phases." => our idea of collective customer commitment at its best!

2011 revenue: Expected "to be between $6 million and $10 million"

Financing: Quirky has raised $12.6 million in funding.

Staff: Today 40, planned are about 80 by the end of this year.

Media: Ben is a master in self promotion and announcing his company, and so the Sundance Channel's will have a reality TV show featuring Kaufman, Quirky employees, the inventors and their stories, premiering in August.

Ben's core learning in running an online community:

"Face-time is important, transparency is important!" There's a whole department dedicated to "inventor services," and the company regularly holds virtual town hall meetings with the whole staff, inviting community members to log on and ask anyone on the team questions."

 For me, Quirky still is one of the best ideas of co-creation. Here is my earlier more extended analysis of their business model.


29 05, 2010

MC Alternatives: Hipstery adds a new twist to t-shirt personalization – and Additik pimps your IKEA furniture

By | 2018-06-14T09:46:20+00:00 Mai 29th, 2010|Customization Trends, Furniture - Home, MC Alternatives, T-Shirts|

I am still finalizing a report about the SCS 2010 (in one word: it was great!), but before, here a posting with some alternatives to mass customization, i.e. business strategies that also build on the fact that people are different, but follow a different model than customizing an item for an individual consumer and fulfilling it with on-demand manufacturing. I recently got notice of two good MC alternatives:

MC Alternative I: Hipstery's match-to-order system

Hipstery_sticker_thumb Long-time readers of my blog will remember Adam Fletcher (and everyone interested in t-shirts will know him anyway). We had a wonderful cooperation when he was still working for Spreadshirt and directed the OpenLogo contest (and before, when he was writing his master's thesis on a very educated comparison of customization of shirts and Threadless' crowdsourcing model).

After some time travelling, Adam came back and opened Hipstery.com, a small venture that is very anti-customization in a way, but also somehow very pro-personalization in another.

His idea: Head to his nice retro-design website, answer a brief questionnaire on the net, and his magic algorithm (his stomach, I suppose) will pick exactly the graphic t-shirt that is right for you. He wants to take away the burden of choice (in a standard t-shirt shop) or the burden of co-creation (on a mass customization site) and to substitute it with a short survey on your needs.

I participated and got a really nice shirt I like. Calling this model "consumerism criticism", as the German weekly DER SPIEGEL did, is probably wrong. On the contrary, it is a very nice business model: Adam get's the overstock from nice t-shirt companies, adds the personalization magic and a very well done, very humorous and nice shopping process, and creates a great customer experience – and sells the shirts at a premium.

A similar (if more technical) personalization system (also called: "match-to-order" or "virtual build-to-order) employs Zafu (jeans). Also in the case of Dell Computers, it has been shown that such a need-based personalization is superior to parameter-based configuration: Instead of picking your hard-disk model and process speed, the system just asks you which software you want to run and what is your price range, and then automatically suggests you the best fitting product.

This kind of recommendation systems is a growing species on the internet, and when well done, it also can provide a great alternative to "hard" mass customization, i.e. mass customization that requires a flexible manufacturing system for fulfillment. In many industries, the existing assortment is large enough to fulfill each individual's need. The problem is just to find the right item – and to know on the first hand what the right item is. Here Adam comes in place!

MC Alternatives (II): Additik tunes your IKEA furniture

Additik-stval02 A long time ago, I wrote about Bemz, a Swedish shop that offers its customers to tune ("pimp") their IKEA standard sofas with customized covers. It is a great idea, using the de-facto standard of IKEA and adding some personal touch. In the meantime, an entire industry of IKEA improvements came to the market.

A new player is Additik from France who offers stickers for IKEA furniture. While the basic idea is good, the design quality (in my subjective opinion) does not matches Bemz' sophisticated Scandinavian design. Another nice alternative to traditional mass customization.More on the business model in my older posting.

So while mass customization in form of "co-creation" and "build to order" still is growing rapidly, we will see more alternative models that also want to profit from heterogeneity in the customer domain.

20 09, 2009

Distributed user manufacturing network started: Ponoko and ShopBot announce partnership to provide users access to over 6,000 digital fabricators around the world

By | 2018-06-14T11:09:01+00:00 September 20th, 2009|Co-creation, Co-Design Process, Design, Fabbing, MC Alternatives, Technologies & Enablers, User Manufacturing|


During the 2007 US Presidential debates, journalist Tom Brokaw asked candidates Obama and McCain whether our challenges would be best solved by … "funding a Manhattan-style project or by supporting 100,000 garages across America to encourage the kind of industry and innovation that developed Silicon Valley?"

A new website takes the second approach! Inspired by Tom Brokaw's question to the presidential candidates, 100Kgarages is a community of workshops all over the world that are run by "Fabbers", with digital fabrication tools for precisely cutting, machining, drilling, or sculpting the components of any user  project.

The site has been launched on Sept. 16 by Ponoko and ShopBot, expanding the opportunities for ordinary users to get almost anything custom made and delivered from local state-of-the-art digital makers.

I have written several times about Ponoko in my blog, an online marketplace for everyone to make real things. It brings together creators, digital fabricators, materials suppliers and buyers. Since its launch in 2007, more than 30,000 user-generated designs "have been instantly priced online" (the official wording in the press release, I believe this means "uploaded and finished", but not ordered and delivered).

ShopBot is a manufacturer of affordable, high-performance CNC tools for digital fabrication of wood, plastic and aluminum products. With more than 6,000 ShopBots in thousands of shops in the US and 54 countries around the world, ShopBot is one of the largest producers of CNC routers in North America.

With the cooperation of the both companies and the launch of the 100kGarages website, anyone can get their ideas made locally with the click of a mouse, and delivered within just a few days.

Users can go to the site to get things custom made by searching a map for a local garage workshop, or submitting a request and choosing from bids placed by a range of ShopBot owners to make almost anything. It’s free for everyone to search and submit requests, and for fabricators to post profiles and bids.

People are creating a wide range of products like tables, chairs, cabinets, car parts, signage, boats, musical instruments, gaskets, sheds, housing and all of those impossible to find things made from wood, plastic, metal and composite materials.

“Our partnership means everyone now has easy access to their own local 3D fabricator. This is the first step to providing a solution for the doers and makers out there who want to join in re-building America, one garage at a time.”, says ShopBot’s President Ted Hall in the press release.

In the moment, the site still looks a bit beta, but it is a great starting point and another sign of the coming age of user manufacturing.

27 07, 2009

Dream Heels: A Threadless for High Heels

By | 2018-06-14T11:09:30+00:00 Juli 27th, 2009|Crowdsourcing, Footwear, MC Alternatives|

Dream_heels I was for long wondering what may be the next big product exploiting Threadless' spin of crowdsourcing … and perhaps Matt Francois found a perfect match. While the majority of Threadless' customers are young male men, Francois is offering the female equivalent: High Heels.

His new website, Dream Heels, lets anyone design printed high heels and earn cash when their design is winning a competition, Artists submit their designs to an ongoing shoe design competition. Winners are rewarded with $250 upfront, and $0.50 for each pair sold.

Some examples of Dream Heels submissions “Dream Heels lets you design printed pumps that are completely unique; Wild patterns, colorful designs, you name it.” Founder and owner of Dream Heels, Matt Francois, is quoted in a press release, “I’ve designed one-of-a-kind custom shoes for years, and I know that given the chance others will enjoy designing unique shoes as much as I do. The extra cash is just the icing on the cake.”

For more information, or to begin designing shoes now, head to http://www.dreamheels.com

There is a rather simple template to use and a very nice 3D viewer to get an idea of the shows.

Will this work? I am curious to see .. Being a critical German and not part of the target group, I would say no, as the product's price point may be to high for a spontaneous purchase (there is no price quoted yet, however). Also, production runs for such a shoe should be considerable longer than the few days it takes Threadless to produce a shirt, allowing them to cash into the moment of excitement that a design wins for which you just have voted.

Also, with shoes of this kind you have a fitting problem, and returns of more than 50% may kill you if you are a small company with little cash. And, finally bit most importantly, will their be a community of shoe enthusiasts that both submit shoes and participates in the voting — and finally purchases the shoes?

But I hope that I am wrong, as the idea and product itself is great … and it really is time for a successful and scalable transfer of the Threadless idea into another product category.

13 04, 2009

Interview: Joel Yatscoff of Joy de Vivre on Microfinanced Crowdsourcing and How He Helps Creative Designers to Get Their Products Out to Consumers

By | 2018-06-14T11:09:49+00:00 April 13th, 2009|Crowdsourcing, Design, Interview, MC Alternatives|

Joel YatscoffI recently wrote in this blog about Joy de Vivre, the Toronto based company that lets consumers vote on its product assortments. In this interview, founder Joel Yatscoff provides us more information about his vision, how the idea got started (Joy de Vivre seems to be again a typical case of an user innovation, originating from a frustrated user), about first successes and challenges, and what is coming next. His basic motive of democratizing the process how designers can get their products out to consumers, bypassing the power of traditional manufacturers of choosing and investing in designs, reminds me of Ronen Kadushi's idea of open design – different approach to the same problem.

Joel Yatscoff is a Toronto-based product designer. Originally from Beaumont, a small French Community in Alberta, he later studied at the University of Alberta and received his Bachelor of Design with Distinction in 2003.  Currently working in a product development consultancy in Toronto, Joel has also interned at Karim Rashid in New York City in 2002.  He has been recognized nationally and internationally for his roles as a freelance, collaborating, and supporting designer by the Chicago Athenaeum Good Design Award, IDEA, and Conduit National Design Competition.  Joel is also pursuing post-graduate studies in design management at Ryerson University.

Frank T. Piller: Joel, what was the insight and inspiration that motivated you to start Joy de Vivre?

Joel Yatscoff: I had been tinkering around with this concept since about 2006.  I had been out of post-secondary studies for 3 years and had been pitching some really great ideas

[of product designs] to companies in New York with my good friend and business partner Bradley Price.  As I remember, it was about our 3rd consecutive year of pitching concepts with limited success.  I was getting really frustrated with how our great ideas were only receiving lukewarm reception but the company was producing real garbage.  We were biased towards our work of course, but it really seemed like frustrating process where we were acting more like salesmen than designers.  This was really the start, thinking there must be a better way for designer to get their great ideas to market.

At some point I remember hearing about Muhammad Yunus’ Nobel prize for micro-loans.  I found the concept of raising money through small increments very inspiring.  I think that lodged somewhere in my head and I thought it made sense to raise the great sums of money required for consumer product manufacturing.

I slowly formulated the business structure in my head and was encouraged to write a business plan to clarify and refine my concept.  I also began to notice that a few companies were really starting to use crowdsourcing to develop goods and it was only a matter of time until someone decided to apply it to consumer products.  As I didn’t want to regret not giving it a shot, I plunged in.  I took the fall of 2008 off from my continuing education studies in design management to devote time towards setting up the business.  And here we are now, 2 months in.

FTP: What are the first experiences with Joy de Vivre? Which reactions did you get, and what are your early users saying?

JY: The first experiences are very, very positive.  Everyone is very excited about the idea and really hope that it works out for us.  Our sales and traffic are slowly increasing, but am impressed with the impact we have made in just over 60 days.  Most interesting is following we have developed from Australia, Germany, and Israel.

FTP: Can you tell us a bit more about yourself? Do you have any personal experience with crowdsourcing?

JY: By education and experience I am a product design that has been practicing since I graduated from University in 2003.  I’ve had the opportunity to work as an in-house, freelance, and consultancy-based designer.  These jobs have allowed me to work on projects that range from municipal water treatment products and peritoneal dialysis machines, to dog toys and water bottles.  I have a real passion for well designed products and love the industry.  Other than that, I’m getting married in July and realized a year ago that I should have been sailing my entire life.

I don’t have any real first hand experiences with crowdsourcing other than my fiancé buying shirts from Threadless.com.  I wouldn’t say I’ve studied crowdsourcing or anything, I just find it a natural process.  As the old adage goes, “many hands make light work.”  The internet has allowed many more “hands” to get involved than would have been possible in the past.

FTP: How do you think Joy de Vivre is different to similar crowdsourcing companies? How do you want to make it special?

JY: Currently, no one else is using crowdsourcing to procure new ideas for consumer products and fund them.  Some sites are using crowdsourcing to spotlight products or designers, to source all their designs like threadless.com, or fund the upcoming albums of new bands, but no one has applied this to capital intensive projects like consumer products.   This is the biggest difference.  

Threadless does a great job procuring really great graphic designs and then has a small investment to bring them to market (buying the shirts, creating the silk screens, etc…). But consumer products are quite different.  We still have to procure the ideas but we also have to pay for substantial costs upfront before anything is made.  Tooling costs for consumer products start in the tens of thousands of dollars and can get into the hundreds of thousands of ideas very quickly.  This is why we pre-sell the products: we raise the money to pay for all the capital costs.  It significantly reduces any financial risk we take on and eliminates the risk for the consumer as we refund any money if the product is not fully funded.

We really want to make Joy de Vivre special by offering designers an outlet where they are encouraged to submit their ideas (not rejected like at most traditional manufacturers), offered fair, competitive compensation, sell really well designed, beautiful, and functional products, and reward our community by compensating them for helping to fund the product’s development.

FTP: What is the source of the designs? Who are your first designers?

JY: The first product we made available for funding, Cellule, was designed by Bradley Price and myself.  We had designed this modular lattice a long time ago and I always thought it was great idea and w
as puzzled why no manufacturers had jumped on it.  It seemed natural to launch with this product as it seemed symbolic of why I founded the company.  The second product, Terence Cooke’s “Fruity Bowl”, was a submission (full disclosure, I’ve known Terence for several years).  From this point, we will only be making products available for purchase that proves popular from our community.  This is in keeping with our crowdsourced model and will really help ensure whatever is made available for purchase will sell really well.

We should have no shortage of good ideas that will be submitted to our website.  Most product designers are always tinkering in their spare time to either build up their portfolios, create submissions for design competitions, or to pitch new concepts to manufacturers.  In time we hope that designers will be designing product just for us and then we will have a steady stream of product ideas.
 We will hopefully be giving all these beautiful, orphaned ideas a good home.

FTP: You also announced an open design competition. How will this take work?

JY: Yes, in a sense we are running an ongoing design competition.  Unlike traditional manufacturers, we are encouraging designers and innovators to send in their product ideas.  Normally, it is very difficult to make a good contact in an organization to pitch your ideas and most of the times they don’t accept design submissions if they have not asked for them.

We have now setup a submissions and voting platform where designers can submit their product ideas and our community can vote on them.  Popular ideas rise and less popular ideas sink.  We will be closely monitoring the submissions and ideas that do really well be chosen for production.  The submission process is really easy: all a designer has to do is upload a short description of the product and a few nice images.  The onus is on them to clearly communicate what the product is and really sell to the community.

FTP: A critical success factor for your business will be to gather a large enough crowd that follows the proposals and votes for them (with their money). How do you plan to create this movement?

JY: I couldn’t agree more, a big crowd makes or breaks this model.  We have a promotion strategy that has several fronts to get the crowds to us.

First, if a designer has a product made available for funding or voting, he/she has an incentive to spread the message to friends and family.  The more votes or purchases of that designer’s product the better its chances getting picked for production or become fully funded respectively.  We also hope that our consumers will spread the message.  Since we are rewarding everyone who helps to fund a product’s development, there is an incentive on the purchaser to tell friends and family about their purchase and encourage them to also buy.  More sales greatly increase the likelihood of a product being manufactured.  It is word of mouth advertising and is very potent.  We’ve already had purchasers of our first product promote the product and generate additional sales.

Second, we promote all the products that are made available for funding.  We have begun developing an extensive network of online and traditional media to publicize our new product offerings.  We are now able to send out a press release to a few select blogs and be quite confident of receiving a posting.  This allows us to very quickly disseminate a press release and really ramp the site traffic up.

Finally, we will be complementing the product promotion with our blog.  The blog highlights emerging designers and great products which are not being manufactured.  The blog combined with the submission/voting forum will slowly build up the community and make us a hub for emerging designers and products are not in production.  We are aware of how long this may take, but we are slowly getting there and have been surpassing all our site traffic targets to date.

FTP: In general, what are recent trends you see with regard to crowdsourcing and open innovation? What will be next?

JY: I see many more companies forming like us but for specialized products and services.  You already see many bands raising the funds to record their next albums through crowdsourcing models.  I’ve heard most recently of over $75,000 being raised for a female artist to record her latest album.  Her last track on the album has her singing out all the names of the people who helped raise the funds.  

With this kind of money able to be raised, it really opens doors to many more types of products and services.  The effect will likely be thousands of smaller companies using crowdsourcing and micro-financing to make product and services.  While I don’t believe the traditional Ikea’s will ever disappear, the consumer will have a lot more available to them because they will be helping to define what they want.

For more information, visit joydevivre.org or contact Joel Yatscoff at
joel (at) joydevivre.org or 364 King St. East, Toronto, Ontario M5A-1K9, Canada

28 03, 2009

Joy de Vivre: Collective Customer Commitment and Crowdsourcing in action at this Canadian startup

By | 2018-06-14T11:09:57+00:00 März 28th, 2009|Crowdsourcing, Design, MC Alternatives|

Via Burkhard Schneider's Blog, I got notice of Toronto, Canada, based Joy de Vivre. The start-up opened its doors last month and is entirely based on the concept of "collective customer commitment" that I described in 2006 in a MIT Sloan Management Review Article with Susumu Ogawa: Get the commitment of customers via crowdsourcing first before you invest in final product development and production.

On their website, Joy de Vivre descirbe their concept as follows:

"Product development is very expensive due to the high capital costs involved with prototyping, tooling, marketing, and distribution of products. Thousands of great ideas never make it to market because a manufacturer is not willing to risk money on development costs.

Using the crowdsourcing potential of the internet, these costs can be distributed over many people, making the individual costs affordable. We raise the capital required to manufacture a product by pre-selling its production. The retail price paid by you, our community of engaged consumers, is placed a development fund. This small figure, multiplied by hundreds or thousands of people, fully funds the product development costs. Designers get their idea made, you receive your product, and we all share in bringing a great idea to life. If the product doesn’t get fully funded, you get your money back."

Fruity_bowl- invest in it first before you can buy it
One of the two products recently listed on the site is the "Fruity Bowl", a — surprise — Fruit Bowl for $34.00. Designed by Terence Cooke, the company calculated that they have to pre-sell 1500 units of this product to go into production, The clock is ticking, 105 days to go. Remember: While the pictures look great, Fruity has not yet been manufactured. In order to bring Fruity to life, customers have to fund it. The funding period for Fruity lasts for 16 weeks beginning from its first sale. Within this time period, Fruity needs to sell a minimum of 1500 units to be manufactured. If Fruity is not fully funded within the 16 week period, all purchases are refunded within 4 days.

For a more comprehensive description of their approach, go here: http://www.joydevivre.org/pages/how-this-works

I am curious to see whether this will work. Its success strongly will depend from (1) the buzz the company can create to generate traffic and bring potential customer-investors to their site; and (2) the quality and appeal of the designs. But Threadless has shown that the basic model works! So let's follow how Joy de Vivre is doing.

16 09, 2008

Genometri is spinning-off new user manufacturing start-up, JuJups

By | 2018-06-14T12:53:46+00:00 September 16th, 2008|Co-creation, Co-Design Process, MC Alternatives, User Manufacturing|

Customization veteran Sivam Krish (CEO of Genometri.com) is in the progress of launching a new company, JuJups. The idea of JuJups is to create a kind of Über-Personalization site combining ideas we have seen at Ponoko, Shapeways, Fabidoo … etc.

JuJups.com shall become a new generation 3-D design creation gateway that allows consumers to create their own 3D content. Through JuJups, a worldwide community of users will come together to co-create, share, and co-produce designs – designs that can be realized as real-world products.

3D printing and Rapid Manufacturing methods are now maturing into affordable and reliable technologies which are increasingly accessible to companies. Combined with online design tools, this is opening up a whole new dimension of product possibilities where products can be designed, personalized and customized by customers themselves. Given the great capabilities Genometri has with regard to 3D design tools, this is a venture to watch!

In a new blog, he is reporting about his venture. http://genometri.com/blog/
In today's posting, he provides a nice quote by Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos (old, but not known to me before):

"Before long, “user-generated content” won’t refer only to media, but to just about anything: user-generated jeans, user-generated sports cars, user-generated breakfast meals.
This is because setting up a company that designs, makes and globally sells physical products could become almost as easy as starting a blog – and the repercussions would be earthshaking."

In his blog post, Sivam summarizes neatly that this already is happening. His company, Genometri, is working on some of the technologies that will take this much further. The prosumer economy is taking shape as the result of convergence of three major developments: 1. Online Content Creation, 2. Mass Customization, 3. Social Networking.

Read his full blog post for a good summary of recent companies in the field.

24 07, 2008

RYZwear.com: Applying the Threadless Concept to Footwear

By | 2018-06-14T12:54:13+00:00 Juli 24th, 2008|Co-Design Process, Crowdsourcing, Design, Footwear, MC Alternatives, Open/User Innovation, Sneaker|

we’ve set out to create a people’s brand – a community of designers,
sneakerheads and anyone that cares enough about art, fashion or sneakers to
speak up. Together we’ll create sneakers that are designed and chosen, not by
some big, faceless corporation, but by you.

Think of RYZ
as a stage for designers to showcase their creativity and a forum for people to
define what great sneaker design means. In other words, we just make
comfortable sneakers – the rest is up to you.“

This is how Rob Langstaff announced his new
business just one month ago, ryzwear.com The hope of RYZ is to become the Threadless
of footwear
, connecting people who design custom sneakers with those that
vote on the designs and purchase. I am wondering since long what could be good fields
where the extremely profitable Threadless idea can be applied to, and footwear
could be one option.

Rob Langstaff is not an
outsider of the sneaker world. The former
Adidas America Inc. president
has turned the business model of its former employer
upside down, Instead of assigning design jobs to inhouse designers, he is relying
on online clusters of consumers to design products and figure out which ones to
sell. „In Ryz’s case, it’s MySpace meets „American Idol,“ with
footwear as the unit of expression“, as an online report called the business model.

„The corporate design
team is limited by its walls,“ Langstaff is quoted in the news report,
„The corporation shouldn’t be dictating what the consumer wears. The
consumers should.“

This is how RYZ works:

  • Each month, Ryz will post a
    different standardized shoe silhouette on its Web site (a high-top shoe and a
    low-top shoe were the first two). Users can download the template and, using
    Adobe Photoshop, illustrate or add images across the shoe.

  • Site visitors can rate and
    comment on submissions. After a month, a winner will be declared and Ryz will
    order a run of the winning design — 100 pairs to start and 1,000 pairs by next
    — from a contract manufacturer in China.

  • The winning designer will
    get $1000 for the start, plus royalties of $1/piece on ongoing sales, and get their
    profiles attached to each pair and a listing in Ryzwear.com’s Hall of Fame.

  • Two weeks after the contest
    ends, Ryz will sell the winning shoes on the Web and, for now, in Xebio Co., a leading Japanese
    sporting-goods retailer that owns a stake in Ryz. The retail price: $75 to $90
    a pair

By 2012, Langstaff hopes to
allow users to design the entire shoe, from the shape of the sole to the shape
of the eyestay. He also hopes to get into athletic wear. He expects to rely on
customers to do most of his marketing.

Rob Langstaff is putting $4
million into his shoe startup, saying there is too great a disconnect between
businesses and consumers. He expects to do $40 million in revenue by 2012
(which would be about half the time of Threadless‘ way to scale, but could work
given his larger experience in the market and the higher price tags).

Interestingly, among some
of the people helping Langstaff to set to the business is Mikal Peveto, a former footwear executive who started
design-your-own shoe site Customatix
in 2000. In case you have followed mass customization since its beginning, you should
know Customatix. The company got much attention and had one of the best online
configurators of its time. But it also did offer too much of a good thing,
giving users really zillions of choices at a time when consumers were not
really educated in mass customization configurators.

But Peveto believes Ryzwear
can succeed where Customatix failed because consumers today are more comfortable
interacting and purchasing online from less-established companies.  „Our timing wasn’t great. We couldn’t get
people to buy because they didn’t trust the brand,“ Peveto said. „Now
is a completely different time than in 2000 because there are so many different
brands that are valid.“

So I am curious to see whether
Mikal Peveto and Rob Langstaff’s predictions come true. They took some serious
modifications of adopting the Threadless models for their industry. But
Threadless‘ customers are as much purchasing the membership in a club, a
community, by purchasing t-shirts frequently at $15 a pop. I am not quite sure that
this will work with $90 sneakers.

To develop however a great (and
profitable) underground line of sneakers with a great story, their approach may
work will. T
hey may want to learn from Muji, the
Japanese’s retailer, and its approach to the model. Muji is not just
letting customers vote on new designs, but also asks them to make a
small cash payment on the item they really want to have in stores.
Thus, they can much better predict what
people will purchase later. Such an approach also could benefit RYZ as
it would connect the voting process closer with purchasing.


A good article in Oregonlive told me first about RYZ

recent article in the
San Francisco Chronicle on crowdsourcing and user idea
competitions is featuring RYZ, Threadless, and a number of other companies.

My previous
reports about the CEC User Co-Design Competitionand Open Source Footwear.

24 05, 2008

Threadless – the full story: Inc. Magazine Feature on Threadless

By | 2018-06-14T12:54:35+00:00 Mai 24th, 2008|Clothing, Co-creation, Crowdsourcing, Design, MC Alternatives, MC/OI on the Web, Open/User Innovation, T-Shirts|

Max Chafkin,
a staff writer the US Entrepreneurship journal Inc. Magazine, has written a great report on Threadless  for the June 2008 issue of the magazine. It is available in a free online pre-press version now.

Max tells the entire story of Threadless, starting with the episode of a meeting at MIT where the Threadless guys gave one of their first public presentations. I had the privilege to be part of this meeting, and it is fun to read about it in paper (especially as I am at MIT in the moment, writing these lines from the same building where we had the initial meeting with Threadless).

Max did a great job in documenting the history and genesis of Threadless, but also reflecting on its future. Here are some quotes of Max' analysis of the case, but head to the website to read the entire article:

On Threadless' Size and Development

This rapid engagement propelled the company through four years of phenomenal growth, beginning around 2004. The user base grew tenfold, from 70,000 members at the end of 2004 to more than 700,000 today. Sales in 2006 hit $18 million — with profits of roughly $6 million. In 2007, growth continued at more than 200 percent, with similar margins. Though Nickell refuses to disclose the exact revenue number — perhaps because he now counts Insight Venture Partners, a New York venture capital firm, as a minority shareholder — it seems fair to assume that Threadless sold more than $30 million in T-shirts last year.

Ask Nickell what he makes of his company's whirlwind success, and he will respond rather sheepishly. "I think of it as common sense," he says. "Why wouldn't you want to make the products that people want you to make?" Indeed, the idea that the users of products are often best equipped to innovate is something many entrepreneurs know intuitively.

And it is supported by a growing body of research. A study published last year in the Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal suggested that the vast majority of companies are founded by "user-entrepreneurs" — people who went into business to improve a product they used. Meanwhile, studies by von Hippel and others show that in industries as diverse as scientific instruments and snowboard equipment, more than half the innovations generally come from users, not from research labs.

On user innovation and the resistance of traditional companies to adopt it

Some companies actually punish these people by cracking down on unauthorized innovations. Apple has famously "bricked" — that is, electronically disabled — iPhones that have been enhanced by their owners. Other companies pay lip service to user innovation but have trouble following through on the concept. "Companies are very good at creating platforms for external input, but they're very bad at using this input," says Frank Piller …

Threadless is an exception to this. "You could say that what Threadless does is trivial, but it's not," says Harvard's Lakhani. In fact, the very triviality of Threadless's product — something as low tech and as commoditized as a T-shirt — proves that vibrant online communities can drive all sorts of nontechnical businesses. This should be encouraging news to entrepreneurs. Customer communities have become exceedingly inexpensive to build and manage; blogging software and social network platforms, for example, are now available for free from a handful of start-ups. "We thought that open source could only work in software, and now it's being successfully applied to a product as mundane as a T-shirt," Lakhani says.

On Threadless' Corporate Culture and Work Style

[Today], the company is suspiciously companylike. The go-carts generally stay parked, the buck stays mute, and the Ping-Pong table serves as a gathering place for impromptu meetings. "When I started, we spent half the day playing," says Lance Curran, a bearded 29-year-old wearing a beanie, jeans, and a flannel shirt. "That doesn't happen anymore." This is not to say Curran doesn't like his job. On the contrary, he nearly glows when he talks about his rise from a temporary warehouse worker in 2005 to the warehouse manager in charge of a staff of 18 today. …

Like Curran, most of Threadless's employees come with no obvious qualifications for their jobs. The oldest staff member is 33, and many are under 25. The employees do, however, arrive with a deep and abiding love of Threadless, having joined the community long before they entered the work force.

Joe Van Wetering, a 21-year-old illustrator who works in the production department, was a frequent visitor to Threadless's offices as a teenager before taking a job in the warehouse in 2006. Ross Zietz had won seven competitions while studying art at Louisiana State University before he took a job as the company's janitor in 2004. He has since been promoted to art director, charged with helping the winning designers get their entries ready for printing. In fact, 75 percent of the company's 50 employees were community members before they were hired.

On other product categories Threadless is exploring

Now, Nickell is set to let his club loose on other businesses. In addition to expanding to children's clothing and retail, Threadless will begin selling prints and posters online. And later this year, the company will add a range of products, including handbags, wallets, and dinnerware, under the brand Naked & Angry. Each item will be adorned with patterns submitted by users, with a new product launched each month. "I think Naked & Angry, if handled properly, has the potential to be way bigger than Threadless, because we have the flexibility to do everything," says Kalmikoff, who envisions moving into high-end clothing as well as housewares. Jeff Lieberman, managing director of Insight Venture Partners and a board member, is even more bullish. "To say it's just a T-shirt company is absurd," he says. "I look at it as a community company that happens to use T-shirts as a canvas."

And Max' final evaluation of Threadless' Business Model: A fundamental economic shift

The way Eric von Hippel sees it, Threadless has tapped into a fundamental economic shift, a movement away from passive consumerism. One day in the not-too-distant future, he says, citizen inventors using computer design programs and three-dimensional printers will exchange physical prototypes in much the same way Nickell and cohorts played Photoshop tennis.

Eventually, Threadless-like communities could form around industries as diverse as semiconductors, auto parts, and toys. "Threadless is one of the first firms to systematically mine a community for designs, but everything is moving in this direction," says von Hippel. He foresees research labs and product-design divisions at manufacturing companies being outstripped by an "innovation commons" made up of tinkerers, hackers, and other devout customers freely sharing their ideas. The companies that win will be the ones that listen.

This may or may not come to pass, but the lesson of Threadless is more basic. Its success demonstrates what happens when you allow your company to become what your customers want it to be, when you make something as basic and quaint as "trust" a core competency. Threadless succeeds by asking more than any modern retail company has ever asked of its customers — to design the products, to serve as the sales force, to become the employees. Nick
ell has pioneered a new kind of innovation. It doesn't require huge research budgets or creative brilliance — just a willingness to keep looking outward.

– My earlier reports on Threadless are here and here.
– The full Inc. Magazin article

Read More
1 03, 2008

Great Report on User Manufacturing, Mass Customization, and How a New Infrastructure is Providing New Opportunities for SMEs

By | 2018-06-14T12:55:41+00:00 März 1st, 2008|Books, Co-creation, Crowdsourcing, Customization Trends, MC Alternatives, Open/User Innovation, Research Studies, Technologies & Enablers, User Manufacturing|

Sme_furture_reportLast week, I got a note by Steve King, a research affiliate with the Institute for the Future. This is a non-profit research group based in Silicon Valley. Founded in 1968 by a group of former RAND Corporation researchers with a grant from the Ford Foundation to take leading-edge research methodologies into the public and business sectors, the IFTF today publishes reports to help people and companies to understand what is coming next.

They recently released a forecast report that is part of a series on the future of small business. In this report, they stress that small businesses will actively take advantage and use new manufacturing methods to create mass customized goods.

The report was sponsored by Intuit and can be downloaded on their website: http://www.intuit.com/futureofsmallbusiness/ (download Report #3)

In the report, IFTF writes about a new artisan economy that is the result of new manufacturing technologies, enabling individuals to access similar production technologies as large corporations (crafters using Ponoko, see previous posting, are a perfect example). It is a very nice summary of many of the recent trends that I have discussed here. Fabbing, blogging, user manufacturing, customization, open innovation — it’s all there and brought into a nice and coherent framework.

I especially liked the part about the new infrastructure that is enabling these developments:

„Plug-and-play infrastructures will make small businesses more competitive and successful. The ability of small businesses to take advantage of large-scale infrastructures and leverage new technologies will allow them to enter and compete in industries formerly served only by big business.“

As an example, they refer to a great service that is enabling moms to become entrepreneurs, Mom Inventors, Inc.:

„For those who want to avoid teh hassle of assembling these services, firms are available to do everything for an entrepreneur. Mom Inventors Ic., for example, weill develop, manufacture, and sell quality Mom invented products throughout the United States and Europe. The mom (entrepreneur) only needs to come up with the idea, Mom Inventors will do the rest.“

So I am expecting to these many more knitted marvels and clever kitchen aids on the shelves, invented by „Lead Moms„.

The three developments described in the reportIn an e-mail exchange, Steve told me more about the background of the report, and stressed another implication from their research:

„A major issue we are trying to figure out is how small business relates to mass customization and user innovation. This was originally prompted by our work looking at consumer generated media – specifically blogs.

We found that the blogs with the most traffic were not authored by consumers, but by professionals. The professionals tended to fall into two categories: (1) small or independent businesses trying to build a small publishing business; or (2) professionals using blogs to promote either themselves or the goods and services of their company. Looking deeper at the second group, we found that most of them worked for small businesses.

Based on this work (which we did several years ago), we started looking at other categories. We quickly found a similar pattern of small business participation across a broad range of categories, including media (YouTube videos, etc.), open source software, crafts and small scale manufacturing (a lot of Makers at Maker Faire are small businesses, for example), financial services, etc.

Basically, we saw small businesses playing a role in almost every category where niche products and/or services were being built or highly customized. We also found a pattern of category „power users“ moving from being hobbyists to starting their own small businesses. We kept seeing „prosumers“ turning into small businesses, and we kept seeing small businesses somewhere in the customization value chain.“

Accordingly, another area indicated in the report where small businesses will grow in the future is to serve as an innovation lab for larger corporations. Platforms like Innocentive or P&G’s connect and develop program will help small businesses to sell their creativity to larger corporations in an efficient way. This may be the next wave of contract research.

Overall, a nice summary of recent trends that is worthwhile reading due its focus on small businesses.

Context: Get the full report here. http://www.intuit.com/futureofsmallbusiness/ (download Report #3)

15 02, 2008

INTELLIFIT Moves From Virtual Fitting (match-to-order) to True Mass Customization: Custom-made jeans with a high-tech twist

By | 2018-06-14T12:55:58+00:00 Februar 15th, 2008|Clothing, Customization Trends, MC Alternatives, Personalization, Technologies & Enablers|

Intellifit's scanner and a rendering of the custom clothing platformIntellifit is know to me as one of the leading providers of match-to-order systems in fashion retail. They currently market a special 3D full body scanner. At a retail location, the consumer enters a see-through „Intellifit Virtual Fitting Room“ (the scnanner) that’s 8′ high and 7′ wide. There, low power radio waves collect about 200 accurate body measurements in under 15 seconds – a personal “FitPrint” – while the consumer remains fully clothed. This data is used to match the user’s measurements with sizing information of (standard) garments in the store.

According to the company, Intellifit has measured over 230,000 individuals to date, representing the largest sizing database of its kind in the world.

But now Intellifit customers will become enabled to use their profiles to shop for custom made jeans, and in the future, for custom pants, khakis, or shirts. Last week, the company began a test of its “Custom Jeans Center” at its company retail store outside of Philadelphia. Consumers can design their own custom-made jeans with a guarantee of a perfect fit. In the moment, retail shopping is by appointment only and includes consultation with a fashion advisor.

The customer can choose jeans from a selection of styles and washes and add details such as pocket shape and design, stitching and personalization options. The price point of the custom jeans is at about $150.

The FitPrint is transferred electronically from the retail location to the jeans manufacturer, where the garment pieces are custom-cut by computer control. The completed custom jeans are shipped directly to the customer in 3 to 4 weeks.

“This test will help us determine the scalability of the process. With a positive result, an international roll-out will be close behind,” Rob Weber, Intellifit’s President, is quoted in a recent press release.

I believe that this combination of mass customization and match-to-order is a very promising way of establishing a sustainable operation. Many consumers do not want to wait for a perfect fit that is just made for them, but also are frustrated by complexity of choice and not finding their right size in a large retail store. Also, if the system finds that a standard item on stock is providing you a good fit, the retailer will have an advantage as the inventory can be reduced. On the other hand, if a consumer does not find a standard garment according to her fit and preferences, she does not have to leave the store without a puchase — but can be transferred to the mass customization option.

For Intellifit, entering the mass customization market also is a great way to leverage the exiting investments in building such a large database of „FitPrint“ customer profiles.

– For more information and store locations, go to www.intellifit.com.
MVM’s virtual model and Archetype’s ZAFU are similar matching-services in the online world.
– Report about METRO’s matching and in-store recommendation service

2 01, 2008

User Manufacturing Trendwatching Report

By | 2018-06-14T12:56:29+00:00 Januar 2nd, 2008|Co-creation, Customization Trends, Design, Fabbing, MC Alternatives, User Manufacturing|

Make-it-yourself trendTrendwatching, a large trend research network, has recently published its annual briefing on the main trends for 2008. Among them is my favorite new topic, user manufacturing (other terms for the same idea are desktop manufacturing, manufacturing as a service, fabbing, …). Named „MIY – Make it Myself“ the Trendwatching crew is naming user manufacturing as the next big thing in user-created content.

[user generated content]“ is a mainstream trend now, one that keeps giving, with millions of consumers uploading their creative endeavors online, and tens of millions of others enjoying the fruits of their creativity. User-generated content, at least in the online world, has grown from a teenage hobby to an almost equal contender to established entities in news, media, entertainment and craft.“

These consumers expect to be able to create anything they want as long as it is digital, and to customize and personalize many physical goods with traditional mass customization offerings. The next step in this evolution will be their desire to transfer digitally designed products into real physical goods as well.

Trendwatching is expecting that „MIY | MAKE IT YOURSELF (and then SIY | SELL IT YOURSELF) becomes increasingly sophisticated in the next 12 months“.

As references, they refer to old friends which have been covered in this blog before:

# New Zealand-based Ponoko (which works like a Zazzle for 3D objects, see my original article on them here)

# Fab Lab Bcn (Barcelona) is part of the worldwide network of Fab Labs, an initiative of MIT Center for Bits and Atoms, and provides a laser-cutter, water jet, 3D printer, mini-mill and other machines for participants to use. One of Fab Lab’s initiators is Neil Gershenfeld, professor at MIT and author of FAB: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop.

# The Desktop Factory 3D printer, with a list price of USD 4,995, uses an inexpensive halogen light source and drum printing technology to build robust parts from composite plastic powder, layer by layer. Desktop Factory envisages that within three years, Desktop Factory’s 3D printers will be affordable for home use.

# They also mention the Swedish design group FRONT and their Sketch Furniture project. This trio materializes freehand sketches of furniture into real options. Very nice, very expensive with a chair starting at USD 10,500 per piece.

The last section of their trend report is very important to read, something that I always mention in my presentations on the limitations of user manufacturing:

„Now, we’re not saying every consumer is going to design and manufacture his or her own furniture or appliances. Rather, MIY is yet another piece of the participation puzzle: enabling those consumers who feel like it to call the shots, bypassing traditional players. In future briefings we’ll address the implications of what this choice – being able to consume ready-made or create their own versions of anything and everything – will mean for the behavior and expectations of younger generations.“

– The orginal Trendwatching report

– My original report about user manufacturing and my definition of this idea

– My earlier report about Ponoko (more here).

– My earlier report about the low cost 3D printers

– If you can read German, Jochen Krisch had many excellent postings on user manufacturing in the last months, a very good staring point is his recent listing of all 3D printing services on the web.

– A very good starting point also is press reports of Z-Printer, a manufacturer of 3D printers used to make custom objects.