Reflections and How Groopti is Working to Better Support Independent Designers

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Groopti Genesis

Today marks a major milestone and one which deserves a bit of reflection on the past and future of Groopti. Today we pivot Groopti away from our beloved product development model to one more focused on supporting furniture, decor, and art installation by offering a special place for promoting and engaging independent design projects.

The Groopti project was born out of an idea: independent furniture designers should use the internet to make their projects come to life quicker, easier, and with greater success.

“I happen to believe strongly in design. That it carries with it a meaning that isn’t all utilitarian. Design helps us express ourselves and that’s a big part of life after all isn’t it? But, you see, I was often hearing people gripe about the elusiveness of independent design. That shouldn’t be the way it is. Independent design is where its at. Its that ultimate expression that doesn’t come in annual lines of targeted market trends or price-point value equations but from the hearts and the minds of people with unbridled creativity.

I happen to believe strongly in design. That it carries with it a meaning that isn’t all utilitarian. Design helps us express ourselves and that’s a big part of life after all isn’t it? But, you see, I was often hearing people gripe about the elusiveness of independent design, that ultimate expression that doesn’t come in annual lines of targeted market trends or price-point value equations but from the hearts and the minds of people with unbridled creativity. Friends would say, “independent design is way too expensive.” Designers I’d meet would say, “I have an amazing idea but I don’t know how to get it made” or “I can’t find a manufacturer to pick up my design” or “I don’t want to pay the big bucks for development and then bringing it to shows.” And I could sympathize, I had my own perspective too.

I knew the risk of most independent design (and consequently why the cost is often so high). The fact is manufacturing is expensive, time consuming, and even with a clear spot in the market pegged, it’s still an open question what response the market will have. Niche design by unknown designers with no distribution attached is like playing holdem poker… going all-in… blind… with 1 hole card against a full-house. You can win, but its a long shot.

I knew this from my own experience. I grew up in a family of inventors mostly doing high-tech but low-tech and design projects sometimes too. I witnessed first hand the uncountable hours spent discussing, tweaking machinery, testing etc all with the dream that the “revolutionary new product” would indeed do what it was intended to do and people would buy it. I worked in manufacturing in the US and in China. I started my own boutique product development company, DAORAD, and felt the disappointment of building a product that few wanted.

So flash back to when Groopti was born… My partners and I were tired of seeing so many good ideas go to waste. If the problem is testing market viability isn’t there some way to test it using the brave new world of a socially networked web?

What we’ve learned

Testing market viability online needs several key ingredients:
1) An active community of members with a good diversity of usership. Groopti has achieved some pretty nice traffic number and great response from some industry heavy weights, independent designers, and early adopters. We received submissions from over 12 countries. We have had the big shows like Highpoint reach out to support us. (Thank you!)
2) Skin in the Game. To vote you need something on the line or something to gain. The model we initially imagined for Groopti was to make it super easy to vote and make the vote count for everything. We thought to put the users in the drivers seat and make the designs they select the ones we feature on our shop and market to our distributors.

With every great idea there’s time, testing, and objective appraisal (oh yes and bills…). Testing went very well. Our team was great at identifying ways to improve the user experience and we’ve received a ton of awesome feedback to keep us moving forward, but for those of you who are consistently checking the site, looking to buy designs, or eagerly awaiting the next development contest you’ve been pretty patient and we can’t keep you waiting any longer. Getting funding for a complex international business model in a see-saw economy has led us to re-access and make a bold move.

Pivot to Integrate with a Bigger Community, Better to Support Independent Design

Its nice to have it all to yourself but the Web is a big place. Today with the launch of the Groopti(V4) we are officially pivoting Groopti towards achieving better integration with the independent design movement online.

Today with the launch of the Groopti(V4) we are officially pivoting Groopti towards a new approach to supporting independent design and hope to achieve better integration with the independent design movement online. We love how Kickstarter and other crowd-funding platforms are helping and we want to support those of you posting projects to get the cash to develop your ideas. We want to make it easier to share your projects and get feedback from independent designers like you that are eager to critique, praise, and give their own insights.

What we hope Groopti will become is a time sensitive and project specific place for independent designers and enthusiasts of independent design to engage one another, promote their projects and give feedback on others’. We’re eager to learn, grow, adapt to whatever makes Groopti a Home for independent design supporting independent designers around the globe. In the end that’s what it’s all about.

Please leave us feedback or send us an email with any idea or comments you think can help move Groopti and independent design forward. Thanks for all the love and continued support.

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