GE’s FirstBuild crowdsourcing is innovating the appliance field


FirstBuild is a micro factory that GE has established in Louisville, KY and is a place where innovators can come together and try to create new products. It challenges the community to design and make strides in the way we think of household appliances.

Anyone from designers to engineers to your home enthusiast can participate in submitting an entry or working on a project; the only catch is that you have to be over 18. GE is also backing the project by having a slew of product developers, engineers, and project leaders oversee different tasks from the community. The factory is run as a garage startup – the idea is that the startup can mitigate some risks involved in the developing stage. For a big company like GE – it normally takes several years to plan, design, engineer, manufacture, and then hit the market.

“If we are going to fail – we want to fail fast” said director Natarajan Venkatakrishnan. GE understands that bigger companies don’t want to take unnecessary risks in the appliance industry when an idea might fail – but the startup gives products a chance that otherwise might have never seen the light of day.

GE also has big pockets to line the factory with what it needs so that they do not have to have big manufacturing equipment. The director goes on to state “For $4,000 I have a desktop thing where I can edge circuit boards that didn’t exist five years ago. I’ve got laser cutters where I can cut metal. I’ve got a pick-and-place machine [used in the assembly of circuit boards]. Five years ago, if I had to make an entity to design and build and sell in low volume, where would I find the equipment?”

With the use of crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe and Indiegogo we have seen new trends of designs and innovation across the industry. For example, FirstBuild’s Opal Nugget Ice Maker is an ice machine that makes soft chewable ice that restaurants like Sonic uses – managed to raise an impressive 2.7 million dollars through the use of crowdfunding site Indiegogo.

Other impressive projects from FirstBuild include the Monogram Pizza Oven – designed to make restaurant pizza in the comfort of your own home, (You can also control it with your smartphone, if you’re into digital ecosystems) as well as the Pique Coffee Brewer that boasts a cold brew of coffee around 10 minutes – that impressively beats the traditional time to make in 12 to 24 hours

Of course – GE doesn’t expect you to make household innovations for free.  FirstBuild works in a way where your ideas and designs are voted on by other community members, and the ideas that are best received by the FirstBuild community are the ones that get compensated. Recently a man from Mexico won the design contest for the Pique Coffee Brewer – so anything is possible. On top of the compensation for the ideas that you submit online, if you have an idea that takes off and is added to GE’s main product line you could be compensated with up to a .5% royalty of the net sales.

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