Most of us know that James Watt was credited with inventing the steam engine. Actually he worked as a mechanic at Glasgow University when the dean asked him to repair their broken model steam engine. In doing so he created a modification that changed the world, as well as the power and efficiency of the steam engine.
What most people do not know was that Watt and his partner Matthew Boulton did not begin selling steam engines to power the industrial revolution, they sold steam engine kits! Indeed kits powered the industrial revolution.
Henry Ford sold one vehicle, no options, that spawned a whole industry of entrepreneurs to build upgrades for the “Black Ford”. We believe the Switch has the potential to revive Ford’s success by offering a modular platform kit that empowers a network of entrepreneurs to add modifications, upgrades and options to our base model.
Role of Kits in New Product Development
Call it bottom-up mechanisms or “Kitonnomics” the role of kits in the human capital formation cannot be denied. As mentioned above Watt sold steam engine kits circa 1776. In 1910 seven years after the Wright brothers first flight, Popular Mechanics published free airplane plans. Sony founders Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka sold kits to convert AM radios to shortwave radios. These are but a few examples of how mass consumer adoption AND money follows the innovations introduced through kits.
Microsoft, Apple and Sony trace their origins to original products to the kit. Microsoft started as a software supplier to DIY computer kit builders, the original Apple Computers were built from kits and Sony leveraged their original radio kits into an electronics giant.
“Talented amateurs don’t just build kits; kits help build talented amateurs. And healthy innovation cultures – and successful innovation economies – need the human capital that their talent embodies. Kits are integral, indispensable, and invaluable ingredients for new value creation.” (Michael Schrage, Make Magazine February 2012)