This is Ben Kaufman. You may remember him as the kid who came to Vermont to attend Champlain College, while running his own iPhone accessory business, Mophie. He quickly dropped out of Champlain to focus on Mophie before selling the company in 2007.
He took the money he made on Mophie and started working on another concept, which he premiered at the "Burlington Brainstorm" in February of 08. That's where I took this photo of him, in the space that houses the 215 College Artist's Co-op. At the time, Kaufman was calling his new venture kluster. He brought it to a TED conference, showed it off to some celebrities, etc.
I didn't hear anything about kluster for awhile, and then this Sunday, I was reading the NY Times Sunday Magazine, and I came across Kaufman's name again, this time in Rob Walker's Consumed column. Kaufman is now plugging Quirky.com, which sounds a lot like kluster (see video after the jump).
Since his '08 brainstorm in Burlington, Kaufman has relocated to NYC. I just found a New York Observer article about him that came out last month. He's still telling the same story he told us in '06, about how he dropped out of college after getting a call from a manufacturer in China during one of his college classes.
Here he is, talking about his short-lived Champlain career in the Observer:
Mr. Kaufman said he plans on opening a little product factory in his Avenue A location, so we can watch products be built — he says one of his favorite places in the world is in a factory in Vermont, where he created Mophie products. He went to college up there for just six weeks before dropping out, he told The Observer. He was in an international business class and got a call from China about one of his Mophie products. His professor told him to drop the call or leave. "I asked him, do you really want me to listen to your theoretical bullshit when I could actually practice the trade? And he was like, 'Yeah,' and I was like, that was it," Mr. Kaufman said. "I said, 'Peace,' and never came back."
He doesn't plan to return anytime soon.
He's polished that anecdote a bit since back in the day.
I can't help but wonder if this 22-year-old guy is really going to make it big, or if he's just a wunderkind who gets a lot of press because he's got money, and has already gotten a lot of press. Hard to say. I'm definitely curious about how his new venture will play out.
UPDATE: Check it out, Quirky unveils a new product spawned by its collaborative idea-sharing site: The PowerCurl.