Electric City getting Quirky;Consumer products firm bringing 180 new jobs


Quirky, an innovative New York City consumer products company that combines invention with social media, is opening a call center and testing lab on the top two floors of Center City — a move that is expected to bring 180 new jobs to Schenectady.

It’s not clear what those jobs will pay; the bulk are believed to be in a call center the company will establish.

At Quirky’s New York City headquarters, analysts and designers are paid in the $40,000 range, according to Glassdoor.com, a high-tech employer tracking site. Call center jobs in Schenectady that require less training would likely pay less than that, especially since it is a startup, although the company did not reveal its salaries it planned to pay here.

The opening of the new office coincides with the launch of a cutting-edge air conditioner developed by Quirky and General Electric Co. that will be hitting the shelves of major retailers, requiring a beefed-up customer service department.

Quirky CEO Ben Kaufman — a cross between Ron Popeil and Steve Jobs — got the rock star treatment Thursday morning. Police had to stop traffic as Kaufman, wearing black clothes and sneakers, led a gaggle of news media and local officials from Proctors, where he made his announcement, across the street to Center City.

Quirky, which is getting nearly $1 million in state and local subsidies, will occupy 22,000 square feet in Center City. On the top floor where Quirky will have its call center, there are views of the iconic GE sign as well as Union College and other Schenectady landmarks.

“The space is great, it’s just gorgeous,” Kaufman said. “It’s going to be phenomenal.”

Quirky uses “crowd sourcing” to help develop product ideas submitted by inventors and just regular people. The crowd sourcing is done by the public who provide feedback on the inventions, which range from flexible power outlets to hand-held fruit spritzers. The company makes the products and sells them from its website.

Customer service reps in Schenectady will help inventors as well as consumers who buy its products such as the new Aros air conditioner developed with GE. The Aros, which costs $300, is innovative because it can be programmed and operated from your mobile phone and can tell you how much energy you are using.

The new office has to be opened by May because that is when Aros is expected to start hitting stores.

According to those who helped land the Quirky deal, Kaufman was initially interested in opening a call center in Burlington, Vt., that would counterbalance the company’s headquarters in Chelsea in Manhattan.

But officials with GE — which has invested $30 million in Quirky and is working with the company on product development — thought that Kaufman should give Schenectady a look.

Brad Irvine, head of GE Licensing, a GE division based in Albany that has worked closely with Quirky along with GE Global Research in Niskayuna, invited Kaufman up to Schenectady last month to tour the Center City space and downtown Schenectady. Kaufman, who met with local officials, was impressed with the revitalization of downtown Schenectady, the proximity to GE Global Research and the idea of being where Thomas Edison once worked. The deal was sealed over dinner at Johnny’s.

“These people came in from New York City, and they fell in love with Schenectady,” said David Buicko, chief operating officer of Galesi Group, which owns Center City.

Kaufman was also sold on Proctors, which he said will be used as a venue for the company’s product evaluations, which are streamed live online. A job fair will be held noon to 2 p.m. Thursday at Proctors.

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