ThinkGeek Products Appear as Hollywood Set Decorations
This company, a division of GeekNet, produced $76 million in revenue last year, a 55 percent increase over the previous year. Things continue to look up with shows like ABC's "Extreme Makeover" choosing ThinkGeek products for room decorations, or the CBS show "The Big Bang Theory," where ThinkGeek T-Shirts regularly show up. Of course, ThinkGeek is more than just a place filled with gadget-crazed geeks and Star Trek fans (although you'll find plenty of those, too); the employees I talked to also consider it the best possible place to work. Some of them were accompanied by their office canine assistants, including Buford, who slept on the floor and snored, and Harley, who was a lot more interested in seeing what this latest intruder to his domain smelled like than in playing with the ball on the floor of his master's cube.Still, despite its casual feel, ThinkGeek is serious business. Jamie Grove, ThinkGeek's vice president, Evil Schemes and Nefarious Plans (who might be the VP of marketing in some other business) works to keep ThinkGeek in front of the public and its products fresh. Some of those products are invented in ThinkGeek labs, where some of the many prototypes that are built will eventually become actual products. ThinkGeek designs and produces some of its own products, outsources manufacturing for others and buys some items from outside vendors. The ThinkGeek goal, of course, is to provide amusement and occasionally useful tools for the technically minded. And not all of its products are toys: ThinkGeek sells a very useful iPad stylus that is nice enough that I bought one before I had the actual iPad. But the company also needs to stay ahead of its archrival X-Treme Geek, which offers some similar products and some that are aimed at different audiences. Part of ThinkGeek's success is the way it engages with customers. For example, when ThinkGeek contracted for a line of calendars from Despair Inc., they had the calendars printed with April 20 designated as "Send ThinkGeek a Pizza Day." The first year the employees had five pizzas anonymously delivered. This year it was 20 pizzas. Few companies get that kind of support from their customers, but at ThinkGeek, it's routine.
The office dogs give the ThinkGeek offices character, but they also speak to the overall work environment, which would be relaxed even by Silicon Valley standards, but which is positively unlike anything else anywhere around its Washington, D.C., suburban location. You have to wonder how things might change if this culture migrated across the Potomac to the seat of power on Capitol Hill.