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10 unknown inventors who turned little ideas into big cash

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Most of us, at some point, have what we're certain is a million-dollar idea, but generally we keep it to ourselves. Most people simply aren't willing to risk their livelihood on something that just flittered into their head.

Enter Quirky.com. Sifting through thousands of user-submitted ideas, the site's staff picked the best—and leveraged the community to polish and improve those concepts. From there, Quirky arranged for manufacturing and sale, splitting the income with both the inventor and the community that helped polish it.

On Thursday, Quirky CEO Ben Kaufman said at a tech conference that the crowdsourced inventing site is running out of money—"running on fumes," Kaufman said specifically. Quirky is now more focused on partnerships with large companies rather than its direct production of a large number of inventor-submitted ideas.

So it's a good time to take a lot at what worked on Quirky—if not the startup's business plan itself, which included close to $200 million in venture capital investment. Whatever the inventing site's fate from here, Quirky inventors have made some significant sums of money on the site, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Here's a look at Quirky's top-selling products, as judged by income paid out to the inventors, as of July 17.

By Chris Morris, special to CNBC.com
Posted 17 July 2015

Brian Jackson | Getty Images