As technology improves and becomes more available, small, upstart companies can use technology to compete against the big guys. With increasing speed, technology is enabling the small to compete in new creative ways against the big boys. This trend is especially evident in the way that some startup companies are using the power of an online community to enable their businesses. Most of the media attention is on the big online communities who are social media businesses (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), but some of the most interesting examples are not pure social media businesses, but are companies using social media as a competitive weapon in other domains.

Take Quirky.com. Essentially a product development and promotion shop, it is using a variety of technologies to create a small organization that can launch products in a way that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago: online community design, online community voting, online community promotion, and even component “printing.” Quirky isn’t a social media company, but it is using social media to reinvent the business model. I’d bet there are some staid organizations in the product development market who are paying a lot of fretful attention to what is going on at Quirky.

Quirky Manifesto from Quirky on Vimeo.

Quirky is a niche player, at least for now, but if we think of them as an experiment in using social media and the power of the cloud as a competitive weapon, we can start to envision what the competitive landscape is shaping up to be. Once again, it is the small, new companies that seem to be first to use these kinds of technologies AND the social patterns that they enable. Where are the big guys in this game?