This week's newsletter includes stickers for customizing cars, stickers for customizing sneakers, lockers for convenient laundry service, a refrigerator that serves as a (very bulky) iPod docking station, and more. Our next edition is due on
17 September 2008. In the meantime, check out our daily postings on, send us your tips, and
please don't forget to tell your friends and colleagues about us. Much appreciated!


September 10, 2008

As our regular readers know, Ponoko manufactures products that creative consumers dream up. Users upload a design, and Ponoko makes the item and ships it to them, or to their buyers. Realizing that many consumers have great ideas for products, but lack the know-how to turn an idea into a manufacturable design, Ponoko has now added a clever new option: Ponoko ID.

Ponoko ID lets anyone submit a request, including a description (purpose, materials, colours, measurements, etc, plus links to relevant images, sketches or videos if they have them), as well as their ideal price and delivery deadline. Their request is then sent to a selection of designers who can put forward a bid by emailing a brief proposal to the shopper. After reviewing bids, the shopper can accept the one that best matches their Once the designer confirms the transaction, the request/bid becomes a binding agreement. The shopper makes payment to the designer (through Ponoko), and the designer creates the item. Creating transparency for both groups, shoppers and designers can review one another by leaving comments in their profiles.

Allowing consumers to have custom goods made to their own specifications is an interesting variation on the Intention Economy. As defined by Doc Searls: "The Intention Economy grows around buyers, not sellers. It leverages the simple fact that buyers are the first source of money." While most examples of the Intention Economy have focused on consumers making their intentions known in order to get the best prices from retailers, applying the concept to a product's conception creates a whole new world of opportunities for consumers and designers. "Consumers have grown accustomed to shopping at retail stores where mass produced items may fail to satisfy their needs," explains David ten Have, Ponoko's CEO. "Ponoko ID is the world's first online service for getting unique products custom designed just for you, without the costs and hassles involved in finding a designer, manufacturer and materials." (Related: Design-before-you-buy on German version of Etsy.)


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September 10, 2008

We've featured Sellaband numerous times: the music website that lets fans propel the careers of unsigned artists. A similar concept has just popped up in the publishing world. Founded by HarperCollins, Authonomy is a new community that invites unpublished and self-published authors to post at least 10,000 words of a fiction or non-fiction manuscript for visitors to read online.

Visitors can review and recommend books, and can showcase their five favourite submissions on a virtual bookshelf that's viewable from their profile page. Authonomy keeps track of the number of recommendations a book receives and ranks writers accordingly. Readers are also ranked, based on how good they've been at spotting books that make it to the top of Authonomy's charts. To help authors make it from computer screen to printed book, once a month the top five books are delivered to the desks of an editorial board made up of international HarperCollins commissioning editors.

The website is free to use both for readers and writers, and HarperCollins hopes the wisdom of the crowds will help them unsource potential hits that individual editors or agents might otherwise miss, or just don't have the time to read. Needless to say, the site could also prove to be a good marketing tool once manuscripts are actually published, since authors won't have to build a fan base from scratch. (Related: Crowd-finding the next blockbuster.)


Spotted by: Carol Monroe

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September 10, 2008

We've written about product life story labels on goods ranging from bananas to jewelry, and a few weeks ago a new example emerged from the world of apparel: New Zealand merino wool clothing company Icebreaker now allows customers to trace each garment they buy back to the sheep stations where the merino fibre was grown.

Back in 1997 Icebreaker started buying its merino wool direct from growers, a system it says was a first in the industry. Beginning last month, it began including on most Icebreaker garments an internal label bearing a unique 'Baacode' number. By following the instructions on an attached swingtag, customers can enter that code on the Icebreaker website and trace the wool in their garment through to its origins on the Southern Alps of New Zealand. Icebreaker sources its pure merino wool from more than 120 sheep stations and over 1 million sheep; through photos and video, customers can see the living conditions of the particular animals that produced their wool, meet the high country farmers who run the sheep stations, and follow the production process to the factories that knit, dye, finish, cut, manufacture and ship the garments.

"For us, sustainability is about transparency and being able to show the whole design of the business, which starts with the growers and continues through every step of the supply chain," explains Jeremy Moon, Icebreaker's founder and CEO. That's transparency triumph, and it's coming soon to an industry near you—if it hasn't already. Woe to the company that's still trying to hide behind an army of middlemen! (Related: Full provenance sweatersDole's product life story labelsA status story for spinach)


Spotted by: Sven Ericksen

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September 9, 2008

When we wrote about Volkswagen UK's Beetle Art stickers for cars a couple of years ago, we noted that allowing consumers to design their own decals would mesh even better with the customer-made trend. Lo and behold, one of our spotters recently came across a site that takes a crowdsourcing approach to consumer-created sticker designs.

San Francisco-based Infectious, which launched earlier this year, offers a range of car stickers designed by artists from around the world, but it also lets consumers submit their own designs. Those interested can first get an informal critique from the community on the site. Once they're happy with their design, they can submit it either through Infectious's open submission process, or through one of its themed contests. (The first contest, which just ended, sought submissions on the theme of Barack Obama.) Designs are then posted for voting on the site. Creators of those voted into production get USD 100 and 5 percent of net sales; the Infectious team's favourite of the month also gets an additional USD 400 and up to USD 400 in Infectious product. Infectious Car Art is designed to last 12 to 24 months. Prices range from roughly USD 35 for an icon to USD 389 for a full kit.

There's no stopping Generation C(ontent) and its content-producing proclivities, and increasingly these creative consumers are demanding rewards for their efforts. Generation C(ash) is here to stay—now that's a trend that will stick! ;-)


Spotted by: Anita Windisman

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September 9, 2008

Branded brand spottings have been relatively few and far between on Springwise since we covered the miCoach fitness-focused cell phone from Samsung and adidas earlier this year. Recently, however, one of our spotters sent in news of a shining new example coming out of Slovenia.

Following in the tracks of cars that have added iPod integration, Slovenian appliance maker Gorenje has unveiled a "Made for iPod" refrigerator that is specially designed around iPod Touch technology. Featuring an iPod docking station, the fridge lets users charge their iPod, play back music and video and, in wirelessly enabled households, connect to the Web. Music is played through built-in speakers, while video content—which can include anything from music videos to video recipe instructions—are displayed on the iPod's screen. Through Gorenje's newly launched iGorenje web portal, meanwhile, users will have access to additional content related to cooking and other household tasks, adjusted for viewing on the iPod Touch screen and other mobile devices. The site will also allow for wifi control of household appliances connected to a home server, Gorenje says. The Made for iPod refrigerator was demonstrated last week at the IFA 2008 consumer electronics fair in Berlin; production is scheduled to begin late this year or early next. No word yet on pricing or availability.

Gorenje is no stranger to branded-brand partnerships—in fact, regular Springwise readers may remember our coverage of its Swarovski crystal-laden range of appliances a few years ago. Will working with iPod technology reinvigorate the appliance category for a whole new generation of tech-savvy consumers? Time will tell. Meanwhile, one to watch!


Spotted by: Helena M.

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September 8, 2008

This year's Summer Olympics focused new international interest on Beijing in particular and China in general, so it's not surprising to see new products and services emerging with a Chinese twist. Case in point: a new series of MP3 audio tours of Chinese cities created by luxury brand Louis Vuitton.

Louis Vuitton Soundwalk MP3 audio guides, produced in collaboration with Soundwalk (creator of "audio tours for people who don't normally take audio tours"), are designed to give users a vibrant portrayal of three Chinese cities—Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai. Each is led by an icon of Chinese cinema, with Gong Li narrating the Beijing tour, Joan Chen describing Shanghai and Shu Qi leading the tour of Hong Kong. The hour-long tours blend walking instructions with nostalgic story-telling, accompanied by the signature sounds of each city, and are carefully synchronized with the itinerary. They are available in English, French, Cantonese, Chinese, Korean and Japanese, priced at EUR 12 each.

Narrated walking tours by MP3 are a relatively inexpensive way to give consumers some of the experiences and status skills they so ardently crave, even if they never actually make it to the location in person. Soundwalk already offers a variety of other MP3 tours of cities including New York and Paris, as well as Puma-branded running tours of Berlin, New York, London and Paris and a multibranded Da Vinci Code tour of the Louvre. It's not hard to imagine vintners, musicians and artists—to name just a few examples—creating MP3 tours of their own, guiding consumers through the highlights and influences of their city or region. How could a tour bring a new experience element to your brand...?


Spotted by: Bjarke Svendsen

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September 8, 2008

A few weeks ago we wrote about Dutch Insinger de Beaufort's shoebox approach to private banking, and we couldn't help but notice the similarity with an innovative San Francisco laundry service one of our spotters recently pointed out. Catering to those who are frustrated with the inconvenience of traditional laundry and dry-cleaning services—many of which, like banking, can involve parking hassles and limited hours—Laundry Locker offers on-site convenience and 24-hour service through a fleet of lockers located in apartment buildings throughout the city.

Customers begin by creating an account online, then they place their dirty clothes in any available locker and pocket the key. (In addition to servicing lockers in 355 apartment buildings, Laundry Locker also operates several kiosks throughout the city, and home delivery is available as well.) Laundry Locker personnel check all locations each day and send an email confirming and requesting payment for each order received. Dry cleaning is cleaned and packaged, including minor repairs at no extra charge, for prices beginning at USD 2.25 per shirt. Regular washing, meanwhile, is separated into white and coloured loads and washed separately from that of other customers, then neatly folded for pick-up. Wash-and-fold pricing begins at USD 1.35 per pound, and users can specify online exactly how they want their laundry done. Clean garments are then returned to the same locker by 5 p.m. the following day, Monday through Saturday, with notification to the customer via SMS and email. Users simply unlock the locker they originally used and take out their clean clothes—packaged in a personal laundry bag Laundry Locker provides—leaving the locker available for the next customer.

Laundry Locker was actually launched back in 2005, but the strength of its concept endures, as evidenced by customer reviews and "Best of San Francisco" ratings. A winning idea to emulate in laundry-averse cities around the globe!


Spotted by: Susie Wyshak

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September 5, 2008

Hard on the heels—so to speak—of our story about sneaker customization at Keds Studio last week comes another spotting in the world of customized footwear: Sneakart, a site that lets users personalize sneakers from any brand via specially designed removable stickers.

Still in beta, UK-based Sneakart offers users the opportunity to customize their sneakers via Sneakskin, a super-thin, flexible, durable and waterproof graphic film that can be applied to white, light-coloured and metallic shoes. Printed with non-toxic ink in the UK, Sneakskin is 100 percent PVC-free and can be peeled off and replaced at will. It's available either in sheets of individual stickers or in 22-by-29-cm sheets of patterns that the user can cut to fit the areas to be covered; either way, one or two sheets is typically enough to customize one pair of shoes, Sneakart says. Sneakart offers a wide variety of patterns and designs ranging in price from about GBP 4.95 to 5.95 per sheet, but users can also create their own artwork and upload it to the site. They can choose either to keep their design private, for their use only, or to make it public and offer it up for the use of others as well. The motivation to go public is considerable: each time a public design is purchased, Sneakart credits the designer's account with 10 percent of the sale price, available either as a credit toward further Sneakart purchases or via direct payment. Sneakskin peels easily off its backing paper for application, and sticks on shoes with regular daily wear for a few months. Sneakart donates 10p from every order it receives to Street Kids International, and it has also offset its 2008 carbon footprint twice over through PURE's renewable energy projects in India, Brazil and China.

There's no doubt customization is a good thing, but rewarding consumers for their customer-made innovations just may knock this one out of the park. Next, how about helping to bring this concept to other types of shoes, handbags or even cellphones and personal gadgets? (Related: New sneaker brand relies on crowds for design.)


Spotted by: DawnRae Knoth

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September 5, 2008

It's no longer unheard of to use the energy people expend dancing to power night clubs and cell phones, as we've reported on a few occasions over the last few months. So it seems only natural to see health clubs getting in on the action with ways to capture the energy of working out.

Last year we covered efforts along those lines at Hong Kong's California Fitness gym, and now a brand-new gym in Portland, Ore., is doing something similar—inspired, in fact, by the Hong Kong example. The Green Microgym, which just opened last week, is a 2,800-sq-ft neighbourhood gym that generates a significant portion of its own electricity through the sweat-producing efforts of its members. Fully equipped with name-brand cardio equipment, a full weight room and a room for yoga/stretching, movement and core training, The Green Microgym uses a combination of solar and pedal electricity for a chunk of its energy needs. Solar panels atop the site generate almost 3 kilowatts of electricity, while the gym's Team Dynamo and Spin Bikes—engineered by founder Adam Boesel to connect to wind-generator motors—can collectively generate up to 750 watts. In addition, the Green Microgym is working on ways to capture the excess energy from its elliptical trainers as well.

The Green Microgym also aims to use less resources than the average health club. Its SportsArt EcoPowr Treadmills, for example, use 30 percent less electricity than others, and the facility features EnergyStar-rated (and member-controlled) ceiling fans, compact fluorescent lights, lower-energy LCD TVs and double-flush toilets. It also avoids the need for large water heaters by not offering showers. Floors are made from recycled rubber, marmoleum, and eco-friendly cork flooring; billing is paperless; and the gym uses nontoxic soaps and cleaning supplies. Membership costs USD 100 for enrolment and USD 49 in monthly fees—USD 29 per month for the first 100 members to join.

Boesel says he hopes to generate as much as 40 percent of his gym's energy needs, with improvements as time goes on, and he now offers consulting to help other gyms set up green initiatives of their own. Fitness entrepreneurs in London, Paris, São Paulo—how about you?


Spotted by: C. Tynan

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September 5, 2008

Most street-style fashion blogs serve their readers primarily as sources of inspiration, but a new London-based blog has added an e-commerce twist to let readers click on looks they like and purchase them on the spot.

Stitsh, which launched earlier this year, offers up galleries of photos of real men and women on the London streets wearing a wide variety of looks and styles. In addition to having subjects sign photo releases, Stitsh's photographers also find out about the clothes they are wearing and hunt them down in retail stores, forging e-commerce partnerships wherever possible. Users of the site, which is ultimately much like a blog version of shopping magazine Lucky, can then just click on items they're interested in and be taken to stores where those items—or very similar versions—can be purchased. Photos are arranged by gender, and items are also tagged for easy searchability.

“The way I shop is I look at what people are wearing,” Stitsh founder Dom Fendius told Women's Wear Daily. “When the street-style blogs came online, I thought, wouldn’t it be great if I could buy the clothing worn in those photos?”

Stitsh is partially funded by ads, but it also works on a commission model, WWD reports. Specifically, each Stitsh reader who clicks through to the site of an online retailer such as Topshop, Miss Selfridge, House of Fraser or French Connection and buys something there earns Stitsh a commission of up to 12 percent. Some stores will even pay Stitsh the commission for shoppers who return to buy something as much as 30 days later, according to WWD. Stitsh currently covers just the streets of London, but Manchester, Stockholm and New York are reportedly in the works. One to partner with or emulate in other parts of the world...?


Spotted by: Susanna Haynie

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Just in case you missed our previous edition, all of last week's articles are listed below.

And don't forget—you can access everything we've published in our idea database, which is
conveniently organized by industry.

Gift-giving simplified through a prepaid plan
Life hacks

Spontaneous gifts are generally well-received. But it's hard to find the
time to shop & ship, let alone to remember to send an attentive
something "just because." A Brazilian startup offers a simple solution.

Upgraded popsicles, Mexican style
Food & beverage

Could popsicles be the new cupcakes -- a humble, traditional treat
upgraded to an exclusive foodstuff with attractive margins? Time will
tell. A North Carolina company is paving the way with Mexican paletas.

Motorcycle hearses offer a (life)stylish final ride
Lifestyle & leisure / Transportation

Little has changed in how we typically honour the dead. A few new
hearse options have popped up in recent years, however, that offer the
biker crowd a way to give loved ones an unconventional last ride.

An Etsy for artisanal food
Food & beverage / Retail

Consumers interested in handmade goods already have online
marketplace Etsy to help them find new treasures, and now Foodzie
aims to bring similar capabilities to the food lovers of the world.

In the Philippines: free phone love with a viral twist
Telecom & mobile / Marketing & advertising

Regular Springwise readers no doubt remember Blyk, the free mobile
operator that targets 16- to 24-year-olds with its ad-funded service.
A similar concept recently started in the Philippines.

Grocer lets customers direct its community giving
Retail / Non-profit & social cause

Customers at Waitrose supermarkets are offered a token each time
they shop that can be inserted in any of three Perspex tubes -- one for
each of selected local charitable groups.

Intention-based shipping in the Arab world

When we wrote about Texas-based uShip, we noted that there were
few -- if any -- equivalents on other continents. As if on cue, a company
with a similar model entered beta in the United Arab Emirates.

A renter's guide to Portland's green buildings
Eco & sustainability / Homes & housing

GreenRenter aims to connect owners of green buildings with tenants
who might want to rent them. Very useful, since a building's level of
sustainability isn't always easy to judge from the outside.

Weeknight clubbing for the 9-5 crowd
Entertainment / Lifestyle & leisure

With schedule-bound partiers in mind, Toronto's Gladstone Hotel
recently launched a weekday alternative that lets revellers get to bed
on time. In Belgium, After Work Parties are targetting the same crowd.

Crowdsourcing a make-it-yourself restaurant
Food & beverage

A new restaurant project has joined the crowdsourcing fray: Arne
Hendriks is asking fellow members of Instructables to participate in
creating a restaurant in Amsterdam.





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