Spotted for you this week: a website where travel agencies bid to meet holidaymakers' requirements for their dream trips, vending machines converted to sell 'seed bombs' to guerrilla gardeners, a platform for crowdsourcing purchases of innovative technologies for use in developing countries, and more. Our next edition is due on 5 May 2010. 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!



April 28, 2010

Much has been written about declining honeybee populations and the danger this could have for the rest of our ecosystem, including food production. One solution is to support beekeepers, which is where Heimathonig comes in. Launched in Germany earlier this year, it's a directory that helps consumers find and buy from local beekeepers.

According to Heimathonig, there are over 85,000 beekeepers in Germany, most of whom are too small to build and maintain their own website. On Heimathonig, they can create a profile that includes information about their bees, the flowers they gather nectar from, where they're based, etc. Beekeepers can use Heimathonig to sell their products online, and can also link to their own website if they have one. The company charges an annual listing fee of EUR 60.

Honey is a deeply local product, inherently connected to the plants and meadows surrounding a colony's hive. Yet only 20 percent of the honey consumed in Germany is produced locally. (The other 80 percent usually comes in jars proclaiming markedly un-local "mixed EU and non-EU origins"). Combined with consumer interest in local food, that sounds like a sweet opportunity for growth. Time to partner with Heimathonig and start connecting beekeepers with honey-lovers in your own country? (Related: Web developer focuses on farmsBritish supermarket builds bee hotels to help pollinate local cropsAn Etsy for artisanal food.)





April 28, 2010

We've seen myriad variations on the travel-planning theme, but when it comes right down to it, most options still fall into one of two categories: DIY options involving the web or purchased services from a paid planner. OfferMeaTrip, on the other hand, aims to combine the best of both worlds with a service in which consumers dictate what they want and agents bid for their business.

Users of London-based OfferMeaTrip begin by telling the service what kind of trip they'd like to take, including how much they want to spend over how long a time and what types of activities they enjoy. The company's network of approved travel agents—it accepts only those who are ABTA / TTA and/or ATOL registered—can then choose to make offers on a corresponding trip. Offers are presented in the form of tailored, personalized on-line holiday brochures thanks to the site's simple, online brochure creator. The consumer in question then chooses the offer that's most appealing to them, and OfferMeaTrip helps them connect with the agent for booking and payment confirmation. Using OfferMeaTrip is free for travellers; for agents, it's currently free as well through a special, pre-launch introductory offer.

Providing yet another excellent example of an intention-based service, OfferMeaTrip currently appears to focus primarily on UK travellers and agents. One to partner with or emulate in other parts of the world...? (Related: In online auction, banks bid on consumer savingsIntention-based shipping brought to the UKBank helps clients buy homes that aren't for sale.)


Spotted by: Cecilia Biemann




April 27, 2010

It's been almost seven years since we covered Art*o*mats, the retired cigarette vending machines that have been converted to sell art. We still think back on that concept fondly, so we were delighted recently to come upon something similar: candy machines repurposed to vend garden seeds.

The brainchild of Los Angeles-based Common Studio, Greenaid aims to facilitate what it calls “guerrilla gardening” in the many forgotten grey spaces of the urban world, including sidewalk cracks, vacant lots and parking medians. Toward that end, it has reclaimed a series of old, quarter-operated candy machines and converted them instead for use selling seed bombs—mixtures of clay, compost and seeds that can be thrown anonymously into derelict urban sites to (temporarily) reclaim and transform them. Greenaid invites business owners, educators and concerned citizens to purchase a machine—pricing is about USD 400 each, with potential income generation of between USD 1,000 and USD 2,000 per year, Common Studio's Daniel Phillips told Springwise. Greenaid will then develop a seed mix and a strategic neighborhood intervention plan in response to the unique ecologies of the particular area. The purchaser can then simply place the machine at a local bar, business, school, park or wherever it seems likely to have the greatest impact. Greenaid supplies all the seed bombs needed to support the ongoing success of the initiative.

Common Studio explains: “Greenaid is equally an interactive public awareness campaign, a lucrative fundraising tool, and a beacon for small scale grass roots action that engages directly yet casually with local residents to both reveal and remedy issues of spatial inequity in their community.”

Similar in many ways to Anthropologie's recent initiative featuring seed bombs produced by Cincinatti studio VisuaLingal, Greenaid is currently focused on its hometown of LA. One to partner with or emulate in other parts of the urban world?


Spotted by: Cory Wright




April 27, 2010

Potholes, stray garbage, broken street lamps? Citizens of Eindhoven can now report local issues by iPhone, using the BuitenBeter app that was launched today. After spotting something that needs to be fixed, residents can use the app to take a picture, select an appropriate category and send their complaint directly through to the city council. A combination of GPS and maps lets users pinpoint the exact location of the problem, providing city workers with all the information they need to identify and resolve the problem.

The application covers a wide range of familiar nuisances, from broken sidewalks to loitering youth (who will hopefully respond favourably to having their picture taken by concerned citizens). Compared with lodging a complaint by phone or in writing, BuitenBeter creates a nearly frictionless experience and will no doubt prompt a wider group of people to become active reporters of issues that need the city's attention.

Besides giving people an easy way to send through detailed reports, city officials also believe the concept will create shorter lines of communication, and will facilitate quicker feedback from local government to citizens. Developed by mobile solutions provider Yucat, the BuitenBeter app will soon be available for Android and Windows Mobile phones, too. Eindhoven has signed on for a twelve-month trial, and Yucat hopes to roll out the system to other cities in the near future. (Related: In San Francisco, civic complaints via TwitterNYC challenges developers to create apps using city dataTagging repairs for local government.)





April 26, 2010

Splitting costs among a group of people is frequently fraught with difficulty. WePay aims to make it easier for groups of any size to share expenses of any kind.

Recently launched into public beta, California-based WePay is an online payment service that strives to make it easy for groups to collect, manage and spend money. Specifically, WePay allows users to create free FDIC-insured accounts and share them with others to maintain transparency. From these accounts, users can send electronic bills—payable with bank accounts or credit cards—and spend funds with a WePay VISA prepaid card, paper checks or electronic transfers. Clubs, organizations and associations of all sizes can use WePay to send bills and collect money, solicit donations, send reimbursements and spend money transparently. Unlike PayPal, WePay also lets users create separate accounts for different things—one for expenses shared with roommates, for example, and a totally separate one for a group vacation. Fees for using WePay range from USD 0.50 to 3.5 percent per incoming payment; outgoing transactions are free.

WePay currently supports only U.S. payments, but it's working on international capabilities as well as an API. One to partner with to help make that happen...?


Spotted by: Kare Anderson




April 26, 2010

As a published author and startup founder, Peter Armstrong began to see similarities between (self) publishing a book and running a startup. Particularly a lean startup, which emphasizes rapid development and early, frequent iteration based on customer feedback. This prompted him to launch Leanpub, which helps bloggers put those lean practices to work to turn their content into books.

Bloggers begin by signing up with the site; for authors who don't already have a blog of their own, Leanpub will create one for them. Leanpub will then turn the user's blog into a PDF book. What's essential to the lean publishing concept is that Leanpub lets authors publish and sell in-progress books. It allows for easy updates and automatic distribution to existing readers, allowing for a cycle of early feedback and constant improvement. Using Leanpub is entirely free; the company supports itself by taking a 25 percent cut of the sale price of users' books. (Typically, author royalty is 10 percent of the publisher's revenue, which is 50 percent of the sale price, Leanpub points out.) Venture Hacks recently published a 1,000-page book through Leanpub that's continuously updated; pricing is USD 19. Now in early public beta, Leanpub says it will add support for MOBI and EPUB formats soon.

As consumers are increasingly captivated by the iPad and other e-reader devices—and as authors risk getting caught in pricing wars between publishers and e-book distributors—an alternative model will surely find a warm welcome among bloggers and other 'lean authors' the world over. One to localize for the creative masses near you...? (Related: Business model book follows its own adviceFrom online baby blogs to printed baby booksBlog's 52 recipe contests to spawn crowdsourced cookbook.)


Spotted by: Daniel Tenner




April 23, 2010

One of the most challenging aspects of humanitarian aid is connecting those who generate innovative solutions with those who need them. That's where Kopernik comes in: a grassroots platform designed to help bring breakthrough technologies to developing nations.

The process is straightforward and transparent: Kopernik showcases exciting tech products by inventors and technology providers, like an online store. Next, vetted organizations in developing countries submit short proposals explaining how they'd use those products. Finally, 'the crowds' browse proposals and donate funds to those they'd most like to see realized. Once enough money has been raised, Kopernik transfers the funds to the technology provider, who then ships directly to the receiving organization. Completing the loop, the receivers report on how the products are being used and provide feedback on the technology's effectiveness. Updates are posted on Kopernik's website, so that contributors can track the effect of their donations. Kopernik charges for-profit technology providers a fee of 5% of sales made through the site, and also takes a 5% cut of donations.

Launched in February, New York-based Kopernik has already formed partnerships with over a dozen tech organizations, and more than 200 non-profits have applied to be part of Kopernik's network. So far, it has facilitated the distribution of several products including the Life Straw, a low-cost water filtration device, and Firefly, a solar-powered LED lantern. (Related: Matching donors & classroom needsPrizes for academics who solve real-world problems.)






April 23, 2010

Last year we wrote about Fantastar, a website that helps amateur sports clubs attract financial support through fantasy sport leagues based on their own teams. Switching the focus from fantasy to reality, Konkuri allows sports and games enthusiasts to manage and publish real tournaments.

Conceived by Bologna-based web agency Koinema, Konkuri (the Esperanto word for “to compete”) is a free-to-use tournament and league management web application that caters for tournament organizers of all kinds, from amateur competitions to online matches between friends. Supporting the majority of sports and games, Konkuri lets users create a tournament site, with round-robin scheduling, brackets, playoffs, etc. Match dates and times can be posted, results and standings shared, a tournament blog maintained, and all involved can comment on posts and matches.

Launched last fall, Konkuri has already hosted over 20,000 tournaments worldwide, with teams in Italy, Brazil and Spain taking the lead. One to try out or partner with?





April 23, 2010

Much the way RestyleMe and let consumers get fashion and image advice from the crowds, so GoTryItOn gives people a way to get feedback on particular outfits.

Based in New York, GoTryItOn lets users upload digital snapshots of themselves in various outfits. Along with each outfit, they can list the brands included and indicate whether the look is intended for a particular occasion or event. Next, they decide whether to share the look with the site's whole community or keep it private and share only with friends. Either way, those allowed to see the outfit can then vote for or against it by clicking the upward- or downward-facing hangers, signifying “wear it” and “change it,” respectively. They can also leave comments for the person in the outfit, including any suggestions for modification or improvement. Those wearing the outfits can later give feedback to those who provided reviews to let them know how the outfit worked out. GoTryItOn moderates comments for adherence to its community standards, including awarding badges to members who give consistently good advice. Now in beta, GoTryItOn was an Accelerator Finalist at this year's SXSW.

Currently, visitors to GoTryItOn who admire a particular outfit must ask the wearer where it can be found. Seems to us the natural next step would be to include direct links to purchase options, much the way Stitsh does. One to partner with for new, click-to-purchase capabilities... and referral fees? (Related: Online wardrobe management for fashionistas.)


Spotted by: Pahul Rohatgi




April 22, 2010

Regular Springwise readers may recall City Winery, the winery-cum-wine bar in New York City that lets consumers crush, ferment, bottle and label their own bottles of wine. City Winery customers typically use grapes sourced by the company from vineyards around the world, but a UK contender focuses on making wine from grapes locally grown by consumers themselves.

Aiming to support consumers interested in locally made wines, the Urban Wine Company collects grapes from oenophiles all over London and the southeast UK and presses them collectively according to variety each October. Consumers with productive vines growing in their yards or allotments can join the Urban Wine Company as producer members; in exchange, they're entitled to six bottles of collectively produced wine, vine care news and updates, and invitations to exclusive events, including tastings and tours. Wines are produced in partnership with professional vineyards, but consumers can choose the label they'd like on their own bottles, which are typically delivered in March. Membership fees are GBP 65, according to a report in CNN. For those without existing vines, there's even an option to have one provided by Urban Wine, the company says.

By last fall, Urban Wine Company's membership had reached almost 200, CNN reported, yielding a harvest of about a ton of grapes. Prospects for growth seem promising, too, given the combined bouquet of a compelling status story, an eco-minded effort and some heady (still) made here appeal. One to emulate for the grape-growing oenophiles near you...? (Related: DIY wine blending kitSustainable forest supported through crowdfunding.)


Spotted by: Matthew Traver




April 22, 2010

While most will agree that bedtime stories are best delivered in person and as live performances, that isn't always an option. Coming to the aid of remote parents and grandparents everywhere, technology-enabled web recordings offer an alternative; we previously highlighted Speakaboos and Readeo. Along similar lines, A Story Before Bed lets users record audio and video of themselves reading children's stories, synchronized to the pages of an onscreen book. The site was created by Jackson Fish Market to make it easy for parents away on business, remote grandparents, split families and military parents stationed away, to read a story to a child from afar.

How it works? Readers chooses a story from the rapidly expanding library of over 60 licensed children’s books and record themselves reading it using a webcam. The storyteller's voice is heard and their face appears, picture-in-picture style, on a fullscreen image of the book being read. Recording a story is free, and the service charges USD 6.99 if the user chooses to save the recording and forward the story link to its intended audience. Adding blanket-top convenience to its service, A Story Before Bed recently launched an iPad app for viewing recorded stories.

There are plenty of opportunities for other services that will allow consumers to be "guest participants" from afar. Apply to the niche of your choice! ;-) (Related: Wedding webcasts.)


Spotted by: Judy McRae




April 22, 2010

When we wrote about Fiat's ecoDrive software back in 2008, we noted that it would be even more helpful to offer fuel-efficiency feedback in real time, rather than on a PC after the fact. Now gearing up to offer just that is Ford, which has developed technology that helps “coach” drivers on the road to optimize their miles per gallon.

Building on the coaching concept Ford pioneered on its SmartGauge with EcoGuide cluster for the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid, among other cars, MyFord Touch enables drivers to monitor and track their vehicle's real-time fuel economy performance and mile-per-gallon averages for the past five, 10 and 30 minutes. A bar chart next to the car's fuel gauge displays those averages, and drivers can customize the amount of information provided. MyFord Touch's map-based navigation system, meanwhile, offers an EcoRoute option that quickly calculates the most fuel efficient route a driver can take to get from point A to point B. Typically, that Eco-Route charts a course that avoids congested freeways while maximizing the use of major roads on which the driver can maintain an efficient rate of speed. When Ford of Europe engineers tested the feature, they achieved up to a 15 percent improvement in fuel economy, the company says. A video demonstrates the EcoRoute feature in action. MyFord Touch launches this summer on the 2011 Ford Edge and will be available globally on the 2012 Ford Focus; pricing has not yet been announced. The feature will also be standard on new Lincoln vehicles beginning with the 2011 Lincoln MKX.

Brand butlers can serve consumers in many ways, but on cars, the most relevant and useful today is surely fuel efficiency. Won't be long before this one becomes hygiene on the road, we'd predict. And what about the home? Household brands large and small—how about creating a brand butler of your own that helps consumers save energy where they live? (Related: Smart devices help households monitor their energy useSmart thermostat is always onlineHome energy monitoring, delivered by Google.)





Just in case you missed it, we've included our previous edition below.

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

totalot For twins, outfits that don't quite match
Fashion & beauty

Designed to respect twin attachment and at the same time cultivate
individuality, TOT-a-LOT’s garment pairs for twins complement
each other in aspects such as patterns, prints, colours or concepts.

drivemycar P2P car-sharing comes to Australia
Automotive / Transportation

DriveMyCar is an online rental marketplace that allows car owners
to rent out their cars to other private individuals for a weekend,
a week, a month or even a year.

progurt Branded kits for DIY probiotic yoghurt
Food & beverage

Progurt offers a way for consumers to make their own probiotic
yoghurt using the company's yoghurt maker, refrigeration tubs,
electrolyte complexes, prebiotic syrups and probiotic sachets.

stylesignal iPad app delivers real-time trend forecasts
Media & publishing / Fashion & beauty

Stylesignal provides its customers with fashion forecasts, trend
information and news coverage. The company is now hailing its
new iPad app as a trend book that never goes out of date.

100x100 Designer takes preorders to crowdfund new lamp
Style & design / Retail

Guaranteed demand removes risk from launching a new product.
Dutch designer Daniel Schipper's latest, limited edition lamp will
go into production when 100 orders have been received.

speakerrate Platform facilitates rankings of public speakers
Marketing & advertising

SpeakerRate is a community site for event organisers, attendees
and speakers that enables ratings and feedback about speakers
and speeches and helps users plan for future events.

looktel Mobile app helps the visually impaired to 'see'
Life hacks

Visually impaired users point their LookTel-enabled phone's camera
at something, and the app deploys object and text recognition
technology to identify the item and pronounce its name to the user.

elvisandkresse Waste to accessories, with a charitable twist
Fashion & beauty / Non-profit, social cause

Elvis & Kresse crafts high-fashion bags, belts and other accessories
from used fire hose and industrial waste materials. The company
makes donations to causes related to the source materials.

clubeamostra A tryvertising store for Sao Paulo
Marketing & advertising / Retail

After paying a yearly fee, members of Clube Amostra Gratis get
to take home and try an assortment of new products before
they become available on the shelves.

stickybits App lets users attach digital content to any barcode
Media & publishing / Marketing & advertising

With the Stickybits mobile app, users scan any barcode, then attach
music, text, photos or video content. When the same barcode
is scanned again by other users, they'll see that content.

clemens High-end clothing brand only sells on tour dates
Retail / Fashion & beauty

Each season, clothing brand Clemens en August travels to an
assortment of fashion-minded cities to sell its current collections in
contemporary art galleries for only three days at a time.

blueshoe A custom, branded iPhone app for every restaurant
Food & beverage / Marketing & advertising / Telecom & mobile

Blue Shoe provides restaurants with custom, branded iPhone
apps. Patrons can use them to place orders, and restaurateurs can
use them for tracking and to post discounts, promotions etc.






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