Spotted for you this week: indoor grass that can be shaped into company logos, a business funding service specifically for eBay merchants, nocturnal wildlife tours using night vision goggles, and more. Our next edition is due on 17 November 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!


November 10, 2010

Whether hotels are upscale, no-frills or even pay-what-you-want, currency is generally the way room rates are paid. Not so at thousands of Italian bed and breakfast establishments next week, however, when guests will be encouraged to use barter instead.

Marking the second annual Settimana del Baratto, or Barter Week, run by the Italian Bed and Breakfast Association, Nov. 15 through 21 will give cash-strapped consumers a chance to enjoy time away from home without breaking the bank. Last year's event was apparently a wildly successful one — some 12,000 fans registered to participate on Facebook, the group says. In fact, some B&B members of the organization continue to offer barter arrangements throughout the year as a result, it notes. Last year, the most commonly made payment arrangements were reportedly accommodation swaps, live music performances and website translations.

The Great Recession may have officially ended, but that doesn't mean boom times for most consumers by any means. How can your brand offer them a little sympvertising — and financial breathing room...? (Related: A layaway option for buying festival ticketsHotel asks consumers to sell it their furniture.)


Spotted by: Francesca Allievi




November 10, 2010

OK, so there's definitely a gaming trend going on here. Just in the past two weeks or so, we've seen EpicWin convert users' to-do lists into games, and we've seen Ridekicks take a similar, fun-based approach to ride-sharing. The latest spotting? Finnish Deal Machine, which uses game mechanics to motivate and reward corporate sales staffs.

CRM and ERP packages are commonplace in many companies today, but they can be time-consuming to use without necessarily helping salespeople achieve their goals. The typical sales position, meanwhile, can be broken down into components remarkably comparable to those seen in many common games, including goals, achievements and earned rewards. Aiming to draw upon the fun and motivation inherent in gaming, Deal Machine applies a gaming model to reward salespeople for every step they take toward their goals. Sales managers set the rules used on Deal Machine, and they can tweak those rules as their effect becomes evident. A real-time leader board, meanwhile, is automatically generated by the site to provide analytics for management while also letting players know who is winning.

After a 30-day free trial, Deal Machine is free for up to two users, EUR 19 per month for 3 users, EUR 49 monthly for up to 10 users and EUR 99 per month for up to 25 users. Users also get more free time by inviting other organizations to use the service. One to try out on your own sales staff -- or to emulate with yet another game-based innovation...? (Related: Crowdsourcing the sales force.)


Spotted by: John Greene




November 10, 2010

Natural media agency Curb has already appeared on our virtual pages numerous times before for its glow-in-the-dark bacteria, sea tagging, snow tagging and other low-impact advertising efforts. The latest from the eco-minds at the UK-based firm? Soil-less urban greenery as an advertising tool for use indoors as well as out.

Curb's DesignGrass is completely natural grass created solely for indoor environments. It can be designed in any shape, pattern, image, brand or word and installed on indoor surfaces such as walls and ceilings; once installed, the grass never requires any watering or trimming. Already in use by brands including Electrolux and Siemens, DesignGrass is ideal for creating green spaces in commercial or residential buildings. It's even hypoallergenic and a natural sound-proofer. FlexiGrass, meanwhile, is a soil-less living carpet made from natural grass, herbs, flowers and plants that can be used to cover anything or create green spaces in locations where normal grass and greenery cannot take hold. Designed for both indoor and outdoor use, FlexiGrass needs only minor maintenance and trimming; it can be moulded, shaped, coloured and even textured in any way required. Within the realm of hospitality and events, the rigid and durable product has already been used to temporarily grass the ballrooms of famous London hotels, Curb says.

Curb has long been using regular grass in its outdoor advertising campaigns, but these latest innovations open up a world of opportunity indoors. Eco-minded brands: Start thinking green for your next marketing campaign!





November 9, 2010

All businesses need capital to grow, and that includes online merchants. Yet such e-commerce vendors are underserved by the financial services industry because traditional underwriting and funding criteria do not account for a virtual commerce business model or the value of recently sold inventory. So believes Atlanta-based Kabbage, which recently launched a new funding service that targets eBay merchants specifically.

Online vendors begin with Kabbage by entering their eBay marketplace ID. Using that, Kabbage checks their activity and history on the marketplace; if both are sufficient, it asks the retailer to complete an application. That application is far briefer than most because Kabbage learns much of what it needs about the retailer — including sales and credit history, customer traffic and reviews, and competitive information — via online data, which it can access in seconds with the applicant's permission. Kabbage then makes an immediate decision; if approved, the borrower can access funds immediately via PayPal. In general, Kabbage releases funds as the retailer lists more products for sale, thus ensuring that cash flow needs are always met.

Kabbage currently serves only eBay sellers based in the U.S., but it aims to add other marketplaces soon, and ultimately to expand internationally. One to partner with or emulate in your neck of the e-commerce woods...? (Related: Visa donates $1M to Kiva for U.S. microloans.)





November 9, 2010

Much the way Green Thing's SAVED project reclaims unwanted t-shirts and upgrades them with some signature stitchery for sale to new owners, so UK-based Re-jigged turns unwearable castoffs into bespoke, one-of-a-kind children's clothing.

Run from a farm in rural Herefordshire, Re-jigged collects adult clothes that are no longer suitable for resale at local charities due to holes, worn areas and other problems. A partnership with EnviroAbility helps the firm source, wash, sort and arrange the clothing and then cut it up accordingly. Re-jigged then locally recrafts the usable portions of those well-loved garments by hand into beautiful new ones using contrasting colours and fabrics and embellishments including distinctive appliques, buttons and ribbons. Garments can be handmade to a customer's specific requirements, even using the customer's own fabric, if desired. A design-your-own offering, meanwhile, guides the customer step by step through the process of designing a unique tank top for kids. Prices begin at GBP 25 for a tank top from Re-jigged's classic range. For every garment Re-jigged sells, it donates GBP 1 to a local charity or school.

Combining eco-minded upcycling, design-your-own capabilities and (still) made here appeal, Re-jigged has tapped into more than one of today's key trends. Crafty minipreneurs around the globe: be inspired! (Related: Luxe upcycling: from cashmere sweaters to (very) soft toysWaste to accessories, with a charitable twistFestival jackets and bags, made from abandoned tentsCharity shop invites designers to upcycle donated clothingLeather jackets remade into designer bagsMore upcycling: sweaters into scarves.)


Spotted by: The Business Factory




November 9, 2010

Whether through crowdsourcing or highly focused online offerings, businesses have an increasing number of affordable choices for numerous professional services. Now joining the ranks of SitePoint, crowdSPRING, Inkd and PointBanner for graphic design, Gramlee and Wordy for editing, customAdArt for advertising images, and We Shoot Bottles, Flaschenfotos and ViaU! for photography — to name just a few — there's PPT Salon, an Indian firm that specializes in custom presentations with a 48-hour turnaround.

Goa-based PPT Salon is a specialized presentation design service that functions completely online. In part as a result, it's able to offer lower prices and quicker turnaround than traditional design agencies can, it says. Steering clear of templates, PPT Salon creates custom, finished presentations at prices beginning at just USD 99 for a presentation with 20 slides. Corporate monthly accounts with preferential rates are also available, as are advanced presentation designs including research, photography and more. PPT Salon serves and delivers to clients anywhere in the world.

As the evolution of professional services proceeds, another price barrier falls. One to adapt on a local or niche basis — or to try out for your own next big sales pitch? Alternatively, what other professional services are still priced out of reach for smaller clients...?





November 8, 2010

This is the third in a series of posts on traceability. Written by Springwise, and supported by IBM. Check out our previous posts on a registration service for product recalls and on supermarkets offering increased food traceability, or read more about building a smarter planet.

Skånemejerier is a relatively small diary producer based in southern Sweden. It has a long local history and was always able to operate without much competition. That changed a few years ago, when a larger, national diary producer set its eye on southern Sweden, pricing its products aggressively to capture market share. In response, Skånemejeriet is trying to revive its relationship with its customers by stressing its local roots and connections to the community. To that end, it created a web page and an iPhone app; both allow customers to enter numbers from a milk carton's date stamp to learn about the local farmer who produced the milk.

The numerical code used to relay information to consumers is the standard tracking stamp that the company already used. So for the cost of building an iPhone app and a online application, the company is able to give customers that still-made-here feeling, helping it compete with larger national brands. One to apply to your own (local) food or beverage business?


Spotted by: Liobov Triufanova




November 8, 2010

The march of the eBay feeder businesses continues! Following in the footsteps of companies including Zippi and Lots2 comes WeGoLook, a service that will personally inspect and verify a product being considered for person-to-person purchase online.

A big part of the risk involved in P2P shopping online — particularly for high-ticket items — is that distance typically makes a personal inspection impossible. That's where Oklahoma-based WeGoLook comes in, with a network of 7,000 verified “Lookers" nationwide. Targeting transactions conducted through eBay and Craigslist for such products as cars, boats and property and even people involved in recruiting or matchmaking services, WeGoLook can take current photos or videos, watch working demonstrations and complete personalized reports for verification of a person, place or thing. Other uses of the service include monitoring the condition of a grave site or vacation home, the company says; professional services for attorneys, appraisers and others are also available. Pricing for each “Look” begins at USD 49.

With the rise of sellsumers and person-to-person commerce, there's a world of new opportunity to help foster the trust that's necessary for a successful transaction. One to partner with or emulate in other parts of the world...?


Spotted by: Peter Yu




November 8, 2010

Spotting wildlife can be challenging enough on a daytime tour of the Australian rainforest, but at night the difficulty is compounded many times by the need for disruptive flashlights. Aiming to get around that problem, Australian tour company Vision Walks has begun offering after-dark tours using military-style night vision goggles.

The company's Night Vision Bushwalk allows visitors to view nocturnal wildlife such as possums, pademelons, bandicoots, frogs and glow worms without disturbing them with bright lights. Rather, the Byron Bay-based tours of Nightcap National Park equip patrons with the specially designed goggles, which allow wearers to see in the near-infrared spectrum that's normally invisible to humans. Animals and other sights then become visible in a monochromatic green image without blinding or disturbing the animals. Pricing on the 3.5-hour Night Vision Bushwalk is AUD 99 per adult.

There are a few other examples of night vision technology being used in tourism — in Florida's Naples Zoo, for example — but it's by no means widespread. Nature tourism, meanwhile, is growing at a rate of between 10 and 12 percent globally, according to a 2006 report from The International Ecotourism Society. How long before night vision tours become widespread...?


Spotted by: Emma Crameri monthly briefing




November 5, 2010

It's no secret that successful businesses are built on more than just a good idea. Much the way Bethnal Green Ventures aims to help incubate socially focused business concepts, so Estonian HumanIPO seeks to help gather momentum for startups of any kind.

Entrepreneurs can use HumanIPO to build a business by sharing their ideas in order to find partners, mentors, consultants, foreign sales agents and investors. Toward that end, leaders of startups can upload their business ideas in “stealth mode” on HumanIPO, including just basic details such as a startup teaser, pitch and attachments to explain the idea further. From there, they can invite feedback on their idea from contacts on LinkedIn and elsewhere. As on Facebook, visitors can post comments and suggestions on the startup idea's “wall”; they can also follow the concepts they like. Eventually, when the startup is ready for further visibility, the entrepreneurs involved can publish the teaser on the HumanIPO directory, opening it up to new potential partners and funding opportunities. In fact, HumanIPO can even help obtain funding from a number of different investors by setting up a separate investment company that will become a shareholder in the enterprise. Investors get charged a 5 percent commission on the invested amount, while entrepreneurs get charged EUR 1,000 per year for administration of the investment company and annual reports and for handling dividends.

Rome wasn't built in a day, as they say — and you can bet it was a collaborative effort. One to put to work for *your* next big thing...? (Related: Swedish entrepreneurs get access to untapped patents'Open-mic nights' for business ideas.)


Spotted by: John Greene




November 5, 2010

There's something compelling about the notion of a floating work space, which is why we covered WaterSpace's H2Office earlier this year. Now, given that product's appeal, it's not entirely surprising to see the company working on a Floating Studio Flat as well.

Currently in the design stage, WaterSpace's Floating Studio Flat will be a one-bedroom studio apartment that's intended for use primarily in inland waterways. With a wet room, kitchen, bedroom and an upper sun/drinks deck, the Floating Studio Flat will feature all the amenities of home in a variety of floor plans. Optional extra like integrated solar panels and a wind turbine, meanwhile, will make the flat almost self-sufficient. Pricing will start at GBP 79,950, and buyers will be able to have a hand in completing their home's design, Welsh WaterSpace says.

Particularly in coastal areas with high prices and tight housing markets, shifting some of the burden onto the waterways could make good sense. One to get involved in early? (Related: Low costs and green creds at budget modular hotel.)





November 5, 2010

eBay recently launched a new, no-fuss way for people to sell electronics they no longer use. The Instant Sale service offers free shipping, removal of personal data, and if a device doesn't sell, eBay will recycle it for free.

How it works? On Instant Sale, consumers can specify what type of gadget they'd like to sell, what condition it's in and if they're including a charger. Instant Sale instantly displays an offer (for example, USD 78 for an iPhone 3G in fair condition). If the user accepts the offer, eBay connects him or her with a buyer who is willing to pay that price. The buyer provides the seller with a free shipping label, and once the gadget has been received and confirmed to be in the condition specified by the seller, the buyer deposits the funds in his or her PayPal account.

eBay launched Instant Sale to create an easy way for consumers to offload electronics that are lying around the house, but seem like too much effort to list and sell the normal eBay way. It also touts the environmental benefits of reusing and recycling; the concept was developed by eBay's Green Team, which created the reusable shipping boxes we covered earlier this year.

Of course, eBay is also interested in capturing a piece of the growing electronics resale and recycling market, joining smaller companies like Gazelle and BuyMyTronics. (Related: Electronics retailer facilitates secondhand sales.)





November 4, 2010

We've already seen Three Blind Ants' recyclable picnic boxes for urban lunches outdoors; now UK-based UpBox has come up with the perfect meals to fill them with. Currently available in three London locations, UpBoxes are prepackaged, gourmet meals-in-a-box that feature a rotating menu of global cuisine.

Promising a “well-balanced and delicious meal” for GBP 6.49, each take-away UpBox comes filled with a gourmet entree and dessert for one based on the cuisine of a particular country. This week, for example, Monday's UpBox featured a Mexican meal, including jalapeno-marinated free range chicken; Mexican rice with red pepper, coriander and lime; sweet corn and blackeyed bean salad; carrots with lime and chili; and a blueberry crumble cake for dessert. British, American, French and Lebanese cuisine are what's been on offer the other days this week, each featuring the freshest, high-quality ingredients. UpBoxes are now sold at London's Cafe Fraiche, Clapham Junction Station and Whole Foods Market in Kensington; delivery is also available.

Similar to a professionally prepared version of Destination Dinners, the UpBox is obviously begging for partnership or emulation in other parts of the world. Urban retailers are no doubt lining up at this very moment as well — and how about offering UpBoxes via your hotel, conference center, airport or even airline? The opportunities are virtually limitless for upscale and interesting alternatives to the average — and usually grim — meal on the go. (Related: Double-decker 'bustaurant' serves up high-end cuisine.)


Spotted by: Nicky Cardoe




November 4, 2010

Regular Springwise readers may recall our story back in 2008 about British grocer Waitrose's community-directed giving program. Whole Foods has long done something similar, as we noted back then, but recently we were pleased to come across a like-minded effort at a smaller chain.

Blue State Coffee operates five shops in Providence, R.I., New Haven, Conn., and — most recently — Boston. With ethical sourcing practices and a focus on sustainability, the company is nothing if not in good company in those respects. What sets it apart from other coffee shops, however, is the same thing it has in common with Waitrose: a community-directed giving program. For every order purchased at Blue State, the buyer receives a token at the register that can be dropped into one of various bins representing several local causes. At the end of the quarter, Blue State donates 5 percent of its sales to those local causes in the proportions dictated by customers' tokens. Online sales, meanwhile, automatically support the Environmental Defense Fund.

Since Blue State's first store opened in July 2007, it has donated over USD 175,000 to more than 50 nonprofit organizations. An example to follow for retailers large and small around the globe! (Related: 'Buy one, donate one' effort lets kids direct the givingMore consumer-directed community givingPepsi asks crowds which community projects to fund.)


Spotted by Jessica Cole




November 4, 2010

When it comes to fitness, few rewards are more motivating than the knowledge that one's friends can see each and every workout missed or completed. That's where Finnish Heiaheia comes in, with a social network dedicated to giving users the extra motivation they need to stick to their fitness routine.

Now in beta, Heiaheia aims to combine the benefits of training diaries and social networking in an easy to use, entertaining package. Working from the philosophy that every exercise counts, the site doesn't focus on any particular sport, technology or gear; rather, it supports almost 300 different sports, with new ones being added continuously. Users log each workout into the site and share those workouts with their friends. Similarly, friends' workouts appear in a feed on the user's home screen, allowing the user to browse their training logs through their profiles. Users can cheer each other's exercises by clicking a thumb icon; they can also comment. All cheers and comments get stored in the friend's training log. Exercise activity can be shared on Facebook and Twitter, while a groups feature lets members of a team, for instance, compare notes.

Operated by Helsinki firm Mooze Oy, Heiaheia currently supports English, Italian, Russian, Swedish and German in addition to its native Finnish language. Fitness-related businesses around the globe: time to help consumers keep each other active...? (Related: Site tracks workout miles and friendly competitionsSite matches motivation 'buddies' with shared goals.)


Spotted by: John Greene




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.

exceptionall Five smart innovations from 'emerging' markets
Style & design

A rejuvenated bike brand, hand-crafted radios from sustainable
materials, software to make cut-out envelopes from Google Maps
locations, coffee cosmetics, and a water filter that uses common ash.

saved T-shirts saved, augmented and sold to new owners
Eco & sustainability / Fashion & beauty

Green Thing's Saved initiative takes old t-shirts, washes them and
adds the word 'saved' in handstitched lettering. Each shirt's tag
bears the names of the donor and the person who renovated it.

ruma Cellular business-in-a-box empowers poor Indonesians
Telecom & mobile / Non-profit, social cause

RUMA is a social organisation offering ready-made business
solutions to qualifying franchises. Its Rumah Pulsa is a telecoms kiosk
with which an entrepreneur can sell prepaid airtime to the community.

skyorbs Eco-friendly alternative to Chinese sky lanterns
Style & design / Eco & sustainability

Chinese sky lanterns have been criticised because their discarded
components could pose a threat to animals. Enter Sky Orbs, a new,
eco-friendly alternative that's 100 percent biodegradable.

mhbc Entrepreneurs get access to untapped patents
Life hacks / Government

Sweden's Mobile Heights Business Center is an industrial, academic
and public sector partnership offering approved participants access
to unexplored patents, business ideas and requests for solutions.

underwoodstories Magazine on vinyl LPs features author recitals
Media & publishing / Entertainment

UK-based Underwood: Stories in Sound is a twice-yearly publication
produced on vinyl LPs. Each limited-edition issue costs GBP 25 and
features two writers reading one of their own short stories.

cashurdrive Carvertising comes to India
Marketing & advertising / Automotive

CASHurDrive rewards owners with cash or petrol vouchers
for displaying advertisements on their vehicles. Advertisers
can choose from 3-, 6-, 9- and 12-month campaigns.

urbangreen Amsterdam retailer targets urban gardeners
Retail / Homes & housing

Urban Green focuses on the challenges of city gardening. The
store sells greenery that thrives in containers and shady areas,
and offers folding garden furniture to maximise space.

audiodraft Crowdsourcing & collaboration on audio production
Media & publishing

Companies in need of audio productions pay to start a contest on
AudioDraft's site. Users worldwide can collaborate on entries using
the site's tools. The winning mixes are rewarded with a cash prize.

youbridge Matching netbook donors with students in need
Non-profit, social cause / Education

YouBridge offers a transparent online platform whereby donors
are involved in the specifics of their donation, get to select
their beneficiaries, and are connected with them online.

happyhunters Clothing brand rewards fans for being kind online
Marketing & advertising / Fashion & beauty

Desigual's Happy Hunters site invites its users to post cheerful
comments on blogs selected by the clothing company. The first
100 posters to get a reply from the blogger win a Desigual garment.

smories Online video stories for kids, read by kids
Entertainment / Media & publishing

Users of the Smories site can search for new video stories by age
group or by category, including fairy tales, Aesop's fables and
nursery rhymes. Users can also submit their own stories.

kivavisa Visa donates $1M to Kiva for U.S. microloans
Non-profit, social cause / Financial services

The Kiva-Visa partnership aims to drive awareness and
understanding of microfinance, and to increase the capacity of
Kiva's microlending platform to support small US businesses.




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