Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

Taiwanese Timestudio (Hua Shi Dai) offers studio recording sessions for everyone. Located in the busiest pedestrian areas in Taipei, Timestudio’s two mini-recording studios let consumers record a professional cd for around USD 30. The studio features a sound booth and a control room manned by a professional audio engineer. A glass wall facing the street means that the ‘artists’ can be seen by passing shoppers, adding an element of momentary fame. With speakers installed outside the studio, performances can also be heard by passersby, luring both audiences and more customers (singing being a wide-spread passion in Taiwan). When they’ve finished recording, the artists have their picture taken for the cd’s cover art, the cd is burned, and that’s it! Timestudio is a fun concept that could take off in shopping malls around the world, and is yet another example of professional grade services becoming available to mass audiences. For more examples of how companies are enabling consumer-generated content, check out’s generation c. Like a wearable magazine , T-post is a t-shirt subscription based on news stories. Every six weeks, the Swedish company takes a new item that has caught their attention, and designs the next t-shirt based on that story. Recent examples include ‘Like Love on Demand’ (March issue, above left), sparked by a statement by documentary photographer Jens Assur that the thing he likes about dogs is that they give love on demand. The February issue (above right), titled ‘First Condoms, Now This’, pictures curly pig tails. The underlying story? Taiwanese researchers breeding glow-in-the-dark pigs. Every t-shirt comes with its story printed on the inside of the neck, like an elaborate neck tag. After subscribing, customers are sent a new ‘issue’ every six weeks. Shirts are printed in Stockholm, sold for EUR 26/USD 32 a piece, including shipping. T-post has recently started shipping worldwide. We know there are more online t-shirt businesses than you can shake a stick at, but mixing fast fashion with slower op/ed news coverage should be a winner. (Not to mention a great conversation starter!) Local versions might be even more appealing. Business travelers without corporate jet privileges will soon be able to travel in style, as DayJet, the world’s first ‘per-seat, on-demand’ jet service, is launching in the Southeastern United States later this year. DayJet’s point-to-point serivce will connect smaller cities that currently have little or no scheduled service. Customers pay per seat, about USD 3-4 per mile. DayJet keeps costs low by operating the Eclipse 500, one of a group of recently developed very light jets (VLJs). At around USD 1.4 million, the five-seat Eclipse 500 is one of the cheapest business jets ever sold. But the revolutionary aspect of DayJet isn’t that it uses a speedy new microjet, it’s in the software that the company has developed to organize flights in the most efficient way, taking into account everything from variable fuel costs to crew schedules, and still being able to charge less than a regular charter (non-jet) plane service. When a customer punches in a route online, DayJet’s incredibly complex software is able to calculate the best possible schedule and price, updating them every five seconds. To business travellers, the appeal is obvious, especially in regions lacking good coverage by scheduled flights. Which is why this concept should work well in quite a few countries. For most entrepreneurs, however, it will be too cost-intensive to launch. Second best opportunity? Contact DayJet and get involved in their expansion in any way possible. A few years ago, we wrote about the rise of chocolate as a snobmoddity. Two recent spottings from the dark and delicious world of cocoa: Chocolate bars and lounges have mushroomed globally, and Meiji’s 100% Chocolate Cafe in Tokyo’s Kyobashi district is the freshest of the lot. Designed by Masamichi Katayam (of BAPE fame) to resemble a hip fusion bar with choco-block ceilings and see-through tubs of chocolates, 100% Chocolate Cafe offers 56 varieties of chocolates organised as a chocolate library. The café serves a selection of chocolate foods and other sweet stuff, and of course, hot chocolate. Swanky and upscale, it sets the standard for future chocolate bars. In New York’s West Village, Chocolate Bar is also making a serious effort to make chocolate extraordinary. It’s a candy store for grown-ups, as well as a friendly neighbourhood hang-out. Chocolate Bar take their chocolate very seriously, working with five expert chefs to create classic and retro inspired lines. The latter is decicedly all-American, including flavours such as Key Lime Pie, Malted Milk, Caramel Apple, and Salted Pretzel. Opportunities? A lounge-like atmosphere (yes, being spaces!) coupled with high-quality choco goodies is a deadly combination. Add special treats like Meiji’s readable chocolate library and ultra cool interiors, and you have the perfect recipe to lure customers away from boring baristas and standard coffee bars. Time to build Starbucks’ sweeter sibling? is a French service that offers its members cash back for purchases made online, as well as a percentage of purchases made by their team members. How it works: after signing up, members are given an email address. When they buy online from a partner store, they use this address and is able to track the amount of (extra) savings they’re entitled to. Members receive a cheque in the mail as soon they’ve accrued EUR 30 in credit. has over 200.000 members and works with 290 online stores, including big names like Apple, Amazon, Fnac, iTunes,, Le Redoute, Sephora, Skype, VirginMéga and Yoox. Savings offered range from 1% to 15%. The above is comparable to what similar services like FatWallet do. What makes stand apart, is that it lets members form teams. Every time a team member makes a purchase, a bonus percentage is allotted to the team. This innovative twist not only adds an element of fun, but encourages every member to get their friends and family to sign up for And more members means more shoppers means more commission for what is essentially a very clever way of cashing in on affiliate marketing. Cash back services like can be set up anywhere in the world, and will make their founders good money from the cuts they get from every purchase, especially if the team approach is used. Everyone wins! What’s not to like? 😉 A modification of skateboards, Freebords are designed to mimic the behaviour of a snowboard on a ski slope. Not only are they larger than standard skateboards, they also include two additional castor wheels down the center line of the board, sticking out just a bit more than the four side wheels, and allowing the board to carve and slide like a snowboard. According to Freebord: “You can hug a tight turn or drift a long, gentle slide, float a 360 or ride switch. Right down to the feel of its weighting and edging, the Freebord ride is snowboarding on pavement.” Or in the words of Besse Gardner, who spotted this product for us: “Kids bomb down cement hills at 40+ mph with as much ease and grace as gliding over snow.” Fun all year round, Freebords let snowboarders master tricks on the street before taking them to the slopes. Freebords retail from about USD 199, and are manufactured by Freebord, Inc. Considering this is still mostly an underground sport (like skateboarding was in the ’80s), good opportunities remain for entrepreneurs looking to mass distribute outside the US and Europe. Just make sure to be near hills. US-based Magnolia, a division of Best Buy, is turning the art of installing home theatres—from reclining seats and huge screens to sophisticated sound systems—into a branded, nation-wide business: “Magnolia is the new service that will customize your home theater and make it all work together”. In other words, they tell consumers what to buy, and come to their house to hook it all up. There are currently 70 Magnolia store-in-stores in Best Buys across the US, targeting a massive market: according to the National Association of Home Builders, 36 percent of people building new homes want a media room, with the majority spending USD 5,000-55,000 (EUR 4,125-41,250/GBP 2,840-28,400) on their systems. International expansion sounds like a no-brainer. For more examples of companies that are helping consumers bring top-level experiences into their domestic domain, check out’s insperiences. Services like Meet The Danes and Like a Local make it easy for travellers to meet locals and to really get to know the place they’re visiting. Offering an alternative to dining in Copenhagen’s restaurants, Meet the Danes matches tourists with a local host family for an evening of Danish food. Dine with the Danes makes an effort to pair visitors with hosts of similar ages and interests. An evening in a Danish home can be experienced for about USD 58 / EUR 47 / GBP 32 per person, which includes a two-course dinner with drinks. Some hosts also offer bed & breakfast for an additional fee. Dutch Like a Local takes bookings for experiences in three categories: Eat, Live, and Go, in The Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden. Besides home-cooked meals, the service also offers accommodation in private homes. Last but not least, ‘Go’ is a selection of activities off the beaten tourist track, organised by locals. Guests can sign up to be taken on a private shopping tour of Barcelona, stopping by undiscovered young designers, or cycling through Amsterdam’s rural outskirts before hitting the hottest new clubs. Like a Local was founded by three women who always seemed to find out about a city’s secret gems from locals just as they were heading back home. Appealing to consumers who crave authenticity, these concepts demonstrate that a modest innovation, sparked by an entrepreneur’s personal need, can create a whole new experience. And in a sea of sameness, you can never be local enough! (For another small-scale approach to travel, check out: minipreneur travel agents.) TeamDating is the group version of it allows groups of friends to interact with other groups of friends, increasing their social circles and their chances of meeting someone worth dating. Same-sex or mixed groups of friends sign up on TeamDating, post their profiles and then interact online with other groups, with the goal of meeting up offline. Besides increasing each individual’s odds of meeting the right partner, TeamDating is being marketed as less dangerous and less intimidating than regular online dating. TeamDating calls itself an online extension of real life. Why should online dating be limited to scrolling through impersonal profiles and awkward first meetings? Founders Ray Doustdar and Kipp Gillian created Team Dating with the intention of taking online dating to the next level. As they say on their website, “We created because we thought that using mathematical algorithms, personality profile tests, and other scientific methods is not how you meet new people. You should meet new people online the same way people have been meeting other people offline for thousands of years – through friends and current social networks.” Group dating has been around for a while in Japan, where so-called kompa parties are a regular part of the dating scene. Besides TeamDating in the US, we’ve spotted CitySwoon in Australia. That leaves quite a few markets wide open! Not into dating? For group-oriented online ventures in the financial world, check out our previous articles on Fundable (group purchases and fundraising) and Prosper (borrowers working as groups to increase their credit ratings). Launched last week by two young British entrepreneurs, tribewanted is creating a global tribe that will develop a sustainable eco-community on an island in Fiji. In what seems like a hippie dream crossed with an episode of Survivor, tribewanted is looking for 5000 people from around the world to become part of a tribe that will not only exist online, but will also settle, 100 at a time, on ‘Adventure Island’. On the map, Adventure Island is known as Vorovoro, and is being leased to tribewanted by the local tribal chief. There are three types of membership to choose from: Nomads get 1 years membership and 7 nights on the island for GBP 120 / USD 210; Hunters are members for 2 years and can stay for 14 nights (GBP 240 / USD 420); and Warriors are member for 3 years and can stay for 21 nights (GBP 360 / USD 630). When the 5000th member joins, the tribe will be formed and will start to make tribal decisions by voting through the online community at, on issues such as the name of the tribe, type of infrastructure that will be required, and how to build an island community in an environmentally friendly way. Eco-friendliness is a keystone, and tribewanted has appointed a climate advisor to keep carbon accounts for the tribe’s island life and offset them to make the venture climate neutral. In an interview with Mookychick, founding ‘chief’ Mark James explains: ” I think that there is a growing interest from a generation to do something about their lives, the lives of those around them and to have a positive impact on the environment as they are aware of how generations before have messed up. Adventure Island represents all the passions and cravings of that generation.” As national borders fade, online tribes take shape, populated by people seeking a sense of belonging, of being part of something new. As a social experiment, Tribewanted could be fascinating. And being an entrepreneurial venture, tribewanted will let the world watch: besides its three membership options, the company also offers subscriptions to Tribal TV. For a one-off payment of GBP 10 / USD 18, subscribers will be able to follow the tribe as it creates a new utopia. Or recreates the Lord of the Flies… Creative entrepreneurs can find a host of business opportunities in this idea: initiatives like tribewanted could be a solution to keeping remote places of beauty relatively unscathed by tourism, by offering local landowners an alternative to making way for big resorts. To consumers, it’s a new alternative to mass tourism, and to the solo wayfaring of backpacking. For anyone in the tourism industry, tribewanted should be inspirational as a contemporary, themed version of the vacation timeshare, appealing to a more adventuresome crowd, as well as the ‘make generation’: creative, hands-on people who read Make and ReadyMade magazines, sell hand-made goods on Etsy, and enjoy building and creating. Not to mention the Reality TV crowd (also see our earlier posting on reality holidays in Italy). Time to set up the new Tribe Med?