Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

Meet friends of friends, create an online community, share photos, journals and interests with a growing network of mutual friends – that was the concept behind myspace.com. In a similar attempt tiredandtested.com (UK based) and sportsmates.com (US based) have recently introduced to the online world social networking sites specifically for sports players and fans. Both sites are aimed at the sports nut, be it a player, fan, club, league or just someone trying to organise an event or social sporting network. For people from any sporting background, any level, any age. Both networks enable users to create user profiles, friend lists, set up email lists, and find other members who share common sporting interests or live in a similar location. tiredandtested.com, developed by Chris Ward (of Friends Reunited), Mike Lee OBE and supported by Terry Venables (England assistant manager), allows the user to create a real social space from a virtual home. “Tired and Tested gives every sports fan, player or club the chance to live a little of the lifestyle of a sports pro,” says Venables. The site offers a lengthy list of features which enables users to: • personalise player profiles, choose their favourite sports and clubs, • create and run their own club, league or event website • add their favourite pro clubs and players • meet like-minded sports fans and players • join sports teams and clubs in their area • organise fixtures, results and tables • keep up-to-date with breaking sports news • write match reports in their online scrapbook, • share photos, blogs and videos • create their own teams kits and add them to their profile. sportsmates.com enables users to start their own club, the club doesn´t even have to be a real existing club, it can be completely virtual and users can invite other users from anywhere and everywhere to join and play in the virtual club. Unique to sportsmates.com is the introduction of a ranking system which enables users to earn points and a corresponding ranking for positive contributions (e.g. on message boards, adding useful links, and having highly ranked contributions by other users). Likewise abuse of the system results in point deductions. This enables a self-policing community wherein members can quickly gauge another member’s credibility and reputation by looking at their ranking. By recruiting friends, users can earn even more points, then when those friends recruit their friends, the initial user gets a kickback as well. However if those friends lose points due to abuse, so too does everyone in the hierachy. Hence encouraging members to only introduce friends that they know will make a positive contribution to the site. Revenue generation for sportsmates.com is initially achieved through advertising, but they quickly hope to implement a model which that combine sponsorship, opportunities for the inclusion of brands, e-commerce, offline and online events and paid services. As the online community continues to embrace and welcome the online social networking space, it opens up the gates for more and more niche communities to come to the party. Like-minded individuals who share similar interests are going to create strong communities that are more likely to stand the test of time. Find a niche that brings people together (check out our previous post on Mesh Tennis), one that evokes true passion amongst its users, and watch the advertising dollars roll in. Low literacy levels in Africa are part-and-parcel of everyday life, and seriously reduce the effectiveness of health care literature. In association with the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, Books of Hope has designed and produced interactive, multilingual Speaking Books that can be seen, read, heard and understood regardless of someone’s reading ability. Each Speaking Book consists of 16 pages of culturally appropriate illustrations supported by straightforward and easy to understand text in a variety of languages. Every page has a corresponding push button that triggers a sound track read by a well-known local personality. So whatever a reader’s level of literacy, the information will be clearly understood. Topics include HIV and AIDS, TB, Malaria, Suicide Prevention and Diabetes. Speaking Books are distributed to rural and disadvantaged communities worldwide. This is a major breakthrough in presenting complex health issues in countries where low literacy levels are prevalent, giving everyone access to vital health care information. Of course the concept of a Speaking Book can be applied just as successfully to a wide range of needs, from educating children to providing instruction manuals for products or services. No other substance screams WAKE UP as effortlessly as coffee. Australian company Muzz Buzz has capitalised on the realisation that people want their coffee to be quick, convenient and satisfying. At Muzz Buzz, all consumers need to do is drive thru. After all, in-transit consumption is designed with one purpose – saving time. Craig Muzeroll, founder of Muzz Buzz, identified a gap in the Australian market and decided he wanted to give Australians a reason for getting out of bed in the morning. That reason became Muzz Buzz, a growing franchise drive-thru coffee chain which offers quality coffee at a reasonable price and convenient (high traffic flow) locations. Premium coffee beans and unique Muzz Buzz flavours tempt consumers’ tastebuds and since inception the Muzz Buzz menu has expanded to include convenient-to-eat-while-driving food. (Let’s just hope the government doesn’t ban drivers from eating and drinking while driving…) The drive-thru coffee franchise is not an entirely novel concept – Starbucks opened its first drive-thru in Southern California in 1994, and small, drive-by coffee shacks exist in many parts of the world. But it’s not hard to identify the potential of drive-thrus in a speed and coffee-crazed world. Franchise opportunities for Muzz Buzz are currently available in Australia and New Zealand, and for similar ventures elsewhere check out Java Joz and Bear creek Coffee. A month after launching, music portal Sellaband just announced that it has signed up over 250 bands from more than 30 countries. As described in our previous article, Sellaband enables fans to invest in bands they believe in. More than 1,500 fans have signed up so far, buying over 2,500 stocks (or parts, as they’re known on Sellaband). Parts let bands and ‘believers’ share profits from cd sales and advertising revenues on www.sellaband.com. One band, Nemesea, is close to USD 10,000 in budget, and has attracted fans from all over the world. The band is determined to reach the end goal of USD 50,000, which will let them record an album with professional help. On the production side, Sellaband has formed partnerships with renowned producers such as Chris Kimsey, Haydn Bendall, James Poyser and Tony Platt, who’ve worked with a host of music legends, ranging from Bob Marley and the Rolling Stones to Jill Scott and The Roots. May bands and fans continue to unite! It’s a fun investment for consumers and a great new way for bands to get their first album produced. Mumbai rivals the pace of the fastest cities around the globe. And just like everywhere else, junk food is an easy and popular meal option. To the rescue comes Calorie Care, which delivers healthy food to a customer’s door. Calorie Care is India’s first calorie-counted meal delivery service, and their mission is to make it easy, convenient and fun for Mumbaikars to eat healthy food. Calorie Care sets itself apart from other delivery restaurants by creating individual menus for each customer. Upon first contact, a Calorie Care nutritionist spends an hour with a client to understand his or her health needs and taste preferences. The nutritionist team then designs a personalised food plan that caters to these needs and preferences. From their personal menus, customers can choose six daily meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner and three mid-meal snacks. Meals are delivered at three separate times during the day, so that everything is fresh. Ideal for anyone wanting to lose weight, for business people on the run, or for busy families who can’t find the time to prepare healthy meals. Calorie Care’s service is currently only available in Mumbai, but the company does plan to expand to other Indian cities. Franchise opportunities are available. It seems an international race is on to get women to drink more beer. Following our previous coverage of Karla, a functional German beer for women, comes a related spotting from Poland. Karmi, a regional brand produced by the Polish division of Carlsberg, is a dark beer that has been around for a while, and is characterized by its sweet caramel flavour. Categorized as a near-beer for its low alcohol content (0.1%), the drink has been revamped and is now being targeted to women. Besides pretty new packaging, Karmi has also introduced three new flavours: Poema di Caffé (coffee), Selua (pineapple/piña colada) and Lamai (guava, dragonfruit and mint). Unlike its German sister Karla, Karmi isn’t touted as having medicinal properties. Karmi’s positioning is all about flavour, low alcohol content and packaging. Although we can’t personally vouch for its taste, the coffee flavoured beer is stealing the show, and was singled out by Polish business magazine Handel as Poland’s best new FMCG product of 2006. In April, we reported on Stylehive, a collaborative shopping network. Since then, two big new players have entered the arena: Crowdstorm and ThisNext. Crowdstorm is a new way for consumers to find what to buy by measuring the buzz around products. Users recommend products, and the crowd defines the best products by recommending what they know and like. Good products go to the top of the list, weak products disappear: the setup is very much like the popular news website Digg. Buzz is measured by the amount of activity surrounding a product: how many times a product has been viewed, how many bloggers have written about it, and how many Crowdstorm users have commented about it. Users can add other users as friends, either people they already know or those they’ve met on Crowdstorm and whose product recommendations they trust. Future enhancements will let users post their own product images and videos, and top-rated members will also be invited to beta-test new products from big brands. UK-based Crowdstorm was founded by Phil Wilkinson, who also set up online price comparison sites ShopGenie and Kelkoo, and aims to be one of the internet’s best sources of impartial product information. Another social shopping network to have launched recently is ThisNext. Much hyped, LA-based ThisNext features a slick design and sends visitors down one of three paths: Discover, Recommend and Shopcast. The discover section lets users browse products recommended by others. Clicking on a item allows them to add it to their wishlist, recommend it, or find out where to buy the product. Users can recommend products by creating themed lists (from ‘Japanese Snacks’ to ‘Things I Cannot Do Without’), or simply by clicking on an easy to install ‘Add to ThisNext’ browser button. Appealing to the blogging crowd, ThisNext’s standout feature is shopcasting: bloggers can create small banners for their website. These so-called shopcast badges either display their own recommendations or those of the ThisNext community, broadcasting the products they love or must have. The combination of consuming, curating and creating buzz is hot, as witnessed by the arrival of not only Stylehive, Crowdstorm and ThisNext, but also others like Wists, ShopWiki and Kaboodle. Most are very US-centric. Time to launch local versions and find out who will lead the pack! Just as everything can be upgraded, most things can be simplified. For consumers who struggle with regular ready to assemble furniture and it’s complicated instructions, Real Simple Furniture will come as a welcome relief. Real Simple Furniture lives up to its name: their flat-pack furniture can be assembled and disassembled with absolutely no tools, other than a pair of hands. The pieces simply click together using lips and grooves. Besides offering super fast and easy assembly and disassembly, the company also stands out by making all of its pieces from real wood, not particle board, and manufacturing everything in the United States. RSF’s simple and contemporary designs — chairs, couches, shelving, storage, tables and desks — are currently only sold through their website. One to partner with, setting up local manufacturing and distribution? IKEA’s marketshare is more than big enough. Time to steal a piece of the action 😉 Designed in California and manufactured in India, GoinGreen‘s G-Wiz electric cars are a hit in London, where the company has sold over 600 units, making London the electric car capital of the world. GoinGreen, which was founded in 2004 and has received numerous new business awards, did so purely by word of mouth – without dealers, showrooms, advertising, or sales staff. The company cuts costs by selling directly to consumers through its online store. No need for showrooms, either. Interested consumers can make an appointment to test-drive a vehicle at one of four locations in and around London. Potential emission-free drivers have a choice of two models, aptly named AC and DC. The standard DC model has a maximum range of 40 miles, can go up to 40 mph and is priced at GBP 5,956. Its slightly faster (45 mph) sibling features optional extras like leather seats, remote central locking, and batteries that are upgradeable to hi-performance lithium-ion. AC is available in a variety of colours, including leopard and tiger prints, and is priced from GBP 6,807. Unlike most electric vehicles, the G-Wiz can seat four. Besides saving on gas, G-Wiz drivers in London are also exempt from paying the city’s congestion charge of GBP 8 per day and don’t have to pay road tax, either. Some neighbourhoods also offer free parking for electric vehicles. Limited range and speed are hardly an issue in the city, where most trips are short and traffic doesn’t usually allow for speeds over 15 mph. (To see the G-Wiz in action, check out this video.) Green to the core, GoinGreen not only lobbies for a switch to emission free transport, but also off-sets CO2 produced in the manufacturing, delivery and first two year’s driving of every car they sell. Offsets are bought from Climate Care, which uses the money to fund CO2 reduction projects. GoinGreen is the first retailer to sell a large number of this model, which is known as Reva in its native India. Reva is said to be the cheapest commercially produced electric car in the world, and suggested niche markets include small island nations (expensive to get fuel to), and postal delivery services, whose vehicles stop and start frequently and don’t need to drive at high speeds. Interested in selling a racier battery-powered ride? Check out Tesla, which is building electric roadsters that will be available for purchase in early 2007, with an anticipated delivery date of fall 2007. A Tesla Roadster can do zero to 60 mph in about 4 seconds, has a top speed of over 130 mph and a range of 250 miles. Plenty of opportunities for emission free entrepreneurs! Dutch cadeaucode.nl, which launched earlier this week, lets late or lazy gift givers send presents by text message. How it works: the giver goes to the company’s website, enters the recipient’s phone number and a message, pays by credit card, and a message containing a unique gift code is immediately sent to the recipient. While gift vouchers by email have been around at least as long as Amazon.com has, there’s a fun immediacy to receiving a gift by text message — a greater element of surprise, compounded by the gift voucher being instantly redeemable online. Cadeaucode’s gift selection is limited to ten items, currently ranging from a Madonna Live cd/dvd to the infamous ‘shave all over’ Philips Bodygroom, and the assortment is regularly updated. According to the company’s founders, the limited selection is there for a reason: Cadeaucode doubles as a buzz marketing tool. Gifts are provided to Cadeaucode at no cost by brands hoping to gain a bit of inexpensive exposure. From that point of view, it would definitely make sense for the website to offer more information about the products than it currently does. None of the gifts show a price tag, and although the gift voucher only comes in one value (EUR 25,25), some products have a higher retail value. Which adds to the appeal for consumers – it’s a present and a potential bargain, sweetly wrapped in a short message. 😉 (We reported on a similar initiative last year – Buy Me A Beer, a British hospitality spin-off that lets consumers turn ‘I owe you a drink’ into an sms that’s redeemable at participating pubs. More >>)