Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

In March, we covered a five star hotel for cars: The Engine Room in Belgium. Besides offering secure and swanky warehouse storage for members’ automotive treasures, the Engine Room is also a private club. Recently, the engine people added a third offering: The Engine Room Challenge. For annual fees ranging from EUR 15.000 to EUR 22.000, members have up to 10 weeks access to a range of exclusive cars. Automobiles to choose from include the Spyker C8, Aston Martin DB9, Rolls Royce Silver Seraph and Ferrari 456 MGTA. Membership fees cover storage, maintenance, taxes and insurance, as well as full use of the club’s facilities. In short, members get all the fun of using an exclusive car, without the hassle and unexpected costs of ownership. Which will appeal to wealthy transumers, described by trendwatching.com as those consumers that are driven by experiences instead of the ‘fixed’, who increasingly live a transient lifestyle, freeing themselves from the bothersome aspects of permanent ownership. Although it’s great to see them combining it with their other services, The Engine Room isn’t the first to enter this space. An exclusive car sharing club we featured earlier is British ecurie 25, and trendwatching.com spotted a number of similar initiatives across the world: Classic Car Club, P1 Club, LuxShare Auto Club, Club Sportiva, Van Horrsen Group, Oversteer Spain and Ascari. Should give you plenty of inspiration for coming up with a fractional ownership scheme of your own 😉 Contact: Erik Groes, info@engineroomchallenge.be What blogs, citizen journalism and YouTube have done for media, CrowdSpirit hopes to do for product development. The Scottish-French venture’s focus is on harnessing the power of crowds to allow inventors and adaptors to take their products to market. By involving end-users in every aspect of a product’s life-cycle, CrowdSpirit aims to set off a crowdsourced manufacturing revolution. How it works: inventors submit ideas for innovative new products and contributors submit problems for inventors to work on. Members vote, define a product’s specifications, and can invest money to finance development. After a first prototype has been created, selected members test and help fine-tune in cooperation with manufacturers. Once the stage of product development has been completed, contributors continue to be involved, for example by acting as a product’s ambassador and promoting it to retailers, or by providing product support, like translating instruction manuals. CrowdSpirit’s primary focal point is electronics with a market price below EUR 150 / USD 190. If all goes well, this will be followed by more expensive electronics, and other sectors as the concept develops. A selection of inventions will be launched in parallel, so that the community can work on several projects at the same time. What remains to be seen, is how customer-manufacturers will be rewarded for their efforts. CrowdSpirit clearly states that contributors give up all intellectual property rights when they submit an idea or product, or when they help define a product. As trendwatching.com points out in its briefing about the customer-made trend (a.k.a. co-creation), “as co-creators get smarter and realise how much they’re worth, expect kick-backs for co-created goods and services to go up. If you don’t pay a fair share, talented members of the global brain will take their business elsewhere.” As you know, Springwise is all about spotting and sharing good ideas. So we’re always thrilled to hear from readers starting up a company (partially) based on something we’ve written about. Vincent Wek wrote this weekend to tell us about his new company – Home Sweet Home – which he was inspired to start after reading about eco-friendly cleaners Greenway Maid, featured here earlier this year. Home Sweet Home is dedicated to providing London with an environmentally friendly cleaning service, aiming to offer a deeper and healthier house clean. The company uses Ecover cleaning products, which are made from natural plant and mineral ingredients, have a minimum impact on the environment and are safe for cleaners and a home’s inhabitants. Home Sweet Home also uses microfiber cloths, which clean hard surfaces with just hot water, saving the environment (and allergy sufferers) by minimizing the need for harsh cleansers. We hope increasing numbers of entrepreneurs in service industries will go for the green, and look forward to hearing from you if you’re launching a business based on a new business idea you spotted here. Contact: Vincent Wek, vincent@homesweethome.uk.net As long as our spotters send us spottings like Babyplanners , Springwise will never go out of business. This newborn London-based company has managed to find yet another niche-market waiting to be penetrated: young, hard-working parents-to-be, who are willing to shell out some dough to have others deal with the endless shopping, researching, conflicting advice and general stress and confusion that come with a first-time pregnancy. As Babyplanners state on their website: “your dedicated babyplanner takes care of all aspects of life concerned with the upcoming arrival: we help you decide what you need and when you need it.” Think sourcing the best baby carrier, create the baby’s bedroom, or pre-selecting and arranging birth prep or parent confidence classes. Planning doesn’t stop there: once the new arrival is safely delivered, Babyplanners will help its clients settle into mother and fatherhood, from putting them in touch with maternity nurses or short-listing nannies/nurseries, to advising on feeding and establishing routines. Babyplanners offer two programs: the ‘Good’ plan, which contains all the details of the service new parents will want and need, where to secure them, and a timeline of when they need them, and the ‘Great’ plan, which filters products and services based on individual needs, and which then goes on to organize them. The ‘Great’ plan also includes three one-hour, one-to-one sessions, and a 24-hour response email relationship. With the number of time-starved, well-earning new parents only increasing, this is a great opportunity for any service-minded entrepreneur who’s been through pregnancy, cashing in on hard-earned skills and diaper-stained experience. Tokyo, Paris, New York and Singapore to follow? After last week’s post on dorm furniture for hire, another student-run dorm venture has been brought to our attention. Dorm2Dorm was founded by college students, for college students. According to the company’s co-founder, Matt Nelsen, Dorm2Dorm offers relief during a period of high stress – finals week. The service is simple: students order storage materials online, which are delivered a week before finals. Dorm2Dorm comes back a week later, when finals are out of the way, to pick up packed items and store them for the summer. When the new semester begins, the stored goods are delivered to the student’s (new) dorm room. Costs for a typical amount of storage are around USD 70 per month, including delivery of materials, pick-up, USD 800 insurance, storage and delivery. The company can also arrange shipping and long-term storage for semesters abroad. Dorm2Dorm launched in 2004 at the University of San Diego, and currently serves 11 colleges and universities. Although it isn’t the first to enter the student storage market, it prides itself on running a highly professional and streamlined business. The company has doubled in size every year they’ve been in business, and is actively seeking managers to expand to other universities, while controlling sales, logistics and customer service from a central office. It’s one of those businesses that just works: a simple service satisfying an enduring niche market, that’s ambitiously run like a market-leader right from the start. Contact: Matt Nelsen, mnelsen@dorm2dorm.com Earlier this month, pop-up champions Vacant launched their first pop-up slash guerrilla shopping concept in Shanghai, giving the Chinese a taste of what trendwatching.com has dubbed transumerism. The pop-up store consisted of a stretched Mini (the MiniVacant), filled to the brim with limited edition goodies like customer painted trainers and distressed denims. Before taking to the streets, the store on wheels was cheered on by a crowd of about 500 Shanghai trendsetters, with VH1 celebs, champagne, a Mini F1 race and other frivolous yet PR-generating attributes. With consumers still fighting boredom, looking for the next thrill (not to mention one-of-a-kind stuff), pop-up stores still have a lot of mileage left. Now, who’s going to launch the first niche ‘transient-advertising’ agency? And if you do, make sure you partner with Vacant; they’re already working on additional pop-up events in China. Contact: Russ Miller, russ@govacant.com As any athlete will tell you, drinking water isn’t enough to stay hydrated while performing at top speed, force or endurance, and even mild dehydration can result in reduced performance. The key is to replenish electrolytes and other nutrients, as contained in popular sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade. But not everyone likes traditional sports drinks’ rather overwhelming taste, artificial colours and high sugar content. Two newcomers to the hydration market are offering an alternative in the shape of fizzy tablets. Nuun and Zym, both based in the US, manufacture electrolyte replacement tablets that can be popped into ordinary water to create a hydrating drink for sports enthusiasts (and for non-active people with hangovers). One tube of Zym (USD 7.95) is enough for ten 20 oz. bottles, and a tube of Nuun (USD 6.50) creates twelve times 16 oz. of electrolyte drink. Both brands stress a near absence of sugar and calories, and a light refreshing taste. Obvious advantages of the tablets are their portability and convenience over lugging gallons of sports drinks, or measuring out electrolyte powders. Nuun has been around for a few years (mainly selling to pro triathlon and endurance racers), and has distributors in Canada and the UK. Zym just got started this year, and sets itself apart by a higher dosage of vitamin B. Both companies are still busy gaining a foothold, so it seems like the right time to snap up partnership and distribution deals for the rest of the world, and grab a piece of that Gatorade action 😉 Not quite as chic as the Parisian sanitary stop we featured a few months ago, Charmin’s public loos are nonetheless a great example of a brand space, combining the welcome relief of clean public restrooms with the most relevant space for advertising toilet paper. Procter and Gamble’s bathroom tissue brand will be operating a 20-stall restroom in the heart of Times Square at 1540 Broadway, between 45th and 46th Streets, from November 20th to January 1st, calling the service ‘Charmin’s holiday gift to New York’. The restrooms will be open from 8 AM to 11 PM, so that people leaving evening Broadway shows can use the facilities. Charmin Restrooms will offer clean, deluxe bathrooms, baby changing stations, stroller parking, seating areas, and of course lots of luxury toilet paper. Cleanliness will be guaranteed by the presence of one bathroom attendant for every two stalls, cleaning after each use. Charmin is expecting more than 300,000 people to visit the restrooms. We covered a related concept in Turkey, where Turkish diaper brand Evy Baby is reaching out to parents by placing changing rooms in shopping malls. For more examples of relevant branding in the real world and accommodating consumers outside the home and office, check out trendwatching.com’s brand spaces. Aspiring entrepreneurs often ask us for ideas that don’t require hundreds of thousands of dollars, euros or pounds to get started. Look no further than the burgeoning arena of t-shirts. Bearer of profiles, of lists, of any kind of self-expression really, the humble t-shirt continues to bestow riches on creative entrepreneurs, or at least guarantee some low-risk entrepreneurial fun. So here’s yet another cool t-shirt start up: Hubwear. Its t-shirts display a wearer’s favorite travel routes, in airport codes (think JFK, AMS, MIA, HKG and so on), with the two airport codes on the front showing the outbound flight, and the return trip on the back. All shirts, as Hubwear likes to point out, tell a story: some routes are family vacations, some are crazy work trips, and others save long distance relationships. The shirts come in three classes: Economy Class (USD 25), which lets customers mix and match routes from over 20 popular airports, Business Class (USD 30), offering travel-inspired, limited-edition graphic prints, and First Class (USD 35) for fully-customized itineraries. In December, Hubwear will introduce a line of kids t-shirts with airport codes in lowercase. Why we think this works? As we pointed out when highlighting t-lists, yet another interesting t-shirt start up, list- and profile-mania is proliferating rapidly thanks to social websites like MySpace, Facebook, lastfm and Bebo, which are connecting likeminded individuals from around the world. (Not to mention the thousands of dating sites for those who want to be more than friends.) Refreshingly enough, this new listmania is not about keeping track of mass market hits, but about individuals: their likes, dislikes, preferences, interests and so on. What better conversation starter than one’s frequent or infrequent trips across the nation or around the world? For those of you who’d like to get on board: Hubwear is looking for partners in the travel industry (airlines and airports) and for traditional retailers who cater to the urban traveler. Or start your own ‘conversation starter on a shirt’ business! There are enough other areas ripe for some healthy self expression…It doesn’t hurt that sites like Spreadshirt and Indigo Clothing can handle most of the work for you anyway 😉 Contact: George Aye, george@hubwear.com For everyone who’d like to escape office politics and the daily commute, iscape manufactures and sells purpose-built garden offices. The British company has created two modular buildings, or ‘iscapes’: Miana and Winola. Both are multi-use outdoor living spaces, but the Miana was specifically designed to be used as an office. Every garden office (from GBP 4,995 including installation and delivery) comes complete with integral electrics and includes sockets and lighting. Constructed from panels, the Miana can be ordered in a range of sizes, with door and window positions meeting a customer’s specific requirements. Customers can choose from 60 colours for timber and plastic coated steel finishes, and iscapes are insulated to high standards for all-year round comfort. The modular designs are pre-fabricated and can usually be installed on site in just one day. The buildings are designed to fall within UK permitted development rights, so in most cases buyers don’t need planning permission. Design conscious lawn commuters might be more interested in the company’s bespoke service, which creates garden offices to a customer’s exact wishes, with all stages of the project undertaken and co-ordinated in-house.