Austrian Herold, which publishes the country’s white and yellow pages, claims to offer a worldwide first. Customers can purchase Austria’s entire phone directory and plug it into their cellphone. At first glance, this may seem somewhat outmoded. Why use an offline solution when almost every modern phone has internet access? Well, looking up phone numbers through a smartphone’s browser has two major drawbacks: it can be very slow and very expensive, since telecom providers in many countries still charge outlandish fees for data transfer.
And Herold’s mobile phone book has a very useful feature: if a user receives a call from someone who isn’t in their personal contact list, Herold will automatically find and display the caller’s name. (So-called ‘calling name delivery’ is offered by telecom providers in some countries, but often doesn’t work if a call takes place between different providers.)
Herold Mobile is currently only available for smartphones that run on Symbian or Windows Mobile. The digital phone book costs EUR 29.90, including monthly updates, and the directory currently lists over 4 million residential and business phone numbers. Admittedly, this particular concept is easiest to accomplish in countries with small populations—Austria has just 8.2 million inhabitants. Placed in a wider context: while satisfying consumers’ infolust is usually equated with being online, sometimes it makes sense to take the information offline.
Spotted by: Martina Meng
Here’s a spotting that couldn’t help but catch our eye: Rock and Royal creates chandeliers with attitude, made to order. The company veers sharply away from the standard ring and crown shapes that adorn swank homes and hotels across the world. Fusing posh and punk, Rock and Royal’s chandeliers can take any shape—from champagne bottle to skull & bones.
Based in The Netherlands, Rock and Royal was established in 2005 and works with artist Hans van Bentem to create unique light fixtures that are sold to wealthy patrons across the world. Their crystal chandeliers are priced from EUR 12,000 and take approximately two months to design and manufacture.
It’s a fun example of taking a very traditional product and turning it into something fresh and newly desirable. Something to be inspired by, even if you don’t work in interior design? For more examples of ultra-exclusive goods and services, check out trendwatching.com’s briefing on UBER-PREMIUM.
From easyJobs to easyPizza, easyJet’s founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou isn’t afraid to branch out into new industries. His newest foray piqued our interest, since it’s a concept we wrote about three times last year—flexible working spaces. easyOffice aims to bring flexible and affordable, serviced office space, allowing entrepreneurs to ‘match the space they rent with the demands of their business’.
easyOffice’s first location will open in Kensington, London in May or June 2007, with rooms for rent long and short term. Gulf News reports that Stelios is also eyeing Dubai: “There are so many start up businesses in Dubai and people are constantly moving in and out. With the things that are happening here and the dynamism of the economy I think a flexible office space solution might work here.” It might work, indeed. With office space vacancy as low as 1%, rents in Dubai are high. For more examples of spaces that offer business professionals everything they need to stay productive outside a traditional office, check out our previous coverage of start-ups in Canada, the UK, Australia and South Africa.
Sometimes it’s all about the (re)packaging. Miami-based Vuru sells nutritional supplements in personalized daily packs. Customers choose from over 2,000 name brand supplements and vitamins, select how many weeks worth they want to purchase and then have their personalized packs shipped to them.
Vuru sticks each daily dose into a slick little pack that fits 2-15 pills. (For power users, larger packs are in the works.) Which means customers are spared the hassle of shaking pills from several bulky bottles, or organizing daily dosages into pill boxes or plastic bags. Vuru packs can be tossed into a handbag or pocket, and are perfect for travel. Besides creating their own unique blends, customers can pick one of Vuru’s pre-selected mixes, varying from ‘Woman’s Yoga Pack’ to ‘The UrbanDaddy Pack’. To make sense of it all, each order comes with an information sheet, which has a picture of each pill, the supplement facts label, directions, warnings and any other information pertinent to that supplement or vitamin.
Several elements make this concept quite appealing. First of all, customers will love the ability to pick and mix their own, ultra-personalized blend from a wide variety of supplements. Secondly, there’s the convenience angle: time-saving and life-hacking, Vuru is what our sister-site trendwatching.com would call a daily lubricant. One of those products that make people’s lives just a little bit easier. Last but not least, the packaging is simple, shiny and chic. Which all combines to create a luxury ‘health hack’ that many consumers are willing to pay a premium for.
The same concept could no doubt be applied to other industries. How about skin care products? Just be sure to think green and keep packaging to a minimum. Meanwhile, if you’re in the health care business, note that Vuru operates an affiliate program that lets nutritionists, doctors and other health care professionals create supplement programs for clients and patients, netting them 10% commission for every dollar a client spends. Whether or not that presents ethical dilemmas is a discussion we’ll leave to other blogs 😉
Spotted by: Thei Zervaki
Described as “Rocketboom for Wall Street” and “Squawk Box meets Saturday Night Live”, Wallstrip offers stock advice in a format that’s second nature to viewers who watch YouTube instead of CNBC. Wallstrip’s daily videos are taped in New York, hosted by actress Lindsay Campbell, and feature one public company in every 3-minute online show.
Wallstrip was founded in October 2006, aiming to be both sassy and serious while teaching a new generation of investors to pick their own stocks. The show was created by Howard Lindzon, who runs an investment firm and hedge fund in Arizona and a venture capital fund in Toronto. Following Lindzon’s personal investment philosophy, the focus is on stocks at all-time highs, like Apple, Google and Toyota, analysing why they’re strong and whether they’ll continue to increase in value. Man on the street interviews add to Wallstrip’s informal vibe.
The show has been voted one of the top podcasts on iTunes, and is also distributed via social video sites like Revver and YouTube. With enough VC backing to wait and see how its own value will develop, Wallstrip is in no hurry to chase advertising revenues, focusing instead on building a dedicated following of valuable eyeballs.
Light, entertaining and very digestible, Wallstrip’s pop-culture approach to the stock market should spawn siblings in every major financial market. Stock-savvy entrepreneurs in London, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Hong Kong—what are you waiting for?!
New Yorkers who have a hard time keeping track of personal items now have one less thing to worry about. For a modest annual fee, NewYourKey keeps copies of keys in a secure storage facility and can deliver them right away if customers find themselves locked out. Keys lost in a nightclub at four in the morning? No problem! NewYourKey will deliver spare keys within an hour any time of day or night, wherever a customer happens to be.
Setting up an account is easy. NewYourKey comes to the customer with its mobile key lab, so copies of keys can be made on the spot if spare sets aren’t unavailable. Customers must present positive photo identification. For added security, profiles include just name, password and photo, so no address is linked to any set of keys in the facility.
Three levels of service are available, with prices beginning at just USD 35 per year for key storage and USD 20 for each delivery. Additional charges apply for customers who wish to store more than two sets of keys or who’d like to authorize a third party to receive copies when necessary. Commercial accounts also are available.
NewYourKey, which was launched just a few months ago, is a great example of a business idea built around the type of favour you might ask a close friend, neighbour or doorman. It’s a life hack that should appeal to both busy professionals and notorious scatterbrains, who will be more than happy to pay for the convenience and peace of mind. One to set up in every major city!
Spotted by: Kundan Sen
Two British companies are bent on closing a gap in the prepared foods market—halal baby food. Up until recently, certified halal meat-based baby foods weren’t available. Because of this, Muslim mothers often delayed the switch from milk to solids, leading to babies developing iron and protein deficiencies. This isn’t just a problem in non-Muslim countries, where halal food is often less readily available. According to a report by the Nutrition Unit of the World Health Organization, the prevalence of iron deficiency anaemia in Middle Eastern infants is high – up to 70% in some parts of the region (source: Maktoob Business).
Mumtaz Foods Industries offers ten varieties of baby food suitable for infants from 4 to 7+ months old, including Potato, Lamb & Spinach, and Spring Vegetables and Chicken. GEM Food’s Petit Gems comes in culture-spanning flavours, from Vegetable & Roast Beef to Middle-Eastern Lamb Tagine.
Aimed at Muslim parents who want the convenience of prepared baby food without compromising their religious beliefs, halal baby foods should do well both in Muslim and non-Muslim countries. Mumtaz Baby Food is currently available in selected supermarkets and drugstores in the United Kingdom and in Carrefour supermarkets in Saudi Arabia, with other Gulf Region countries to follow this year. GEM Food’s Petit Gems is sold in the UK and France. Two to partner with or distribute! With an estimated 1.4 billion Muslims world-wide, this is hardly a niche market 😉
Spotted by: Leigh Odimah
With Life Trackers, turning life experiences into a published book is as simple as sending an email. While self-publishing is nothing new, Life Trackers makes it easy to pull together travel journals, memory books and other keepsakes from just about anywhere a user has internet access. Best of all, there’s no cost to join, and customers can get a printable PDF of their book for free.
Here’s how it works: after a customer signs up, they’re given a personal Life Trackers email address. To add content to their book, they simply send an email to that address with the text in the body of the message. They can add the address to their email distribution lists for big announcements, such as an engagement or birth. Copy it in on personal correspondence about a trip or big event. Forward meaningful replies from friends and family – or better yet, share the email address with them to collaborate on a book. In addition to sending text, users can attach up to three pictures with each message.
Besides obvious applications like travel journals or memoirs, Life Trackers suggests using the service to keep track of love letters, messages from college, or emails about a new baby. “Each year, hundreds of thousands of people send dozens of emails about their child’s first year of life to friends, family, parents and grandparents, and they receive dozens of replies. Now, you can collect text and images from yourself, and from friends and family, about your baby’s birth, first month at home, first smile, first food and first step. Just send everything to your Life Trackers account.”
When they’re ready, users can view, edit and publish through the Life Trackers website. Publishing options include a printable PDF document, softcover book or professionally bound hardcover. Great example of a company cashing in on the life caching trend, simply by building on existing behaviour, letting consumers publish texts they already produce and receive on a daily basis, but might not have considered material for a book. Clever! For more on self-publishing, see our piece on Blurb, which makes it easy to turn blogs into books.
Spotted by: Laura Winkleblack
What do you get when the founder and former CEO of video game giant Atari and the amusement-themed children’s restaurant Chuck E. Cheese takes on modern dining? Entertainment and restaurant visionary Nolan Bushnell has launched uWink Bistro, an innovative restaurant concept that combines modern comfort food with at-the-table entertainment.
At uWink, customers place orders on touch screen terminals right at their tables. There are no waiters or waitresses, but rather food runners who deliver meals and beverages. Need a refill on your drink? Extra dressing for your salad? Touch the screen. But that’s not all the high tech tables offer. Customers at uWink can enjoy games, table-to-table trivia tournaments, movie trailers, internet-browsing and more while they wait for and enjoy their meals. Bushnell’s team isn’t skimping on the food, either. The menu features upscale bistro fare made with fresh ingredients.
The first uWink Bistro opened its doors in October 2006 in the Los Angeles area. Franchises are already being offered in 36 U.S. states, and plans are already in the works to offer them internationally. Could this new digital dining experience spark a trend?
About a year ago, we covered the UK’s first women-only private car hire franchise: Pink Ladies. The company aimed to make rides safer for female passengers and female drivers. The concept is taking root, as witnessed by spottings of similar ventures in Moscow, Dubai and Teheran.
Moscow’s Pink Taxi was launched in August 2006 by Olga Fomina and two of her friends. The company’s initial fleet consisted of two Daewoo cars and two drivers. Six months later, Pink Taxi has 20 cars and 27 drivers on the road, and is looking to upgrade to Volvo S40s. Following in their footsteps, Ladies Red Taxi was founded in November and operates from neighbouring city Khimki. It doesn’t quite fit the ‘for women, by women’ bill, though, as it caters to both men and women (source: Moscow Times).
In Dubai, taxis for women made their debut in January 2007. The initiative was launched by Dubai’s Road and Traffic Authority, which trained 100 female drivers and has a fleet of 50 vehicles. The goal is to provide a secure mode of transport for women and children, and the emirate’s sand-coloured taxis with pink roofs will mainly pick up passengers at hospitals and shopping malls (source: Gulf News).
Last but not least, women-only taxis are slowing gaining official recognition in Iran, according to the Financial Times. The motivation is the same as in the UK, the UAE and Russia — safety concerns and creating flexible jobs for women. Taxis are a common way of getting around in Teheran, where public transportation is limited and petrol is subsidised by the government. While expected to wear full hijab, female cabbies feel empowered by their job. From the FT: “It gives you a feeling of being useful – because it’s a ‘male’ job, you feel power and confidence,” says Neda Malekpour.
Although pink-thinking entrepreneurs may have to find their way around anti-discrimination laws in some countries, we having a feeling this concept will continue to spread. Have we left out your local women-only taxi service? Please let us know! You can post a comment below.
Websites & contact details:
www.ladiesredtaxi.ru / firstname.lastname@example.org
Dubai Taxi Authority: 00 971 (0)4208 0808
No details for Teheran.
Spotted by: Ozgur Alaz