Create the Future. Today

Busy moms and dads who want to provide their children with nutritious organic fare, but don’t have the time or wherewithal to whip up all their meals from scratch, will love the Kidfresh concept. A children’s food store, designed by a team that includes an award-winning chef and dietician as well as a pediatric nutritionist, New York-based Kidfresh offers prepared “Grab + Go” meals or “Mix + Match” selections that cater to four different age groups, ranging from baby to age 10. Food boxes are colour-coded according to age, and contain breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks, priced from USD 4.95 – USD 7.25 per meal. The company’s founder wanted to create a Whole Foods for children, offering kids the same variety in prepared foods as Whole Foods does for adults. All menu items are made with fresh, all-natural and mostly organic ingredients, and represent a variety of food groups, with an emphasis on fibre, fruits and vegetables. Portion sizes are age-appropriate, and, keeping in mind the interests of young eaters, Kidfresh serves food in fun shapes and colours. Menu items include Organic Yogurt Parfait with Pureed Strawberries, Honey BBQ Chicken & Cheese Wrap, Piggy-Tail Pasta with Tomato Sauce & Turkey Meatballs, and Honey Graham Stix with Yogurt Pineapple Dip. The store, located at 1628 2nd Avenue in New York, is extremely child-friendly, aiming to involve kids in the food buying process. Children can enter through a special doorway, and gather their groceries in pint-sized carts. Kidfresh also offers cooking classes and other events to encourage children to get into the “Kidchen” and take an interest in healthy eating. An in-store counter serves ice-cream, fruit kebabs and Parents can also shop online for Kidfresh meals or groceries. With rising concerns about childhood obesity, health- and weight-conscious parents are likely to be a profitable market to tap into. Our recent items on pre-packed healthy lunches and fresh and frozen gourmet baby food are further evidence of this trend. Spotted by: Paulo Vischi Yesterday, we covered two companies that make it possible for consumers to send snail mail by email. More from the old school mail front: Dutch Gratis-Post lets people order envelopes with free postage for mailing within The Netherlands. Like most of the free love concepts we’ve covered in the past (from free photocopies to free phone calls), the concept is supported by advertising, in two parts. Ads are printed on the back of the envelope, and in exchange for 5 free ready-to-mail envelopes, users also agree to receive advertising messages by email for a period of four weeks. If you think consumers can’t possibly be interested in being ad-bombed for four weeks in exchange for EUR 2.20 (one stamp is EUR 0.44) worth of postage on ad-covered envelopes, you’re wrong 😉 Gratis-Post ran out of its first print-run of 52,500 envelopes a few hours after they launched last Monday. Registered users can order a maximum of 5 envelopes per week. To give you a bit of insight into the format’s revenue structure: for EUR 12,500, advertisers can have their ads printed on 10,000 envelopes, an email shot sent to registered users and banners placed on gratis-post.nl. Although the Dutch may have a reputation for pinching pennies, they’re not the only nation to love a no-cost bargain. If you’re in advertising or looking for a relatively easy company to start up, go to your local printer and national postal service, and start bargaining. We’ve mentioned transumers before—consumers who value experiences more than ownership—with examples like shared ownership of cars, yachts and second homes, or leasing concepts for handbags, jewellery and other luxury goods. What we didn’t see coming, is for that line-up of material goods to be joined by man’s best friend. People who love spending time with dogs but can’t manage full-time ownership can now join a flexible pet ownership program. Flexpetz recently launched in Los Angeles and San Diego, and offers consumers the option of having a dog for just a few hours or days a week. Which is a good solution for people who’d love to have a dog, but are too busy, travel frequently, or live in buildings that don’t allow dog ownership. The dogs come from breed rescue shelters, who take in specific breeds and help pick animals that are well-suited to life as Flexpetz. When they’re not spending time with members, the dogs live in a cage-free facility that provides a safe and steady base. The company’s founder, Marlena Cervantes, views Flexpetz like an extended family: “When our dogs spend time with their extended family members, they are lavished with love and undivided attention. We feel our this concept allows our dogs more love and attention than single ownership can often provide.” Membership is limited, and each dog generally spends time with a small group of people. Monthly membership costs USD 39.95 plus a daily fee, and members can reserve their pooch of choice online. Before being allowed to rent a dog, members go through a mandatory training session with a certified Flexpetz dog trainer. The service aims to expand to New York, San Francisco and Boston soon, followed by other cities in the United States and abroad. One to set up locally? Or how about starting a website that matches two or three owners, facilitating fractional dog ownership based on location, availability and personality? For more examples of transumerism, check out the trend briefing. Using Postful, anyone with access to email can send a real, paper letter to anyone with a postal address. How it works? Send an email to quickletter@postful.com, with the mailing address in the subject line, write the letter in the email’s message body, click send, and the email is printed and posted. Postful does not add branding or advertising. Users can set up special email addresses for frequent contacts. Rather than typing out Aunt Kate’s postal address every time, a user can create auntkate@postful.com, specifying her address, and Postful takes care of the rest. Combine that with Jott, the voice to text service we featured last week, and anyone can send a printed letter by ‘jotting’ a voice message. Not limited to text, letters can also include photos—view a sample letter (PDF). Pricing is simple: USD 0.99 for the first page and USD 0.25 for each additional page, which includes full-colour printing, paper, envelope and first-class postage. Currently only available in the United States, but international mailing is one of the most requested features from beta users, so Postful is hard at work to start offering that as soon as possible. The first step will be to offer international airmail service from their printers in the US, which is planned for June 2007, and the next step will be to set up international print stations. The latter would speed up delivery and lower costs; Postful’s target is to reach a single flat fee for a letter sent anywhere in the world. Postful currently sends out any email entering the system within 24 hours, excluding weekends. The start-up aims to decrease turnaround time over the next months, aiming for any email received by 3 PM PST to go out as post the same day. Meanwhile, Australian L-Mail offers a very similar service, including international printing stations which are already up and running. L-Mail users can also send Braille and audio letters (the company turns an email into a recorded talking letter, which is posted by CD or cassette tape), but only prints in black and white. Sounds like something national postal companies should hurry up and partner with. And how about niche services, for small businesses, wedding planners, children’s birthday parties, etc? As it’s becoming harder for email to get through to readers, snail mail could see a revival. Hey, we might even start sending out Springwise newsletters to your postal address 😉 Spotted by: Bill McMahon Launched a few weeks ago, Trivop claims to be the first online hotel video portal. Using Google maps to help users find hotels, the website gives them the next best thing to visiting a hotel in person—a video walkthrough. Each video begins with some street footage near the hotel. The video camera then takes the viewer up to the entrance and into the lobby and other public spaces, and on to a room. Videos are available for each of type of room a hotel offers (standard, deluxe, junior suite, etc), including shots of the bathroom and the view through the window. No running commentary, just some fairly innocuous background music. Additional information includes the five most recent reviews on TripAdvisor, a full street address and a link to the hotel’s website. French Trivop currently lists 144 hotels in Paris and 11 in London. Within a few weeks, the site will expand its reach by harnessing the power and video cameras of the masses. Travellers (and hotels) will be able to upload videos they’ve shot. In addition to amateur videographers, Trivop is also seeking freelance filmmakers to shoot professional videos: “Trivop is convinced that hotels must provide a video on their website. We want to open up many business opportunities for you by building the biggest community of filmmakers all around the world for the hospitality industry.” About time, considering the very limited still and moving imagery most hotel websites offer. Thomas Owadenko, Trivop’s founder, informs us that 500 filmmakers signed up over the past three weeks. So besides the providing travellers with previews of hotels, Trivop will also tackle the B2B side by creating videos for hotels, or brokering between hotels and freelance filmmakers. With both professional and user-submitted candid videos, the website’s visitors will benefit from the same kind of transparency that candid photos on TripAdvisor offer. Sources of revenue include production fees and hosting charges for hotel-directed videos, as well as referral fees. The company will also license its catalogue to online travel agencies. Trivop’s main challenge is to build content and traffic quickly, since TripAdvisor (which has 20 million unique visitors each month and is owned by Expedia), started letting users upload videos last month. Watch this space! Spotted by: Benoit Rigaut In one of the more original interpretations of the brand spaces trend, Denmark’s Smukkeste Festival launched a novel concept for sleeping accommodations—oversized beer cans! The Can Sleep is a joint venture between the festival organizers and Royal Unibrew, Denmark’s second largest brewery. Standing at 11.5 ft (3.75) with a diameter of 7.2 ft (2.20 m), each unit is fully furnished with a table, chairs, shelves, pegs and a mirror, all by IKEA. A ladder leads to a loft-bed that comfortably sleeps two adults and offers a skylight view. In case that’s not enough for one’s stargazing desires, half the roof opens right up. Each Can Sleep also features a lockable door, electric light and a can-shaped refrigerator. Reservations for the 121 Can Sleeps produced for the 2005 festival sold out in just 40 seconds over the internet. While Royal Unibrew has exclusive rights within Denmark, Can Sleep is available to other sponsors outside of the country. Each is priced at about USD 4,000 each (not including delivery charges), with a minimum order of 54 cans (9 six packs). A fresh and fun way to advertise, Can Sleep is a great example of how meeting just the right customer need with a little creativity can pay big dividends in brand recognition. We could definitely see this one popping up at big events around the world. For more examples of innovative brand spaces, ranging from Nokia’s Silence Booths at music festivals to LG’s wash bar in Paris, check out trendwatching.com’s free briefing. Spotted by: Jonas Hjorth Spotting one new business idea is good. Spotting two new business ideas working together is even better. Last month, we wrote about Peasy, an online exchange for parking spaces. A very similar British service, ParkAtMyHouse.com, also lets people rent out their private parking spaces, and recently partnered with ZipCar, a company we first featured back in 2003. With about 80,000 consumer and business drivers, ZipCar is the world’s largest and fastest growing car sharing service. Founded in the United States, ZipCar recently launched in London, which will become the hub for the company’s expansion into Europe. The partnership between ParkAtMyHouse and ZipCars gives ZipCars more places to park in London, and parking space owners a larger pool of potential clients. By renting to ZipCar, they’ll receive their usual payment as well as GBP 85 worth of free driving credit if they sign up for ZipCar. Consumers or businesses who have a parking spot but don’t own a car can monetize their parking space and have the luxury of a ZipCar parked on their doorstep, ready to use when they need it. (ZipCars cost from GBP 4.95 an hour, which covers parking, petrol, insurance, maintenance, Congestion Charge and 60 miles of driving.) At bit more about ParkAtMyHouse, which was founded by 23-year-old Anthony Eskinazi: anyone can register to rent out their parking space to consumers and businesses. Car owners can pre-book a spot daily, or one-off for a football match or a day of shopping in the city. Usually for much less than they would otherwise pay for parking. ParkAtMyHouse offers a smart search functionality. For example, typing in ‘Sadler’s Wells’ displays all parking spaces for rent near the theatre, ordered by proximity. A quick search reveals that 311 spaces are currently available in London. Members can also put up ads for spaces wanted. Listings show the need for city parking spots, and range from “I’m a doctor at Kings Hospital and URGENTLY need a parking spot nearby – can anyone help?” to “Looking for a lockable garage or bay in secure multi-storey for a classic car.” Those of you setting up an online parking exchange in your own neck of the woods, be sure to hook up with your local car sharing companies! Websites: www.parkatmyhouse.comwww.zipcar.com “Shop happy!” is the motto at Bloom, a new chain of grocery stores recently unveiled by supermarket giant Food Lion. Bloom has incorporated both innovative technologies and customer-friendly practices to create ‘a different kind of grocery store’. With a swipe of their Bloom Breeze Cards, shoppers can get personal scanners to carry about the store, scanning items and bagging them right in their carts as they shop. The scanners provide a running tally of how much customers are spending, so they can be mindful of their budgets. Scanners also allow Bloom to send instant messages to customers, alerting them when prescriptions have been filled or their deli orders are ready for pick-up. When they’re ready to check out, shoppers simply go to any check-out lane and scan an “end of trip” barcode and the order automatically downloads to a register, so there’s no need to unload and reload the cart. Which brings the average checkout time down to 32.7 seconds. (There are random checks to make sure nobody is cheating the system.) Based on nearly two years of consumer research and analysis, Bloom stores also feature customer-friendly aisle layouts, kiosks for downloading recipe ideas or learning about wine selections, 20-minute parking spots and more. There are even interactive information stations to help shoppers easily track down items on their shopping lists. Currently based on the east coast of the United States, there are 52 Bloom locations in Maryland, Virginia, and North and South Carolina, with plans to convert and rebrand dozens more Food Lion stores. Of course, Bloom isn’t the only supermarket making use of hand-held scanners and other technological advances. However, the combination of technology and implementing the industry’s best practices is something other retailers should take note of. Spotted by: Jennifer Weyand While home stays might have fuddy-duddy connotations of boy scout troops or travelling bible groups, the Salone del Mobile in Milan—the annual international furniture fair that ends today—would have a hard time doing anything that isn’t cool. Which includes a Bed Sharing programme that kicked off this year. The Bed Sharing project aims to show the host city’s most hospitable side, and actively involves Milan residents by inviting them to open up their homes to (young) conference attendees who haven’t been able to find or can’t afford regular accommodation in hotels. Shared bedrooms needn’t be palatial: “2 square meters are enough to put up a designer.” It’s a simple way to add a personal touch and human scale to massive conferences and events, while helping local professionals expand their networks by meeting colleagues from abroad. One to set up for every major conference? Since almost everything can be arranged online, coordination costs aren’t high. And given most events’ very specific target audiences, sponsors should be easy to find. (Bed Sharing’s main partners were easyJet, Samsung and Italian mattress manufacturer Ennerev.) A related organisation is SpaceShare, which we’ll feature soon. Spotted by: Yasmina Haryono MBA-toting entrepreneurs who want to make a difference may want to look into MBAs Without Borders, a humanitarian venture that partners volunteers from around the globe with local businesses, multinational corporations and NGOs in underdeveloped nations. Similar to Doctors Without Borders and Engineers Without Borders, the idea is for professionals to invest their expertise to help in parts of the world that are not so privileged. The vision behind MBAs Without Borders is guided by their e3 principles—Enabling Private Enterprise, Educating Locals and Engaging in Local Community. Projects typically fall within five key industries: health care, agriculture, financial, income-generation and climate change. The organization so far has deployed MBAs to Mexico, Haiti, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Vietnam and Poland. Projects typically last four to six months, but some may go as long as a year or as little as one month. The organization covers costs for travel, accommodations, travel, business calls and other related expenses, and volunteers receive a generous monthly stipend of USD 1,000. More than that, they gain an invaluable experience—and one that looks great on a resume! In fact, MBAs Without Borders frequently hears from international businesses and NGOs looking to hire new talent. Founded in Canada in 2004, MBAs Without Borders hopes to expand into the United States Europe and Australia in coming years. Spotted by: Cole Denver Related: Microfinance meets mentoring