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Last November we wrote about Jay Parkinson, MD, the physician who’s become synonymous with Web 2.0-enabled medicine. Now the good doctor is receiving a fresh round of media attention for his involvement in a broader platform that’s designed to bring the benefits of technology and transparency to physicians and patients far and wide. In a new development, Parkinson has teamed up with Myca, a Canadian provider of health technology, to develop Hello Health, a technology platform that’s designed to open intelligent channels between patients and doctors. Hello Health aims to improve the delivery of medical services to consumers by incorporating video, voice and data communications across multiple platforms and channels, including mobile phones and PCs; documenting and archiving records and communications for round-the-clock online availability; and integrating remote monitoring devices, among other services. In marketing terms, it will be a friendly, branded consumer experience with the neighbourhood doctor, Parkinson says. Once the platform is launched—it’s due soon in Brooklyn, with the rest of New York City to follow—consumers will create an account and become a member for a range of Netflix-priced monthly fees. They’ll be able to make appointments online and be seen at home, in their offices, or at Hello Health’s offices. All their records will be online and available whenever they need them, as will all communication with Hello Health doctors. The price, Parkinson says, will be “less money than a 4-minute visit with your old doctor who practices in the 20th Century.” A preview of the platform is available on YouTube, and patients and doctors alike are being recruited to get involved in the new platform. Parkinson stopped seeing new patients officially at the beginning of this year to work on Hello Health, but will resume his practice in mid-June, when Hello Health launches. “It’s Geek Squad with doctors and a Netflix-priced monthly membership subscription fee — it is a branded healthcare ‘experience’ that mixes ‘concierge service for all’ with house/office calls and web visits via email, IM, video chat, and text messaging,” Parkinson told The Efficient MD. “It’s Fed Ex, Apple, Whole Foods, Amazon, Toyota, Fresh Direct, and Geek Squad all applied to healthcare delivery.” Indeed, Hello Health has the potential to turn the current paradigm on its ear, transforming US medicine as we know it. Spotted by: Bjarke Svendsen A few weeks ago we wrote about Keetsa’s eco-mattress in a box, and since then one of our spotters came across another eco-bedding line from UK-based Sleep Limited. Sleep Limited’s line of eco sleep products features pure, unbleached cotton and 100 percent recycled polyester fiberfill made largely from recycled drink bottles. Included in the line is the Eco Duvet, priced from GBP 30.80; an Eco Mattress Topper, priced from GBP 25.40; and Eco Pillows priced at GBP 22 per pair. All are soft, hypo-allergenic and machine washable, and all come packaged in an unbleached cotton bag emblazoned with an image of the Earth. Shipping is available only within the UK, and is free of charge for orders of GBP 65 or over, GBP 5.95 otherwise. In today’s eco-iconic world, in which out-greening your competitors is increasingly the name of the game, we can’t help but notice that Sleep Limited’s products are made from cotton that’s merely unbleached, not organic. Nevertheless, with a growing number of consumers eager to be green—and especially to show the world that they are—there’s room for many shades of the colour. Make it easy for consumers to be green—or at least, feel green—and they’ll reward you with some cold, hard green of their own! Spotted by: Graeme A. Thanks to California’s Proposition 8, passed back in 1978, homeowners in the state can get a temporary reduction in their home’s assessed value—and, accordingly, their property taxes—when the housing market enters a slump. Recognizing that that applies to virtually everyone who purchased property in the state within the past few years, Prop8.org is a new consumer advocate group that was formed specifically to help California consumers take advantage of the law. Prop8.org provides tax-assessment appeals services for commercial, industrial and residential properties throughout California. With a team that’s professionally trained in tax appeal rules, procedures and requirements specific to each California county, Prop8 can provide market data and analyses needed to advocate the lowest possible tax assessed value. Clients get full-service representation, from the initial filing of the assessment appeal application and supporting documentation, through negotiations with the county assessor—even including a formal hearing before the County Tax Appeals Board, if necessary. Prop8’s services are available on a contingency fee basis for 50 percent of the first year’s tax savings or via a flat-fee plan that covers the entire process—with a three-year guarantee—for USD 495. For homeowners who bought their homes between 2004 and 2006, the average savings that result from hiring Prop8 are between USD 1,500 and USD 2,500 per year, the company’s founders say. Prop8 is currently seeking affiliates to help extend its service throughout California. Meanwhile, of course, there are also many other situations in which consumers are legally entitled to compensation but are unaware or too busy to claim it. Find one of those, and you just might have something to build a business on! (Related: Claiming compensation for duped passengers.) Spotted by: Troy Nelson More crowdfunding! Just recently, Irish fashion portal Catwalk Genius joined the crowdfunded fashion fray with its new Adopt a Designer program. Catwalk Genius features fashion and accessories from independent designers. Through Adopt a Designer, supporters of a participating designer can buy shares (or “elements,” as it calls them) in their work for EUR 14—plus a EUR 1 processing fee—in the hope of sharing in future profits. Once 5,000 such elements have been sold, the designer is given the resulting EUR 70,000 to create a new collection within 6 months. In the meantime, supporters receive a limited edition piece created exclusively for them by the designer. When the new collection launches, all profits from its sale are split equally among the designer, the supporters and Catwalk Genius. If the collection sells out, a tidy profit goes to the designer’s supporters, who can also sign up for Catwalk Genius’s affiliate program and earn 10 percent of the profits from sales through ads on their personal web pages. By the Adopt a Designer program’s mid-April launch, 50 designers had already signed up. Crowdfunding has now been spotted taking hold in the worlds of bands, software, education and sports, among many others. Any doubters left out there? Time to start putting the power of the supportive crowds to work for your growing brand! Earlier this year we wrote about nvokh, a crowdfunded and crowdmanaged eco clothing company. Now BeerBankroll is taking a similar approach to the creation of a new, community managed brewery. The British company has only partially fleshed out its site, but BeerBankroll aims to start a brewery and pub in which many of the key decisions are made by members. It is currently recruiting a minimum of 50,000 members, each of whom will contribute USD 50 in exchange for voting rights on ideas such as the company name, logo, product design, product mix, marketing plan, advertising and sponsorship. Once BeerBankroll has raised USD 100,000 after administration and overhead costs, it plans to begin discussions with a consulting firm—chosen by members’ votes—which will then play a guiding role for the community. Assuming the concept goes well, profits will be divided three ways: one part to members in the form of reward points redeemable for products from the Beer Bankroll store; one part back to the company; and one part to charity. BeerBankroll says it has no set timetable for achieving its milestones, preferring instead to leave that up to members. The company’s FAQs do state that “if for some reason we are unable to get a brewing company started […], then we will take the remaining money after administration and operating costs and give it to charity.” Meanwhile, beer lovers can also join OurBrew, a very new start-up from New Zealand that has similar ambitions, but aims to work with existing breweries. Will it prove feasible for tens of thousands of people to jointly make key decisions for these two breweries-to-be? Only time will tell. However, we think there’s also an opportunity here for an existing organization or financial institution that can vouch for new crowdfunded projects and safeguard pre-funding money until the minimum amount of funds have been collected, return it to members if the project doesn’t come to fruition. Spotted by: Daniel Phillips & Matt P.S. As always, we featured the above because we believe it’s an interesting new business, and one that fits in with a trend we’ve been tracking over the past few years. However, as with most investments, please exercise caution before contributing funds of your own. Mobile coffee carts have been around for a while, including those from Dutch MobiCcino, which we covered back in 2006. But whereas most such carts are motorised, UK-based Bikecaffe has come up with a pedal-powered and eco-friendly alternative. Using heavy-duty cargo tricycles, Bikecaffe travels emission-free as it serves up a range of coffee blends from roasters Segafredo Zanetti and Integrity Fair Trade. The company’s trikes use a gas-powered machine for brewing and can produce up to 500 cups per day—served in recyclable containers—along with chai, biscotti and other edibles. Best of all, Bikecaffe trikes can access pedestrian areas that their motorised competitors can’t, making them ideal providers for pedestrian malls, historic venues, outdoor events, concerts and parties. Just launched in March, Bikecaffe is recruiting franchisees to run carts across the UK and Europe; one to bring to your neck of the coffee-drinking woods? (Related: Cargo bikes for greener business deliveries.) Spotted by: S.W. We’ve already written about both magazine and book publishers for the content-producing masses, but now a wiki-like site aims to leverage the wisdom of the crowds to create, rate and elevate into publication the best community-sourced content. Founded last year, Maryland-based WEbook.com is a free online publishing platform that allows writers, editors, reviewers, illustrators and others to join forces to create great works of fiction and non-fiction, thrillers and essays, short stories, children’s books and more. Using a proprietary platform designed specifically for group authoring, users of the site can launch a new book or add a sentence, review or grammatical correction to a work already in progress—virtually anything they’re inspired to do toward the creation of a new book. New works can be made private or public, or shared with a group of the user’s choice. WEbook keeps all of a user’s projects, submissions, reviews, groups and friends collected and updated on their personal WEbook profile and homepage, and a live feed sends an update whenever a project has a new submission or a contribution gets new feedback. Live forum and research tools, meanwhile, are available to foster interaction with other writers, contributors and readers. Once a book’s authors deem their work ready for public opinion, they can submit it for a voting cycle to determine if it’s worthy of publishing. Users across the site cast their votes, and the WEbook team chooses from among those with the most support which will be published under the WEbook imprint as books, eBooks and audiobooks. (WEbook may first employ a copy editor, typesetter and other professional to ensure the final product is top-quality.) Publication costs nothing for authors and major contributors, but they receive 50 percent of all profits generated from the sale of WEbook titles, which get distributed at WEbook.com, Amazon.com and select booksellers. WEbook published its first book—a thriller titled Pandora—in February, with plans to publish another 3 to 5 books this year, including Xanthippe, a literary tale about Socrates’ wife; a children’s book titled Ten Things You Absolutely Should Not do with a Baby; and a range of anthologies on provocative topics. Beginning July 4, the WEbook community will begin selecting the lead candidates for the next publication cycle. In the traditional publishing industry, the odds of an unknown talent securing a publishing deal are 15,000 to 1, WEbook says. With its wiki-like platform, on the other hand, the site hopes to do for books what American Idol did for music and what Wikipedia did for information. While some types of writing are likely better off with a single voice (fiction, for example—see A Million Penguins for more on that), others will benefit from a chorus of insights and opinions. One to watch and learn from! Vacant, run-down buildings are usually viewed as a community liability, with quick demolition seen as the only solution. A more eco-minded approach, however, is deconstruction, which allows for the salvage of the building’s still-usable pieces. Buffalo ReUse is a New York-based non-profit organization that specializes in just that, providing deconstruction services, community education, jobs and a store for salvaged parts. Established in 2006, Buffalo ReUse is a fully licensed and insured contractor with a full-time crew that can completely remove residential structures, barns and garages. Through deconstruction—in which buildings are carefully taken apart rather than demolished in one blow—building materials including lumber, fixtures and architectural detail can be saved. These are then sold through Buffalo ReUse’s ReSource store, which just opened last week as a local source for building materials and household items, DIY ideas, green education and community outreach. Proceeds from the sale of those items then get put back into the community, as Buffalo ReUse collaborates with block clubs and community associations to develop new neighbourhood assets. The organization offers myriad volunteer opportunities for such projects as community tree-planting, mural painting or other forms of neighbourhood revitalization, as well as paid work for local people. Ultimately, it hopes to use deconstruction as a springboard for job training and leadership development, providing men and women between 18 and 24 years old with a way to build related skills, interests and even small businesses. Buffalo ReUse was recently selected by The Financial Times and the Urban Land Institute as one of 20 finalists for the 2008 FT ULI Sustainable Cities Award based on nominations received from around the world. New York State assemblyman Sam Hoyt, one of those who nominated the group, explains: “Buffalo ReUse should serve as a model for other communities to reduce waste dumped in our landfills, to employ young adults from our inner city, and to work with community members to make neighbourhoods greener.” The lesson for eco and social entrepreneurs around the world: look no further than the abandoned buildings around you for a wealth of opportunity! Spotted by: Andrea Kleinfelder Small retailers face the constant challenge of finding new and innovative products to sell as they compete with the big-box heavyweights. A new search portal from Initiate Commerce aims to make the process easier with a streamlined way to access the wares of more than 40,000 wholesale suppliers and distributors. Launched about a year ago, Albany, NY-based ProductBlazer scours the web for qualified wholesale suppliers of interesting and innovative products. It then indexes the websites and product catalogues of these suppliers, filtering out blogs, articles and other content that can clutter up traditional search-engine results. Retail users of the free service who search on particular product terms get a list of relevant suppliers in return; they also get tools to manage saved lists of suppliers, allowing them to organize their research by category and keywords. Research is stored securely in the ProductBlazer portal itself, making it retrievable from anywhere on the internet. For suppliers, a basic listing in the portal is also free, but premium search placement and advertising services are available for a fee. For retailers of gift products, Initiate also operates GiftSuppliers.us, which is powered by the ProductBlazer engine as well. Erik Morton, Initiate’s cofounder and COO, explains: “ProductBlazer allows small, local retailers to play to their strengths. They know their customers intimately, and know they want interesting and innovative products that you won’t find at Target.” We’re not sure that ProductBlazer’s approach of generating supplier lists—rather than specific product descriptions and images—is the right one, since it forces retailers to take the next step and investigate the suppliers’ websites themselves, leaving them to do most of the work. But there’s no doubt that opportunities exist for services that can connect independent, brick & mortar retailers with the massive new wave of creative people selling their unique wares on websites like Etsy. Revenues through advertising or referral fees await those who can successfully find and curate the most interesting products out there; might that be you…? Spotted by: Cecilia Biemann Every family has a pile somewhere of their children’s drawings. Since culling out and saving the best works isn’t easy, two moms/entrepreneurs from New Jersey devised a solution: theART:archives. How it works? Parents send in their kids’ drawings and theART:archives team professionally photographs each one and sends back a DVD catalogue that can be viewed on a computer screen or TV. The start-up’s founders suggest ordering a separate DVD for each school year to create a complete record of a child’s accomplishments. theART:archives’ prices range from USD 275 for 25 pieces of art up to USD 325 for 55 artworks. The company’s business model loosely resembles that of other cottage ventures that employ digital technology to reduce clutter, among them small businesses that transfer home videos to DVD or digitize a CD collection for iPod use. While millions of families own scanners and are tech-savvy enough to create DVD artwork collections on their own, many are likely to appreciate the time-saving convenience of a service that will handle the process for them. One to start up locally, in areas with plenty of two-income families with young children. Easy add-on product? Use a publishing service like Blurb to transform the digital scans back into coffee table books featuring the budding artists’ work. Spotted by K.M. Morano