Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

Regular Springwise readers are already familiar with transumers and the many ways in which they share and exchange goods without ever having to own them. The Mesh Directory is an online network that attempts to encapsulate that trend, aggregating all the many companies that now “create, share and use social media, wireless networks, and data crunched from every available source to provide people with goods and services at the exact moment they need them, without the burden and expense of owning them outright,” in the site’s own words. Similar in many ways to Milk or Sugar, the Mesh Directory provides a freely searchable index of some 1,500 companies that are helping to enable the new sharing economy. Designed as a companion site to a forthcoming book on the same topic, the directory allows users to browse alphabetically or by category as well; among the categories included are transportation, fashion, food, real estate, travel, finance and entertainment. Provided for each company on the list are its URL and contact information along with a description of its offerings; there’s also an option for companies not already on the list to request to be added. Included on the list, incidentally, are numerous “alumni” of our pages, including Kisskissbankbank, RelayRides, thredUP, Kickstarter and Aakash Ganga. Given the rapid growth and far-reaching impact of many consumer trends, figuring out what’s already out there can be a considerable challenge. Where else might web users need some guidance navigating new ground…? (Related: First magazine for green weddingsProduct portal for independent retailersOnline library of green building materials.) Spotted by: Jon Wisler Editor’s note: Ticketfree’s website is currently down. We haven’t yet been able to find out what happened—maybe the Canadian authorities issued a cease-and-desist? More than 41 million speeding tickets are issued to drivers in the United States each year, according to TrafficTicketSecrets.com. With an average cost of USD 150 each, that amounts to more than USD 6 billion lost annually by US consumers. Therein lies the motivation behind Ticketfree, a site that ensures its customers will “never pay a speeding ticket, red light ticket, photo radar ticket or traffic violation again.” Canadian Ticketfree operates on a simple membership plan whereby an annual fee covers the costs of any tickets members get over the course of that year. A membership fee of USD 169 covers all speeding tickets for a year, up to a maximum of USD 600; for USD 299, red-light and photo-radar tickets are covered as well, up to a cap of USD 900; and a USD 449 fee buys coverage for all of the above plus parking and equipment tickets too, up to a maximum total of USD 1,200. Upon receiving a qualifying ticket, members simply visit the Ticketfree site and enter the details; the company will then pay the associated fine and send the member a confirmation email. Not covered by Ticketfree are DUI and other violations resulting from dangerous behaviour, the company says. Ticketing is on the rise, Ticketfree notes, so a little peace of mind could go a long way for many frequent drivers. Currently, however, the company covers only those within the United States and Canada; one to emulate in other parts of the ticket-prone and lead-footed world…? (Related: Fare dodgers take Paris Métro for a ride with insurance pots against fines.) Spotted by: Michael Henry Organic cotton fabrics are becoming increasingly common, but most are still used primarily for clothing. Aiming to bring eco-sensible supplies to the quilt and craft market, New Jersey-based Cloud9 Fabrics offers a line of organic cotton fabrics designed to give crafters modern style in a green-minded alternative. Cloud9 uses only 100 percent certified organic cotton in the manufacturing of its base cloths and low-impact dyes for printing and dyeing. Although cotton is typically one of the most chemically treated crops there is—accounting for roughly 25 percent of the pesticides used in agriculture, Cloud9 says—the company’s own fabrics meet the Global Organic Textile Standard. Its whitening process, for example, is a non-chlorine, eco-friendly bleaching technique that involves no chemical brighteners. Cloud9 imports its organic cotton and goods from India, where it aims to work closely with mills that foster the practice of organic cotton farming and eco-responsible print and dye methods. The company’s retro-inspired color palette and whimsical designs, meanwhile, are generally focused on natural themes. Retail pricing on Cloud9’s collection is reportedly USD 16.50 per yard. Cloud9 fabrics are available from a variety of stockists around the world. Crafty-minded retailers: one to bring to your own eco-minded shoppers…? (Related: Swathes of customization: fabric printed on demand.) Spotted by: Martha Stewart Living Founded on the premise that a group can relate the story of a shared experience better than a single person can, Group Story is a new photo book service that allows groups of consumers who attended the same event to pool their photographs and collaborate online to merge their memories and create multi-faceted, story-telling photo books. Group Story co-founder George Junginger explains: “Current photo books are focused on photos, not the story, and they only have one editor. Group Story lets you pick and choose those pages from other people that are meaningful to you and that experience. Whether kids on a sports team, family reunions, group travel—anytime you have a group, you have a Group Story.” Here’s how it works: group members upload and tag photos to a shared workspace. Each member then uses these pooled images to create pages of photos. Users can select single or multi-photo layouts, change the background colour and add text to their pages. Group members then pick and choose from other members’ pages to assemble their own unique photo book. Online photo books can be created free of charge, and sharing will be available soon with Facebook integration for inviting group members. Printed photo books can be ordered for USD 12.99 for 20 pages in softcover format, and USD 24.99 for hardcover. Additional pages are 50 cents each. Launched into public beta in March, Group Story currently only prints and ships within the US but is in the process of developing partnerships with printers in other countries to expand the service, and is open to partnership inquiries. (Related: Personal photo magazine made easy through boxed kitMini web-to-print photo albumsFree photo books for Facebook and Bebo users.) Spotted by: Cecilia Biemann OK, so pedal-powered coffee retailers aren’t entirely new—we saw one back in 2008 in the UK, after all—but we can’t resist sharing one more, spotted this time on the streets of New York City. Brooklyn-based Kickstand Coffee uses two bicycles, a fold-up stand and a hand-cranked grinder to serve up sustainable hot and cold coffee at events around the city. The brainchild of three baristas, Kickstand Coffee relies on two 160-pound rolling carts that are each towed to location by a custom-built bicycle, according to a report on NYDailyNews.com. Once there, the carts unfold and attach to create a 9-foot-long bar that includes everything the trio need to make coffee. Beans are hand-ground on a cup-by-cup basis, and the iced coffee is cold-brewed; only Kickstand’s hot coffee—brewed on location using specially adapted Chemex glass beakers—uses any propane or electricity. The company is working on a mini folding bicycle that customers will be able to use to grind their own beans. Pricing for Kickstand’s coffee is USD 2.50 per cup, hot or cold. With bicycle culture on the rise and coffee going strong, it seems perfectly natural to combine the two for a more sustainable cup of joe. The variations on this theme are virtually limitless—as are the opportunities. Time to get pedaling yourself…? (Related: Solar-roasted coffee.) Spotted by: Verge Manuel / Images by: Big Waste of Time If businesses can benefit from the help of undergraduate students through UK-based Student Gems, it’s a safe bet that MBA students could be even more valuable. 31Projects is a new online platform that helps connect such graduate students with companies and organizations in need of business expertise. Now in closed beta, North Carolina-based 31Projects bills itself as “a project marketplace connecting organizations with top MBA and graduate students through real-world projects.” The site maintains a network of prescreened students interested in solving real-world business problems—it’s open only to full-time students and recent alumni from the top graduate management programs in the US. Organizations in need of assistance can then post those opportunities on the 31Projects site. Postings can take the form either of challenges—crowdsourcing-style competitions whereby a company poses a business-related challenge and students compete to develop the best solution—or short-term consulting projects, which are done by a single student or team of students. Either way, 31Projects plans to charge a small posting fee along with a variable project fee based on the student compensation awarded once the project is done. 31Projects founder and CEO Jon Reifschneider explains: “Our vision is to provide an open platform where all organizations, regardless of size or resources, can easily and effectively identify and recruit the talent they need to be globally competitive. The projects and competitions are win‐win situations for both organizations and students, and can be used by employers to create a highly effective pipeline of top student talent into their organization.” 31Projects will go live in August. One to get in on early—or to emulate in other parts of the world? Spotted by: Preston Hubbard We’ve seen numerous twists and embellishments added to the traditional funeral in recent years, including branded caskets, motorcycle hearses and digitally enabled headstones. There’s still no getting around the fact, however, that planning a funeral can be an overwhelming and time-consuming task for the bereaved. Aiming to prepare families and make the process easier, death-care provider Stewart Enterprises has launched an online tool called the Virtual Arrangement Conference. The Virtual Arrangement Conference’s interactive presentation is designed to walk families through the key points of what they should expect during a meeting at the funeral home. In addition to explaining the process step by step, the interactive tool can also facilitate the collection of information required by the funeral home, using integrated forms to transmit information such as data for the death certificate or facts to be included in the obituary. No information is required to be submitted using the tool, but hundreds of families have already used it to begin the funeral planning process for themselves, the Louisiana company says, cutting down significantly on the in-person meeting time required. Nearly 200 funeral and cremation service providers in 24 states have launched the Virtual Arrangement Conference, which can be seen in action at Florida-based Baldwin-Fairchild Cemeteries and Funeral Homes, for example (login required). Consumers are increasingly accustomed to researching online ahead of time in anticipation of a key decision to be made, so it makes perfect sense to bring such capabilities to the world of funeral preparation as well—particularly if you can do it in the form of a free brand butler that’s designed to help, not sell. Funeral homes, health care workers, hospice volunteers, financial planners—an extra service to offer clients of your own…? Meanwhile, development-minded entrepreneurs—time to start work on a mobile version…? Spotted by: Blake Killian Mobile ticketing may offer myriad benefits for both event managers and consumers, but most options still require specialized scanning hardware to read the ticket from the user’s device. Not so Twicketer, a new service that delivers event tickets that can be verified and validated right on the smartphone. Now in beta, Wisconsin-based Twicketer is powered by technology from its Danish parent company, ScreenTicket, that uses a patent-pending system called On Device Verification. How it works: Event managers can send out links with a shortened URL to their events through social media including Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. From there, attendees can buy their mobile tickets online by simply following the included link. Once it’s time for the event, the mobile ticket can be scanned and verified onsite without any scanning hardware. Twicketer charges a service fee of USD 0.99 for every ticket sold; it can also be used to distribute mobile coupons and vouchers. Currently, Twicketer can deliver mobile tickets to more than 200 countries via more than 800 mobile carriers. Custom branding is available, as is a comprehensive API. One to try out for your next event, coupon or other paperless promotion…? (Related: Ticketing marketplace makes prices negotiable.) Spotted by: Stas Zlobinski The “buy one, donate one” initiatives are coming fast and furious. Hard on the heels of our stories about two such efforts targeting children—namely, Happy Blankie and Whitten Grey’s Project Little Grey Dress—comes news of one designed to help homeless pets. Launched this spring, the Plus One Movement from Canadian pet food maker Darford International aims to provide fresh, quality food to abandoned dogs awaiting new homes. How it works: Attached to every Darford box of treats and food is an extra meal of the company’s Zero/G dog food intended specifically for donation to a dog in need. Specially designed collection hampers have been placed in-store at the roughly 3,000 US and Canadian retailers that carry the Darford brand. Consumers can simply drop their donation meals into those hampers, and participating animal shelters will pick up and use the donated food for local homeless dogs. The video below explains the project: Some 4 million dogs are euthanized each year in the US and Canada alone, primarily for lack of room and food, Darford notes. Other pet-friendly brands and retailers: time to step up and do your own generous part…? Spotted by: Peter von Hahn Just as Foursquare allows consumers to keep tabs on each other’s current activities, so Plancast lets them track what their friends are planning to do in the future. Plancast, the brainchild of San Francisco-based Worldly Developments, bills itself as “the easiest way for you to share events and other activities with friends.” Toward that end, the web application allows users to create inclusive location-based plans and share them with friends via Facebook and Twitter. Consumers begin by signing up with Plancast—something that can also be done via Facebook Connect or Twitter. From there, they can easily find other friends using the service and browse all the plans and events those people have in the works. Sharing plans is simple and quick, thanks to a simple posting prompt; so, too, is getting more details about what friends are planning. Users can follow the plans of people they’re interested in, and they can also limit their own profiles to a select set of friends, according to a report on VentureBeat. Widgets are available to display upcoming plans on a website or blog, and Worldly Developments just recently released a read- and write-enabled Plancast API. A free iPhone app is available, as is one for Android. Future revenue plans focus primarily on targeted advertising, The Next Web reports. There’s no shortage of event-planning sites out there, but most of those tend to focus on formal ones; when it’s just drinks and dinner being planned, Plancast is there to help make it happen. Keep the mass-mingling innovations coming! (Related: With social media check-ins, guests earn hotel rewardsFive online services for getting together offline.) Spotted by: John Greene