Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

For many elderly people, leaving the house can become a challenge as their health deteriorates. Hoping to provide both physical support and emotional reassurance, we recently came across The Aid by Lithuanian designer Egle Ugintaite. As well as acting as an aid to walking, the cane, which recently won the grand prize in Fujitsu’s 2011 design award, also monitors the users’ pulse, blood pressure and body temperature. As their wrist comes into contact with the sensors, this data is displayed on the LCD screen on the cane’s clasp. Furthermore, the cane comes with a built-in navigator, which provides a help center with the user’s location when the cane’s SOS button is pressed. In order to give The Aid’s users confidence to venture outside of their homes, the cane is also able to provide them with directions to a location of their choice. The user can contact a help center via phone or internet, which will then calculate the best walking route to the desired location and send this information to The Aid. The cane then provides directions through headphones. We’re increasingly seeing innovations in healthcare which better enable 24-hour monitoring of a patient’s condition. When this can be done through a device the patient is already using — as we saw with the Spiroscout inhaler — then so much the better! Spotted by: Katharina Kieck Camping vacations may summon nostalgic appeal for many consumers, but the logistics of making them happen can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve seen a company that orchestrates backyard camping events, for example, and it’s also presumably the thinking behind Berlin’s newly opened Hüttenpalast hotel, which offers caravan-style camping in the safety and predictability of an indoor setting. Launched earlier this month, the Hüttenpalast hotel offers consumers a way to “walk in flip-flops with your towel, even in winter, to the beautiful new showers,” as the company puts it. Set in a former Berlin factory, the hotel includes what it calls an “indoor garden” featuring an assortment of old caravan campers and wooden huts. Consumers can reserve either of these for a taste of retro happiness — pricing starts at EUR 40 per night — with separate facilities for men and women. Alternatively, if they’re less interested in “roughing it,” they can opt for one of the hotel’s six traditional rooms complete with luxury en-suite bathrooms. Either way, an attached cafe offers breakfast, coffee and homemade cakes, while the lunch menu focuses on regional and seasonal products. Pricing on Hüttenpalast’s luxury rooms begins at EUR 60 per night. There are plenty of opportunities to win consumers over with a dose of nostalgia. Where could you offer a familiar — but easier —experience from days gone by? Spotted by: Bjorn Verbrugghe We’ve seen numerous efforts in the non-profit sector to re-think the way people donate, but it wasn’t until recently that we came across a method quite so personal as Taylor Conroy’s. Ten In Three is his initiative to persuade groups of friends to contribute USD 10,000 in just three hours, to be put towards the construction of a new school in a disadvantaged area. After a period of research, Conroy devised a list of five key motivators which inspire people to donate to charity: group mentality, tangible outcome, micro-giving, personal connection, and recognition. Using these, he sent the following text message to a group of his friends: “You, me, and a bunch of our friends are going to get together to build a school in Kenya for hundreds of deserving kids. We are all giving $3.33 a day for 3 quick months (I know you spend more than that on hair product every month). There is a site being made with your picture on it – your mom is going to be so proud.” The text raised USD 5,000, and inspired him to create a platform which would enable others to raise similar amounts of money using the five motivators. The website encourages groups of 33 friends to donate USD 3.33 every day to go towards the construction of a school. The location of the school can be chosen by the group. In order to give recognition to the givers, as well as spreading the word about the project, a website is created with the donors’ pictures on, and web badges and email signatures are emailed to all members of the group. When the email signature is clicked on, the website that subsequently opens with details of the project will also feature a large image of the email sender. In order to create a personal connection, when a user sends out the initial invitation email to 32 of their friends, they record personalized video messages for each recipient. In total, it takes approximately three hours for an individual to record and send out the invitations, with the potential to raise USD 10,000 to build a school for disadvantaged children. A video with more details on the project can be viewed below:
The five motivators identified by Conroy certainly seem to be effective. Those working in fundraising, there are lessons to be learnt here and plenty to be inspired by! Spotted by: Bianca Bartz Lighting is a significant contributor towards home and business energy costs, but for most of us, switching to more efficient bulbs is the extent of what we’ve done to save energy. Dutch NXP Semiconductors, however, recently introduced technology that connects bulbs over wifi, allowing fine-tuned control from any internet-connected device. NXP’s GreenChip smart lighting solution offers a way to make internet-enabled, energy-efficient lighting networks a reality for businesses and consumers. Using the new technology, every light bulb can have its own unique IP address, and users can monitor, manage and control them all from any internet-enabled device. Lights can be turned on and off individually, for example, from any smartphone, tablet, PC or TV. Dozens or even hundreds of appliances can be connected through a wireless network designed for maximum energy savings, in fact, communicating information about their environment and consumption levels as well as any problems. With versions for both CFL and LED lighting, NXP’s GreenChip solution fits the necessary electronics in an everyday light bulb; included are wireless IP connectivity, energy-efficient lighting and standby power as low as 50mW. GreenChip-enabled light bulbs will be able to operate on the same wireless sensor networks already common for energy metering, smart appliances and security systems. Low-power, IP-based wireless connectivity is enabled by NXP’s JenNet-IP network layer software. The video below demonstrates the technology in further detail:
John Croteau, NXP’s senior vice president and general manager for power lighting solutions and high performance RF, explains: “For individual consumers, smart lighting means highly personalized, intelligent lighting environments – lights that turn on and off when and where you need them, at the desired level of brightness — while saving power and electricity costs.” As the latest multi-tasking devices become adopted by more and more consumers, the development and adoption of smart systems such as this is only going to gather pace. One to get involved in early! Spotted by: Katharina Kieck As desirable as the idea of a motorhome may be, owning one can still pose many problems for holiday makers. As well as being expensive to buy, the vehicles are often cumbersome, slow, and bulky — and towing a caravan presents many of the same problems. Hoping to solve all of these issues and more, swissRoomBox have created a portable modular living system which can be transferred from car to car. The system — which comes in a deep red as a nod to the equally innovative Swiss Army Knife — enables its users to cook, eat, take a shower and sleep. By sliding the box-shaped units over each other, holiday makers can access a sink, hob, dining table, picnic table and chairs, a shower, and a double bed. The setup can be installed without any tools in 15 minutes by fixing the base frame to anchor points in the vehicle, with the only modification required being the connection of a specific electrical cable to the car battery. Once connected, electrical devices such as the pump and water boiler, as well as optional add-ons such as the fridge, and iPod and computer chargers, will all power themselves off the car battery, which will cut out once the battery only has 11 volts remaining — the minimum required for starting an engine. The battery will then recharge as the car is driven. The system can be expanded as each holidaymaker desires, with options for a built in or portable toilet on some models, and options to expand upon the two 12.5 liter water tanks. The swissRoomBox website also notes that tents can be fitted to the back of the car to enable use of the system in poor weather, as well as increasing the sleeping capacity. Prices start at CHF 8630.
By storing excess luggage in a roof rack, the system’s portability and adaptability opens up the motorhome experience to nearly anyone in possession of a car. Currently the system only ships to Europe, but work is already underway to make the SwissRoomBox compatible with non-EU countries’ gas and electricity standards. One to partner with or try out for yourself? Spotted by: Alberto Sequeira We’ve already seen several innovations geared toward helping consumers track their sleep patterns during the night — most recently, the Zeo Personal Sleep Coach system — but typically they all require that the user wear some sort of conspicuous additional monitoring device in order to accomplish that task. Not so the Somnus Sleep Shirt, a sensor-embedded t-shirt that can simply be worn instead of a regular undershirt. Based on research performed at MIT and a collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital, Nyx Devices’ Somnus Sleep Shirt is constructed from lightweight and breathable material for maximum comfort. Embedded within that fabric, however, are thin and flexible respiration sensors that measure the wearer’s breathing as he or she moves around in bed. The sensors are made out of common t-shirt vinyl that can be applied to almost any type of fabric, Nyx says. The accompanying SleepLogger, meanwhile, is a key-sized device that fits in a small pocket at the bottom of the Sleep Shirt and powers the sensors throughout the night. The SleepLogger can record data for up to five nights; each time it’s connected to the shirt, it automatically starts recording data. Then, when it’s charged in the morning, that data is automatically and securely transferred to Nyx’s website for analysis. Now in the midst of testing the shirt, Boston-based Nyx aims for a commercial launch by the summer of next year, according to a report on Technology Review. Pricing will be below USD 100. One to get involved in early? Spotted by: Katharina Kieck Hard on the heels of our story about Finnish banking service Holvi comes word of yet another contender that aims to shake up the financial world. Rather than group banking, though, BankSimple targets everyday consumers with a service that seeks to provide a “worry-free alternative” to traditional banking services. Now in beta, New York-based BankSimple reminds us in many ways of Mint, which we covered several years ago. BankSimple aims to simplify banking, giving consumers “human customer service, clear and simple policies, and no hidden fees,” the company’s site explains. A variety of tools are designed to help customers achieve their financial goals, for example. Even more than financial management tools, though, BankSimple will also offer debit cards and checking accounts, Fast Company reports. Instead of handling cash itself, however, BankSimple will reportedly partner with “back-end” banks to handle the nitty-gritty details, leaving the company itself free to focus on customer service. Because it enjoys the partnership of multiple banks, meanwhile, BankSimple can also juggle its customers’ money accordingly for the best rates. Some 12,000 beta testers have already signed up with BankSimple, which is now planning a 2012 launch. One to test out or get involved in? Spotted by: Katherine Noyes Technology is increasingly being recruited to make parking easier, such as through in-ground sensors that alert drivers to vacant spots. Now, German design firm Wunderstadt’s new mobile app Parkbud, offers a suite of functions designed to take the stress out of the parking experience. Parkbud is “a high-end, immersive car locator and parking app that turns the stress of remembering where and when you parked into a worry-free, pleasant experience,” in the company’s own words. Toward that end, it offers not only help finding a parking space to begin with, but also a way to store and then get directions back to where the car is located. Parkbud’s meter alarm feature, meanwhile, displays how much time is left before the meter expires, including a reminder alarm to prevent such details from being overlooked. Then there’s the camera tool with photo editor, which lets users take photos of their location and parking fees, and an interactive journal for notes of any kind. Along the way, high-end sound, graphics and animations all contribute to the software’s rich interface. Available for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, Parkbud is sold on iTunes for USD 1.99. Necessity has always been the mother of invention, so mobile entrepreneurs: What pain points can you relieve with a compelling app of your own? Spotted by: Zachary Love It can be a challenge to coordinate any kind of get-together, but planning a round of golf among friends may just be the most difficult of all thanks to the complexity involved in comparing schedules, gathering preferences, communicating with the course starter and making tee assignments. Help is now at hand, however, in the form of Teeboxer, a site that aims to make the whole process easier by handling the bulk of the coordination and tapping the social networks players are already using. Users of Colorado-based Teeboxer can begin either with a list of players or with a set of already-reserved tee times. Either way, the site will gather everyone’s availability and preferences and then choose the times and tee assignments best for each person. Golfers can connect with the site through existing social networks including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Plaxo and even Salesforce — and they can receive updates via email, text messages or voice calls. Once a round has been scheduled, Teeboxer compiles all the critical information for each golfer, including when they’re teeing off and with whom, weather information, and course information and directions. Also available on Teeboxer are course communities that can help golfers find new partners. It’s free to participate in round planning and Teeboxer’s course communities, as well as to create up to three plans per year. Otherwise, Teeboxer costs USD 49 per year for unlimited planning, with special discounts for golf professionals and charity employees. The ubiquity of social networks today offers a world of new opportunity to ease coordination, communication and planning in countless areas of life. How about picking a niche of your own and making logistical nightmares a thing of the past? Tom Hodgson and James Hope-Falkner began developing Softsign in November 2010, before launching the app in March 2011. Tom started his career as a Creative Executive at Heyday Films before co-founding creative consultancy Fearlessly Frank, with clients such as HTC and Red Bull. James founded London-based photographic & design company Mallinsons in 2005, producing work for clients such as Apple, Amnesty International and The Royal Opera House. Softsign is mobile application that allows users to sign PDF and JPEG documents on-screen with a finger or stylus and then email the legally binding result directly to the recipient. No printing, scanning or faxing is required; rather, users can simply keep key business documents on their mobile devices and collect signatures on the go as necessary.
Thanks Tom & James!
You can read more about Softsign in our article here, or visit the Softsign website here.
12. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
TH: If you can be first to market that’s great, but it’s not everything. Wiser men than us have said it before, but it’s all about execution. Also, the idea you go to market with might not be the idea you started with – you have to be prepared to adapt.
Thanks Tom & James!
You can read more about Softsign in our article here, or visit the Softsign website here.
11. Tell Springwise a secret…
TH: Sometime very soon we’re going to make Softsign free for as long as we can.
12. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
TH: If you can be first to market that’s great, but it’s not everything. Wiser men than us have said it before, but it’s all about execution. Also, the idea you go to market with might not be the idea you started with – you have to be prepared to adapt.
Thanks Tom & James!
You can read more about Softsign in our article here, or visit the Softsign website here.
10. If you weren’t working on Softsign, what would you be doing?
TH: We’re particularly interested in medical software and are currently working on App-based solutions for the NHS which we hope will go live at some point this year.
11. Tell Springwise a secret…
TH: Sometime very soon we’re going to make Softsign free for as long as we can.
12. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
TH: If you can be first to market that’s great, but it’s not everything. Wiser men than us have said it before, but it’s all about execution. Also, the idea you go to market with might not be the idea you started with – you have to be prepared to adapt.
Thanks Tom & James!
You can read more about Softsign in our article here, or visit the Softsign website here.
9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
TH: Hopefully Softsign will be the category-defining brand like “Skype” or “Google” and to “Softsign” something will enter the lexicon.  (Maybe even the dictionary – perhaps we are suffering from delusions of grandeur?) We have bootstrapped Softsign up to this point, but several investors have approached us about helping to accelerate our plans and we’re looking for the right partner to help us deliver all of the things we have in the pipeline — like translating the App into additional languages and much, much more.
10. If you weren’t working on Softsign, what would you be doing?
TH: We’re particularly interested in medical software and are currently working on App-based solutions for the NHS which we hope will go live at some point this year.
11. Tell Springwise a secret…
TH: Sometime very soon we’re going to make Softsign free for as long as we can.
12. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
TH: If you can be first to market that’s great, but it’s not everything. Wiser men than us have said it before, but it’s all about execution. Also, the idea you go to market with might not be the idea you started with – you have to be prepared to adapt.
Thanks Tom & James!
You can read more about Softsign in our article here, or visit the Softsign website here.
8. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
TH: Drink less coffee.
9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
TH: Hopefully Softsign will be the category-defining brand like “Skype” or “Google” and to “Softsign” something will enter the lexicon.  (Maybe even the dictionary – perhaps we are suffering from delusions of grandeur?) We have bootstrapped Softsign up to this point, but several investors have approached us about helping to accelerate our plans and we’re looking for the right partner to help us deliver all of the things we have in the pipeline — like translating the App into additional languages and much, much more.
10. If you weren’t working on Softsign, what would you be doing?
TH: We’re particularly interested in medical software and are currently working on App-based solutions for the NHS which we hope will go live at some point this year.
11. Tell Springwise a secret…
TH: Sometime very soon we’re going to make Softsign free for as long as we can.
12. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
TH: If you can be first to market that’s great, but it’s not everything. Wiser men than us have said it before, but it’s all about execution. Also, the idea you go to market with might not be the idea you started with – you have to be prepared to adapt.
Thanks Tom & James!
You can read more about Softsign in our article here, or visit the Softsign website here.
7. What motivates you to keep going?
TH: The emails we get from satisfied customers is definitely top of the list, but there are so many great Apps out there which are breaking new ground and doing incredible things that inspire us (and infuriate us because we didn’t think of the idea first). JHF: It’s also about spreading a very important message. I’m hoping that people wake up and realise that with today’s technology, a document never has to leave the screen. Paper should only be necessary in lavatories and the more of us who realise that the faster the world will spin.
8. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
TH: Drink less coffee.
9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
TH: Hopefully Softsign will be the category-defining brand like “Skype” or “Google” and to “Softsign” something will enter the lexicon.  (Maybe even the dictionary – perhaps we are suffering from delusions of grandeur?) We have bootstrapped Softsign up to this point, but several investors have approached us about helping to accelerate our plans and we’re looking for the right partner to help us deliver all of the things we have in the pipeline — like translating the App into additional languages and much, much more.
10. If you weren’t working on Softsign, what would you be doing?
TH: We’re particularly interested in medical software and are currently working on App-based solutions for the NHS which we hope will go live at some point this year.
11. Tell Springwise a secret…
TH: Sometime very soon we’re going to make Softsign free for as long as we can.
12. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
TH: If you can be first to market that’s great, but it’s not everything. Wiser men than us have said it before, but it’s all about execution. Also, the idea you go to market with might not be the idea you started with – you have to be prepared to adapt.
Thanks Tom & James!
You can read more about Softsign in our article here, or visit the Softsign website here.
6. What drove you crazy when building your business?
TH: Simply not having enough time to include everything we wanted to have in version 1.0.
7. What motivates you to keep going?
TH: The emails we get from satisfied customers is definitely top of the list, but there are so many great Apps out there which are breaking new ground and doing incredible things that inspire us (and infuriate us because we didn’t think of the idea first). JHF: It’s also about spreading a very important message. I’m hoping that people wake up and realise that with today’s technology, a document never has to leave the screen. Paper should only be necessary in lavatories and the more of us who realise that the faster the world will spin.
8. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
TH: Drink less coffee.
9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
TH: Hopefully Softsign will be the category-defining brand like “Skype” or “Google” and to “Softsign” something will enter the lexicon.  (Maybe even the dictionary – perhaps we are suffering from delusions of grandeur?) We have bootstrapped Softsign up to this point, but several investors have approached us about helping to accelerate our plans and we’re looking for the right partner to help us deliver all of the things we have in the pipeline — like translating the App into additional languages and much, much more.
10. If you weren’t working on Softsign, what would you be doing?
TH: We’re particularly interested in medical software and are currently working on App-based solutions for the NHS which we hope will go live at some point this year.
11. Tell Springwise a secret…
TH: Sometime very soon we’re going to make Softsign free for as long as we can.
12. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
TH: If you can be first to market that’s great, but it’s not everything. Wiser men than us have said it before, but it’s all about execution. Also, the idea you go to market with might not be the idea you started with – you have to be prepared to adapt.
Thanks Tom & James!
You can read more about Softsign in our article here, or visit the Softsign website here.
5. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?
TH: A strong constitution (and supportive family and friends). JHF: A fever for progress (and Bob Dylan).
6. What drove you crazy when building your business?
TH: Simply not having enough time to include everything we wanted to have in version 1.0.
7. What motivates you to keep going?
TH: The emails we get from satisfied customers is definitely top of the list, but there are so many great Apps out there which are breaking new ground and doing incredible things that inspire us (and infuriate us because we didn’t think of the idea first). JHF: It’s also about spreading a very important message. I’m hoping that people wake up and realise that with today’s technology, a document never has to leave the screen. Paper should only be necessary in lavatories and the more of us who realise that the faster the world will spin.
8. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
TH: Drink less coffee.
9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
TH: Hopefully Softsign will be the category-defining brand like “Skype” or “Google” and to “Softsign” something will enter the lexicon.  (Maybe even the dictionary – perhaps we are suffering from delusions of grandeur?) We have bootstrapped Softsign up to this point, but several investors have approached us about helping to accelerate our plans and we’re looking for the right partner to help us deliver all of the things we have in the pipeline — like translating the App into additional languages and much, much more.
10. If you weren’t working on Softsign, what would you be doing?
TH: We’re particularly interested in medical software and are currently working on App-based solutions for the NHS which we hope will go live at some point this year.
11. Tell Springwise a secret…
TH: Sometime very soon we’re going to make Softsign free for as long as we can.
12. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
TH: If you can be first to market that’s great, but it’s not everything. Wiser men than us have said it before, but it’s all about execution. Also, the idea you go to market with might not be the idea you started with – you have to be prepared to adapt.
Thanks Tom & James!
You can read more about Softsign in our article here, or visit the Softsign website here.
4. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on Softsign?
TH: I eat a lot of Stilton. JHF: I design other ideas that I hope to be able to publish one day. I also take a lot of pictures.
5. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?
TH: A strong constitution (and supportive family and friends). JHF: A fever for progress (and Bob Dylan).
6. What drove you crazy when building your business?
TH: Simply not having enough time to include everything we wanted to have in version 1.0.
7. What motivates you to keep going?
TH: The emails we get from satisfied customers is definitely top of the list, but there are so many great Apps out there which are breaking new ground and doing incredible things that inspire us (and infuriate us because we didn’t think of the idea first). JHF: It’s also about spreading a very important message. I’m hoping that people wake up and realise that with today’s technology, a document never has to leave the screen. Paper should only be necessary in lavatories and the more of us who realise that the faster the world will spin.
8. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
TH: Drink less coffee.
9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
TH: Hopefully Softsign will be the category-defining brand like “Skype” or “Google” and to “Softsign” something will enter the lexicon.  (Maybe even the dictionary – perhaps we are suffering from delusions of grandeur?) We have bootstrapped Softsign up to this point, but several investors have approached us about helping to accelerate our plans and we’re looking for the right partner to help us deliver all of the things we have in the pipeline — like translating the App into additional languages and much, much more.
10. If you weren’t working on Softsign, what would you be doing?
TH: We’re particularly interested in medical software and are currently working on App-based solutions for the NHS which we hope will go live at some point this year.
11. Tell Springwise a secret…
TH: Sometime very soon we’re going to make Softsign free for as long as we can.
12. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
TH: If you can be first to market that’s great, but it’s not everything. Wiser men than us have said it before, but it’s all about execution. Also, the idea you go to market with might not be the idea you started with – you have to be prepared to adapt.
Thanks Tom & James!
You can read more about Softsign in our article here, or visit the Softsign website here.
3. Can you describe a typical working day?
TH: No two days are exactly the same.  Much of our focus is on researching and planning new features for Softsign and building ‘white label’ versions for companies who want the App re-skinned with their brand identity and bespoke features. Our customers are our marketing department, so we devote a great deal of time to responding to their feedback. Softsign users have been incredibly supportive from day one and many have taken the time to write to us to suggest features they’d like to see in future versions (cross-platforming seems to be a particularly popular request).
4. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on Softsign?
TH: I eat a lot of Stilton. JHF: I design other ideas that I hope to be able to publish one day. I also take a lot of pictures.
5. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?
TH: A strong constitution (and supportive family and friends). JHF: A fever for progress (and Bob Dylan).
6. What drove you crazy when building your business?
TH: Simply not having enough time to include everything we wanted to have in version 1.0.
7. What motivates you to keep going?
TH: The emails we get from satisfied customers is definitely top of the list, but there are so many great Apps out there which are breaking new ground and doing incredible things that inspire us (and infuriate us because we didn’t think of the idea first). JHF: It’s also about spreading a very important message. I’m hoping that people wake up and realise that with today’s technology, a document never has to leave the screen. Paper should only be necessary in lavatories and the more of us who realise that the faster the world will spin.
8. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
TH: Drink less coffee.
9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
TH: Hopefully Softsign will be the category-defining brand like “Skype” or “Google” and to “Softsign” something will enter the lexicon.  (Maybe even the dictionary – perhaps we are suffering from delusions of grandeur?) We have bootstrapped Softsign up to this point, but several investors have approached us about helping to accelerate our plans and we’re looking for the right partner to help us deliver all of the things we have in the pipeline — like translating the App into additional languages and much, much more.
10. If you weren’t working on Softsign, what would you be doing?
TH: We’re particularly interested in medical software and are currently working on App-based solutions for the NHS which we hope will go live at some point this year.
11. Tell Springwise a secret…
TH: Sometime very soon we’re going to make Softsign free for as long as we can.
12. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
TH: If you can be first to market that’s great, but it’s not everything. Wiser men than us have said it before, but it’s all about execution. Also, the idea you go to market with might not be the idea you started with – you have to be prepared to adapt.
Thanks Tom & James!
You can read more about Softsign in our article here, or visit the Softsign website here.
2. Why do you think this long-standing inconvenience has never been addressed effectively before?
TH: It was only with the advent of the iPhone and other smartphones and tablets in the last few years that the technology has been good enough to make signing on-screen simple. JHF: People might not think about it, but the touchscreen has allowed developers to make their products really intuitive, just like a really well-made toaster or a microwave, you’ll never need to read an instruction manual because you just naturally understand how it works. Over the next few years, we’re going to notice a vast improvement in software and it’s thanks to the devices and how they are made.
3. Can you describe a typical working day?
TH: No two days are exactly the same.  Much of our focus is on researching and planning new features for Softsign and building ‘white label’ versions for companies who want the App re-skinned with their brand identity and bespoke features. Our customers are our marketing department, so we devote a great deal of time to responding to their feedback. Softsign users have been incredibly supportive from day one and many have taken the time to write to us to suggest features they’d like to see in future versions (cross-platforming seems to be a particularly popular request).
4. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on Softsign?
TH: I eat a lot of Stilton. JHF: I design other ideas that I hope to be able to publish one day. I also take a lot of pictures.
5. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?
TH: A strong constitution (and supportive family and friends). JHF: A fever for progress (and Bob Dylan).
6. What drove you crazy when building your business?
TH: Simply not having enough time to include everything we wanted to have in version 1.0.
7. What motivates you to keep going?
TH: The emails we get from satisfied customers is definitely top of the list, but there are so many great Apps out there which are breaking new ground and doing incredible things that inspire us (and infuriate us because we didn’t think of the idea first). JHF: It’s also about spreading a very important message. I’m hoping that people wake up and realise that with today’s technology, a document never has to leave the screen. Paper should only be necessary in lavatories and the more of us who realise that the faster the world will spin.
8. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
TH: Drink less coffee.
9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
TH: Hopefully Softsign will be the category-defining brand like “Skype” or “Google” and to “Softsign” something will enter the lexicon.  (Maybe even the dictionary – perhaps we are suffering from delusions of grandeur?) We have bootstrapped Softsign up to this point, but several investors have approached us about helping to accelerate our plans and we’re looking for the right partner to help us deliver all of the things we have in the pipeline — like translating the App into additional languages and much, much more.
10. If you weren’t working on Softsign, what would you be doing?
TH: We’re particularly interested in medical software and are currently working on App-based solutions for the NHS which we hope will go live at some point this year.
11. Tell Springwise a secret…
TH: Sometime very soon we’re going to make Softsign free for as long as we can.
12. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
TH: If you can be first to market that’s great, but it’s not everything. Wiser men than us have said it before, but it’s all about execution. Also, the idea you go to market with might not be the idea you started with – you have to be prepared to adapt.
Thanks Tom & James!
You can read more about Softsign in our article here, or visit the Softsign website here.
1. Where did the idea for Softsign come from?
TH: James had the original idea, so I have him to thank! We have worked together for years across a series of start-ups and when you run a small business you spend a lot of time out of the office (if you have an office at all) so returning time-sensitive paperwork that requires a signature can be a real hassle – we built Softsign to try and solve this problem. JHF: Signing and returning routine documents is also an incredibly destructive process (not to mention extortionately expensive!) You first have to print the document using ink cartridges that can cost more than the printer itself, then sign with a pen – if you can find one that works – before scanning and posting or, even worse, couriering that urgent document to the person who needs it. It’s bad for the environment, it takes forever compared to firing over an email with a PDF attachment and it must cost us billions a year if we are to consider it globally. This idea works, you don’t need a stamp, and because it’s legally binding almost everywhere, we think everyone should stop printing and start Softsigning.
2. Why do you think this long-standing inconvenience has never been addressed effectively before?
TH: It was only with the advent of the iPhone and other smartphones and tablets in the last few years that the technology has been good enough to make signing on-screen simple. JHF: People might not think about it, but the touchscreen has allowed developers to make their products really intuitive, just like a really well-made toaster or a microwave, you’ll never need to read an instruction manual because you just naturally understand how it works. Over the next few years, we’re going to notice a vast improvement in software and it’s thanks to the devices and how they are made.
3. Can you describe a typical working day?
TH: No two days are exactly the same.  Much of our focus is on researching and planning new features for Softsign and building ‘white label’ versions for companies who want the App re-skinned with their brand identity and bespoke features. Our customers are our marketing department, so we devote a great deal of time to responding to their feedback. Softsign users have been incredibly supportive from day one and many have taken the time to write to us to suggest features they’d like to see in future versions (cross-platforming seems to be a particularly popular request).
4. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on Softsign?
TH: I eat a lot of Stilton. JHF: I design other ideas that I hope to be able to publish one day. I also take a lot of pictures.
5. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?
TH: A strong constitution (and supportive family and friends). JHF: A fever for progress (and Bob Dylan).
6. What drove you crazy when building your business?
TH: Simply not having enough time to include everything we wanted to have in version 1.0.
7. What motivates you to keep going?
TH: The emails we get from satisfied customers is definitely top of the list, but there are so many great Apps out there which are breaking new ground and doing incredible things that inspire us (and infuriate us because we didn’t think of the idea first). JHF: It’s also about spreading a very important message. I’m hoping that people wake up and realise that with today’s technology, a document never has to leave the screen. Paper should only be necessary in lavatories and the more of us who realise that the faster the world will spin.
8. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
TH: Drink less coffee.
9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
TH: Hopefully Softsign will be the category-defining brand like “Skype” or “Google” and to “Softsign” something will enter the lexicon.  (Maybe even the dictionary – perhaps we are suffering from delusions of grandeur?) We have bootstrapped Softsign up to this point, but several investors have approached us about helping to accelerate our plans and we’re looking for the right partner to help us deliver all of the things we have in the pipeline — like translating the App into additional languages and much, much more.
10. If you weren’t working on Softsign, what would you be doing?
TH: We’re particularly interested in medical software and are currently working on App-based solutions for the NHS which we hope will go live at some point this year.
11. Tell Springwise a secret…
TH: Sometime very soon we’re going to make Softsign free for as long as we can.
12. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
TH: If you can be first to market that’s great, but it’s not everything. Wiser men than us have said it before, but it’s all about execution. Also, the idea you go to market with might not be the idea you started with – you have to be prepared to adapt.
Thanks Tom & James!
You can read more about Softsign in our article here, or visit the Softsign website here.