Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

40 percent of all event tickets go unsold, according to WillCall CEO Donnie Dinch, a fact which inspired the creation of a service that enables users to search and purchase same day tickets for live theater and music in their city, at around 50 percent of the full price. Recognizing that people often decide to make evening plans on the day itself, WillCall is designed to “empathize with consumers and provide a unique experience to catch live events”. Currently in beta, WillCall will be available as an iPhone app, allowing users to find and book events happening in their city each night for around half the standard price. At present WillCall only lists events in San Francisco but has plans to expand to New York and Los Angeles. Fans can vote to bring WillCall to their city via the Facebook page. WillCall follows the same model as Hotel Tonight, who are also investing in the start-up. One for venues and promoters to partner with to ensure every event sells-out? Spotted by: Murtaza Patel We’ve seen numerous efforts to make the disposable plastic water bottle a thing of the past, including — most recently — a public fountain in Paris that even serves up sparkling water. Now, taking the concept to events, this past summer’s Montréal International Jazz Festival featured Fontaine Naya, a water-bottle refilling service from Quebec-based Naya Waters designed to minimize plastic waste. The Montréal International Jazz Festival has been carbon-neutral since 2008, so this year’s focus on water bottles is part of a concerted sustainability effort. For CAD 1.50, festival-goers who visited the Fontaine Naya could get a 500mL refill of Naya’s natural spring water rather than having to purchase and then dispose of a brand-new prefilled bottle. Major summertime events are surely one of the biggest occasions for water-bottle use, but the disposable plastic vessels still play a significant role in daily life as well — hence the need for like-minded refilling efforts in cafés and restaurants, similar to the ones we’ve already seen in New York and the UK. Restaurateurs, event organizers and anyone in charge of a public meeting space of any kind: how about you? Spotted by: RP Though we continually see new ideas and developments around e-books, the original printed paper format has always had the advantage of being more personal, with authors able to pen individual messages to fans at book signings. However a new platform — Kindlegraph — aims to challenge that, by enabling authors to send personalized, digital inscriptions directly to the reading devices of their fans. Created by Evan Jacobs, a former programmer at Amazon, Kindlegraph is designed to facilitate a closer connection between authors and their fans. To personalize their e-book, users log in with their Twitter credentials and select from a list of popular e-books. So far approximately 1,700 authors are involved, with around 7,500 books listed. After selecting an e-book, a request is then sent to the author who, after logging in, will see a list of current requests. There is space to type a personalized message, and clicking “Kindlegraph it” will send the message to Docusign APIs which embed the signed message and sends a PDF back to the reader’s Kindle. Jacobs hopes that authors will use it as a means to build relationships with fans, for example: sending preview chapters or short stories before they are published. A video on the Kindlegraph’s website explains how the platform works in more detail. As more people are choosing e-books as their primary reading format, could this be a unique opportunity for authors to connect and maintain relationships with their fans, virtually? Spotted by: Evan Jacobs Here at Springwise we’ve seen countless variations on deal-a-day sites and apps, across a range of markets and industries. To add to that list, but with an everyday essentials twist, comes Aisle50 in the US, which aims to bring customers one “exceedingly excellent” grocery deal every day, from the most esteemed food brands. Tired with coupons, sifting through pages of newspaper fliers and navigating complicated coupon websites, Aisle50 — a team of six in North Carolina — saw an opportunity to offer shoppers substantial discounts on quality groceries, to be redeemed in a simple way. Aisle50 have partnered with supermarket chain Lowes Foods, utilizing their existing customer loyalty card. Customers are alerted with the deal of the day by email — usually around 50 percent of the normal price — and then purchase the item at that discounted rate online via Aisle50. The credit for that item is automatically loaded on to the customer’s Lowes Fresh Rewards card which, when swiped at the checkout in-store, removes the item wholly from the bill. Aisle50 aim to give better discounts and prices than offered anywhere else, and therefore their deals can’t be stacked with other coupons or offers. In their own words they aim to only offer deals on “the coolest grocery products. Some items you will know, some you will not (that’s one of the fun parts)”. They are currently only working with Lowes but are in the process of partnering with other supermarkets, and have embedded apps for iOS and Android coming soon. The video below explains how Aisle50 works in greater detail: Do you think shoppers in your area would prefer substantial discounts on premium, but everyday items, to reams of coupons and hard-to-use redemption systems? Some inspiration to be had here! Spotted by: Zachary Love We’ve featured a number of simple phones in recent months that target consumer segments including seniors and the visually impaired. The latest example to catch our eye, however, isn’t actually a phone, but rather an extremely simple interface for Android devices. Now in beta, Threedom is a downloadable interface from UK-based Ribot that bills itself as “the simple, three-button phone.” Targeting users with impaired dexterity, Threedom is “the first simple interface built to allow anyone to easily use a touchscreen mobile,” in Ribot’s own words. Toward that end, the interface features a chunky, simple design with just three large buttons for easy navigation through contacts, texts, music, photos and more. A video on the Threedom site demonstrates the interface in action. As mobile computing continues to take over the world, accessibility is more important than ever, and a flexible interface that can be used on multiple devices makes good sense. How is your brand helping the elderly and impaired stay connected? Spotted by: Spencer The new businesses we feature on Springwise are constantly growing and developing new products and services, and we thought it was about time we shared some of their news with you. The businesses below have all kept us up to date with their recent progress:
Lucky Seven
The cap-makers that specialize in caps sporting fictional brands from movies and popular culture recently launched a kids’ series from a new website: www.littleluckyseven.com. Read our article on Lucky Seven >>
WeFeedback
Four months after launch, the charity which asked users to donate the value of their favorite meal reported having already provided 230,000 meals to hungry children. Read our article on WeFeedback >>
Hoseanna
The pantyhose subscription service has expanded its range, now offering other replacable products such as tampons, condoms and razors on subscription. Read our article on Hoseanna >>
Podtime
After initial success inviting tired workers to take a rest in specially designed sleep pods in London’s Canary Wharf, the company have now begun selling the pods to offices for in-house power napping. The pods feature a digital radio and headphones, magazine rack, mirror, lockable doors, and can be branded and designed to suit the client’s taste. Read our article on Podtime >>
Tastebuds
The company which matchmakes connections based on shared musical preferences recently launched Event Matchmaker, a service that facilitates real-world meet ups at concerts. Read our article on Tastebuds >>
Zite
The iPad magazine which adapts to reader’s interests based on their reading habits was recently purchased by CNN. Mark Johnson, CEO of Zite, said “In CNN, we have found a partner who shares our vision and passion. Being part of the CNN family gives us the capital to grow Zite’s business and continue to innovate in the space.” Read our article on Zite >>
Roamler
The Dutch startup which enabled iPhone users to be paid for small location based tasks raised half a million euros within a month of launch, following an investment from a private investor. Now reporting over 600 Roamler workers and over 3800 assignments set, the average Roamler user has completed over 6 jobs. Read our article on Roamler >>
Central.ly
The simplified web building service recently introduced the option to purchase new domain names or use a domain name already owned. For example , now users can have www.yourbusiness.com, rather than http://central.ly/yourbusiness. Read our article on Central.ly >>
Zapaday
Pulling data from their free online calendar of planned future global events and meetings, the new Tomorrow app from Zapaday has branded itself as ‘the news of tomorrow’, letting readers know about upcoming events. Read our article on Zapaday >>
Vapur
The reusable and foldable water bottle company recently launched a limited edition artists series, featuring designs from emerging artists around the world. Read our article on Vapur >> Much the way Covestor Investment Management and AlphaClone both aim to offer guidance for novice investors, so MoGro hopes to make investment more accessible to the untrained masses. Specifically, MoGro strives to offer a seamless investment process with “no middleman stockbroker, no outrageous minimums, no hidden fees, no confusing forms, no trades to place, and no financial mumbo jumbo,” in the company’s own words. Targeting people who lack the time, interest or expertise to research, manage and monitor their own investments, MoGro uses software that sorts through dozens of investment options to develop an investment plan that’s tailored to the customer’s needs. MoGro will then seamlessly invest the client’s money with long-established, SIPC-insured investment companies. Risk-management features are automatically included in MoGro’s services, as are regular text/email updates, easy-to-understand statements (“without the crazy charts and graphs,” the company says), an optional auto-invest feature, free expert advice, a help center and financial access 24/7. Similar in many ways to the purchasing of wine — which we’ve also seen simplified in numerous ways — investment is an area that’s sorely in need of a little transparency and simplicity. Who will help toward that end in your neck of the woods? Spotted by: Zachary Love As celebrity chefs and cooking at home have been come popular over recent years, a new market of budding amateur foodies has emerged. While apps and blogs can share professional and personal tips to create international dishes, Culture Kitchen in San Francisco goes a step further by connecting local food lovers to immigrant women who teach them to cook authentic, ethnic cuisine as well as sharing their cultural background. Culture Kitchen was founded by designers Abby Sturges and Jennifer López, and is a social enterprise that aims to “create a forum for culinary and cultural exchange, showing that much more than food gets made in the kitchen”. Sturges and López employ immigrant women, who are the masters of cooking their families’ dishes, to teach those meals to a group of food lovers, while sharing stories about the recipes and their culture. So far there are seven traditional cuisines represented, including Mexican, Thai and Ukrainian. The classes — which cost USD 40-60 each and are held at the San Francisco Whole Foods Culinary Center — invite participants to feel as though they are in their grandmother’s kitchen, where they can choose to what level they participate, before sitting down to eat together. In the video below, founders Abby and Jennifer explain why they created Culture Kitchen. Is there an appetite for a similar model to encourage culinary and cultural exchange in your area? Spotted by: Murtaza Patel It’s one thing for a cardboard box to be infused with seeds and designed for planting at the end of its useful life. It’s quite another, however, to see a similar concept in something made from plastic. However, it’s no ordinary plastic used in Equilicuá’s Spud Raincoat — rather, the PVC alternative is made from potato starch and fully biodegradable, compostable and suitable for planting. Equilicuá’s Spud Raincoat can be reused numerous times, its maker says, since it’s only biodegradable under specific conditions. Available in white with red print, the poncho-style garment is priced at EUR 15. Once the user is done with it, however, the Spud Raincoat can be planted in the ground. Not only is its potato starch-based “Fantastic Bioplastic” fully compostable, but — through a collaboration with La Fundación + árboles — it’s been impregnated with the seeds of various Mediterranean plants and shrubs. For that reason, in fact, Equilicuá currently distributes the raincoat only in the European Union and Mediterranean countries where the seeds are native; coming soon are versions with seeds derived from other parts of the world. Green innovations are no longer just the reserve of obvious ecological offenders such as those in the automotive industry. No matter what your product or service, there’s no longer any excuse for not doing it greener. Spotted by: j kwok Regular Springwise readers may remember our coverage of two recent bike related innovations focusing on functionality and style: MAIK’s Bike Crate and the lock that can be worn around the waist. Now Californian start-up Revolights are focusing on cycle safety with their new bike lighting system. The idea for Revolights came to inventor Kent Frankovich as he rode his bike in the dark, and wondered why the headlight — meant to illuminate the path he was cycling on — was so far away from the ground. His research led him to some gruesome statistics revealing that the majority of nighttime bike-car collisions are due to cyclists’ inadequate side visibility, as well as drivers’ inability to recognize bicycles on the road. This pointed to a need for “a single product that combines path illumination and effective, unique signaling (I am a bike) to shared road traffic” with the aim of significantly increasing biker safety. Frankovich and his team have been developing a prototype that consists of two hoops containing LEDs, that clip onto bicycle rims. The lights blink on and off at a rate controlled by the speed of the cyclist, and are powered by lithium-ion battery packs mounted to the hub. The effect is that front half of the front wheel and rear half of the rear wheel are illuminated, which projects light both in front, behind and to the side, increasing visibility for the cyclist while making them visible to others on the road. The project was launched on Kickstarter in August, where it quickly exceeded its funding target of USD 43,500 by over USD 160,000. Revolights hopes that the product will be available by the end of the year, at a suggested price of USD 220. The video below shows Revolights in action: The interest in Revolights indicates the extent to which bicycle-related innovations can attract investment. A market to cash in on with your own style or safety related innovation? Spotted by: Johan Groenewold