Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

There are already numerous platforms that enable consumers to customize or personalize a work of art before they buy it. But how about combining the two, while raising money for a social cause? Australia-based Jellybeanstreet aims to do just that, allowing parents to create large scale replicas of their baby’s art, modify it and sell it to friends and family to support children’s charities. It’s one thing to celebrate kids’ achievements by putting their latest drawing on the fridge, but parents using Jellybeanstreet can scan the artwork and upload it onto to the site, before using the provided tools to crop, rotate and even alter the color of the final piece. Users can then get the image printed on high quality canvasses to hang in their living room – based on the premise that a lot of abstract modern art isn’t too much of a step away from kid’s doodles. Once a print has been purchased, Jellybeanstreet makes the piece available for friends and family to buy. For every purchase, 20 percent is taken by Jellybeanstreet, 40 percent goes back to the child artist and their parent or guardian and a further 40 percent is donated to the Starlight Children’s Foundation. Jellybeanstreet helps parents purchase personalized artwork for their home and celebrate their child’s talent, while also earning money to potentially put towards their kid’s future – and the future of children in need. Are there other ways to marry multiple disparate ventures into one coherent business model? Spotted by: Marisa Tassone Gild Source is one platform that helps recruiters find professional coders by automatically grading their script, and now Philippines-based Codetoki is helping companies find the right IT specialists by getting them to complete challenges based on the role. Having recently been named first place in the Microsoft-sponsored Apps for Asia event, one of the aims of Codetoki is to provide a platform for the number of skilled IT workers who are struggling to find work in the country, or outside of it. By partnering with IT and business process outsourcing companies and offering role-specific tasks, the site enables graduates and professionals to search the available openings, take the challenge and see if they’re suitable for the role. If they are, they earn a badge and the recruiter is notified. There is also a leaderboard to help companies easily see who the best performing candidates are. From here they can decide if they want to offer the user an interview. Codetoki essentially acts a screening tool for businesses who receive lots of applications from workers who may not be qualified. However, users can also benefit from taking the challenges, with the chance to become a Microsoft Student Partner. The video below offers more information about the service: Companies already using the tool include the likes of Accenture, CAI-STA Philippines and Asian Business Solutions. Could something similar work for IT professionals in your country? Spotted by: Murtaza Patel If the number of innovations we’ve come across that help homeowners start gardening inside and out – such as the easy-to-use Patch – is anything to go by, it may provide some proof that the grow-your-own trend is still in full bloom. Our latest spotting is Sprout It, an app that not only provides location-specific advice to green-fingered consumers, but also aims to raise awareness about a brand pivot for its sponsor. The app was developed by Ohio-based Växa Design Group, an offshoot of the startup accelerator Founders Factory, founded by Brooke Paul. Users enter their zip code and the type of plants or vegetables they’ll be growing. The app then monitors the climate and weather predictions for that location and offers customized, dynamic growing instructions, advice, milestones and alerts to ensure gardeners get the best out of their plants. Rather than charging for the app, the creators approached local gardening giant The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, which sponsors the project with in-app advertising. However, users aren’t bombarded with information about the company’s products at every turn, instead the sponsorship integration is tastefully done, according to reports. The app aims to primarily provide innovative tech to help gardeners, while Miracle-Gro provides the funding to make it happen in exchange for promotion as an eco-savvy, homely company. Paul explains: “They do have a whole line of organic products. I think that’s part of what we’re trying to accomplish, is education and awareness around that.” While the collaboration could be seen as green washing – especially for a company with a less-than-clean environmental record – the business model is an example of young tech startups and larger brands helping each other out, and there is inspiration here for both. There are a number of web apps that help employers track individual and team achievements enabling them to allocate rewards fairly – take PropsToYou as an example. However, for larger companies it may be easier – and more effective – to let the employees themselves decide who deserves recognition from above. Bonus.ly is a platform that enables businesses to employ a peer-to-peer bonus allocation system across their organization. While peer recognition programs are not new – innovative companies such as Google have already implemented their own programs – Bonus.ly helps companies who would like to use the system to do so easily. Users signing up first set their budget for each team, or the whole company, which is then divided and allocated as a monthly allowance for each employee. Through the platform, staff can then ‘spend’ any amount of their allowance on colleagues they think have performed well or helped them out. Managers can then release the bonuses at regular intervals, or when it suits them. The system also incorporates non-monetary awards, which can offer more public recognition of good work and foster an atmosphere of competition. Peer-to-peer bonuses help employees feel more involved with their team and may feel the system is a fairer way to recognize achievements – which can boost morale – although there is a risk of nepotism skewing the bonus-giving. Bonus.ly, which is free to use, is already a part of the employee rewards scheme at computer tech giant Oracle. Could this kind of system work for your business? Spotted by: Murtaza Patel We recently wrote about Vaporsens, the handheld electronic dog’s nose that can help police forces accurately determine the presence of illegal substances. Now, researchers at the Vanderbilt University in Nashville have developed a smartphone app that can detect the origin of gunfire. Gunshots have a unique sound that can be separated out from ambient noise due to the fact that the majority produce a “muzzle blast – an expanding balloon of sound that spreads out from the muzzle each time the rifle is fired”, followed by the “distinctive shockwaves” created by traveling bullets, the team explain. The app is combined with an external sensor module, which contains multiple high-sensitivity microphones that can detect when a gunshot is fired. Using triangulation based on the differing times the soundwaves hit each microphone, the device then sends information about the direction and distance of the shot to the smartphone via Bluetooth, overlayed onto a map of the location. The system currently takes the form of two versions; one which uses only one microphone module that provides a rough estimate of the location, and another which relies on six separate modules, which could be placed on the persons of separate officers, to provide an accurate location of the shooter. The app could help police forces, soldiers or even civilians by providing them with greater information when under attack, potentially saving lives. Could the technology be modified to detect the location of other types of soundwaves – such as explosions to help firefighters locate the cause of a blaze, or the epicenter of an earthquake to help emergency responders? Spotted by: Murtaza Patel Eco-minded consumers aren’t going to throw away their ideals when it comes to planning a wedding, and we’ve already seen the Portovert magazine provide ideas for green brides and grooms. Now Netherlands-based gift store niko niko is offering Throw & Grow event confetti, which grows into wildflowers after it’s been used. Available in ten different colors, the confetti is made of biodegradable material embedded with wildflower seeds. When the confetti is thrown, it can be left to naturally disintegrate and if it lands on fertile soil then it may eventually grow into plantlife. The Throw & Grow confetti is currently available from the niko niko store as a Gift Box for EUR 11.95 or a Party Box for EUR 19.95. Throw & Grow confetti enables those organizing weddings and other celebrations to forget about having to clean up while also benefitting the environment. How else can big events be made more green? Spotted by: Murray Orange It’s always exciting to hear about the progress made by businesses that we’ve previously featured. Here are some updates from founders who have all got in touch to share their latest news:
exploreB2B
Dating sites have transformed the way that potential partners with similar interests meet, so exploreB2B set out to do the same for businesses, through content publishing. Originally conceived for German users, the Berlin-based startup launched internationally last year, adding premium functions for paid users. CEO Jonathan Gebauer is this year on the judging panel for the BIG Awards 2013, which recognizes talent in the business world.
Cyclodeo
Google Street View has attempted to provide images of the majority of the roads in many countries, but Netherlands-based Cyclodeo arguably has a bigger ambition – to document video of the world’s cycling routes. Having already started work covering Copenhagen, Eindhoven and New York, the site recently enabled its users to explore Amsterdam, the cycling capital of the world.
Kickboard
A big part of any education professional’s job is the administration that goes into ensuring they’re reaching their targets. Kickboard has been helping teachers and principals better analyze their students’ behavior, grades and attendance since we wrote about the startup 18 months ago. The company won the Coulter Challenge IDEAPitch competition in 2012 and is also now receiving mentoring from Jim Coulter, co-founder of private equity firm TPG. Kickboard has been announced as one of the companies chosen to take part in talent training programs run by Education Pioneers.
exploreB2B
Dating sites have transformed the way that potential partners with similar interests meet, so exploreB2B set out to do the same for businesses, through content publishing. Originally conceived for German users, the Berlin-based startup launched internationally last year, adding premium functions for paid users. CEO Jonathan Gebauer is this year on the judging panel for the BIG Awards 2013, which recognizes talent in the business world.
Cyclodeo
Google Street View has attempted to provide images of the majority of the roads in many countries, but Netherlands-based Cyclodeo arguably has a bigger ambition – to document video of the world’s cycling routes. Having already started work covering Copenhagen, Eindhoven and New York, the site recently enabled its users to explore Amsterdam, the cycling capital of the world.
Pubslush
Another site taking advantage of the crowds to help fledgling creators is New York-based Pubslush, whose crowdfunding platform not only helps upcoming authors get their books funded, but also adds a charitable element by fighting illiteracy in the developing world. Pubslush has made the process of getting a book into bookstores more open – it no longer acts as the sole publisher, but still offers learning opportunities to help successful users market their work once it’s been funded. Having partnered with the San Francisco Bay charity ParentsPlace to take advantage of their expertise in promoting literacy at home, Pubslush is also adding more strings to its social bow. This year, it has plans to expand into Brazil.
Kickboard
A big part of any education professional’s job is the administration that goes into ensuring they’re reaching their targets. Kickboard has been helping teachers and principals better analyze their students’ behavior, grades and attendance since we wrote about the startup 18 months ago. The company won the Coulter Challenge IDEAPitch competition in 2012 and is also now receiving mentoring from Jim Coulter, co-founder of private equity firm TPG. Kickboard has been announced as one of the companies chosen to take part in talent training programs run by Education Pioneers.
exploreB2B
Dating sites have transformed the way that potential partners with similar interests meet, so exploreB2B set out to do the same for businesses, through content publishing. Originally conceived for German users, the Berlin-based startup launched internationally last year, adding premium functions for paid users. CEO Jonathan Gebauer is this year on the judging panel for the BIG Awards 2013, which recognizes talent in the business world.
Cyclodeo
Google Street View has attempted to provide images of the majority of the roads in many countries, but Netherlands-based Cyclodeo arguably has a bigger ambition – to document video of the world’s cycling routes. Having already started work covering Copenhagen, Eindhoven and New York, the site recently enabled its users to explore Amsterdam, the cycling capital of the world.
AHHHA
Going it alone when attempting to bring a new idea to market can be tough, and might not even be the best option – social ideation platform AHHHA certainly doesn’t think so. Since we covered the site in 2011, it has helped several products – such as the Sleeper Sleeve and the PinPoint app – undergo finetuning with help from the crowds before launching successfully. The platform has also struck up a partnership with UK-based Creative Barcode to give users greater protection over their intellectual property.
Pubslush
Another site taking advantage of the crowds to help fledgling creators is New York-based Pubslush, whose crowdfunding platform not only helps upcoming authors get their books funded, but also adds a charitable element by fighting illiteracy in the developing world. Pubslush has made the process of getting a book into bookstores more open – it no longer acts as the sole publisher, but still offers learning opportunities to help successful users market their work once it’s been funded. Having partnered with the San Francisco Bay charity ParentsPlace to take advantage of their expertise in promoting literacy at home, Pubslush is also adding more strings to its social bow. This year, it has plans to expand into Brazil.
Kickboard
A big part of any education professional’s job is the administration that goes into ensuring they’re reaching their targets. Kickboard has been helping teachers and principals better analyze their students’ behavior, grades and attendance since we wrote about the startup 18 months ago. The company won the Coulter Challenge IDEAPitch competition in 2012 and is also now receiving mentoring from Jim Coulter, co-founder of private equity firm TPG. Kickboard has been announced as one of the companies chosen to take part in talent training programs run by Education Pioneers.
exploreB2B
Dating sites have transformed the way that potential partners with similar interests meet, so exploreB2B set out to do the same for businesses, through content publishing. Originally conceived for German users, the Berlin-based startup launched internationally last year, adding premium functions for paid users. CEO Jonathan Gebauer is this year on the judging panel for the BIG Awards 2013, which recognizes talent in the business world.
Cyclodeo
Google Street View has attempted to provide images of the majority of the roads in many countries, but Netherlands-based Cyclodeo arguably has a bigger ambition – to document video of the world’s cycling routes. Having already started work covering Copenhagen, Eindhoven and New York, the site recently enabled its users to explore Amsterdam, the cycling capital of the world.
AHHHA
Going it alone when attempting to bring a new idea to market can be tough, and might not even be the best option – social ideation platform AHHHA certainly doesn’t think so. Since we covered the site in 2011, it has helped several products – such as the Sleeper Sleeve and the PinPoint app – undergo finetuning with help from the crowds before launching successfully. The platform has also struck up a partnership with UK-based Creative Barcode to give users greater protection over their intellectual property.
Pubslush
Another site taking advantage of the crowds to help fledgling creators is New York-based Pubslush, whose crowdfunding platform not only helps upcoming authors get their books funded, but also adds a charitable element by fighting illiteracy in the developing world. Pubslush has made the process of getting a book into bookstores more open – it no longer acts as the sole publisher, but still offers learning opportunities to help successful users market their work once it’s been funded. Having partnered with the San Francisco Bay charity ParentsPlace to take advantage of their expertise in promoting literacy at home, Pubslush is also adding more strings to its social bow. This year, it has plans to expand into Brazil.
Kickboard
A big part of any education professional’s job is the administration that goes into ensuring they’re reaching their targets. Kickboard has been helping teachers and principals better analyze their students’ behavior, grades and attendance since we wrote about the startup 18 months ago. The company won the Coulter Challenge IDEAPitch competition in 2012 and is also now receiving mentoring from Jim Coulter, co-founder of private equity firm TPG. Kickboard has been announced as one of the companies chosen to take part in talent training programs run by Education Pioneers.
exploreB2B
Dating sites have transformed the way that potential partners with similar interests meet, so exploreB2B set out to do the same for businesses, through content publishing. Originally conceived for German users, the Berlin-based startup launched internationally last year, adding premium functions for paid users. CEO Jonathan Gebauer is this year on the judging panel for the BIG Awards 2013, which recognizes talent in the business world.
Cyclodeo
Google Street View has attempted to provide images of the majority of the roads in many countries, but Netherlands-based Cyclodeo arguably has a bigger ambition – to document video of the world’s cycling routes. Having already started work covering Copenhagen, Eindhoven and New York, the site recently enabled its users to explore Amsterdam, the cycling capital of the world. While slimline routers and ultra-thin batteries may be suitable for urban environments where mains electricity and wifi hotspots are in abundance, it’s not the same in rural Africa. We recently covered the rough-and-ready eChaja kit, providing solar-powered device charging for remote areas, and now the BRCK aims to keep Africans connected even when the power turns off and the internet drops out. Created by Kenya-based nonprofit tech startup Ushahidi, the device is designed to be used in tough conditions and takes the form of a rugged metal brick. BRCK is essentially a modem that is able to connect up to 20 devices at a time and seamlessly switch between wifi, 3G, 4G and Ethernet connections automatically, depending on what signals are available. In moments of very low connectivity, BRCK uses the best available source to provide uninterrupted internet usage. Even if there’s a power blackout, the device comes with a battery that provides up to eight hours of use that is automatically activated when the AC is disconnected. BRCK also offers users an interface accessible from their devices, providing data about signal, usage and performance, as well as management of the network. The video below is taken from the project’s successful crowdfunding campaign: BRCK reached its Kickstarter funding target this weekend and is now hoping to provide secure and failproof internet access to areas that are remote, have poor web infrastructures or suffer from extreme weather conditions that affect connectivity. However, the device may prove just as useful for city dwellers wanting a more reliable connection to the net – as Ushahidi’s motto attests: “If it works in Africa, it will work anywhere.” BRCK is still available to pre-order from USD 200 for the next week. Are there other ways to ensure that remote communities aren’t left behind when it comes to technology access? Spotted by: Murtaza Patel London’s The People’s Supermarket is one example of a grocery store that offers lower prices in exchange for a few hours work each month. Now the Portobello supermarket in Italy is hoping to use the business model to tackle unemployment and poverty in an area struck by the credit crisis. Unemployment in Italy has peaked in recent months, even reaching a 20-year high of 11.7 percent in January. Such figures have a detrimental effect on local governments as the number of families relying on benefits rises. The Social Services of the City of Modena – in collaboration with the Association for Voluntary Services Modena – has launched the Portobello emporium, which is fitted out in much the same way as a typical grocery store. However, each item is assigned a value in points, rather than Euros, which are issued to local residents after means testing, according to their individual or family situation. The most needy are entitled to a greater number of points to spend. Participants in the scheme are also required – if they’re able – to volunteer at the supermarket or other projects in Modena. This way, community members can help each other and themselves to improve their quality of life by directly working for the sustenance and home goods they receive as benefit from the local government. Working Modena residents can also help out by donating money or grocery products to the scheme, or volunteering their own time. The Portobello supermarket provides a central space for unemployed and poor residents in Italy to both contribute and benefit, while local governments ensure that their welfare remunerations are used for items necessary to live, rather than squandered. As Italy isn’t the only country suffering from high unemployment rates at the moment – especially in Europe – could local authorities in your part of the world implement a similar scheme? Spotted by: Gabriella Piergianni Learning a new instrument isn’t an easy task, especially if you’re an adult. While Playground Sessions has brought real-time analysis and gamified teaching to piano practice via a desktop platform, the gTar is a modified digital guitar that physically integrates the iPhone to make learning an easier and less time-consuming task. Users begin by docking their iPhone – which acts as a display for instructions and also provides the instrument’s sound – into the front of the guitar. Through the accompanying app, they can then select a song they would like to learn. In Easy mode, the app first displays which strings players need to pluck as the song goes on. Once they’ve completed that task with enough accuracy, they can graduate to the Medium level, where they will need to use their fingering hand to press the correct notes on the fretboard, shown via color-coded LEDs on the neck which light up at the correct point in the song. If this level is mastered, Hard mode encourages students to use multiple fingers on the fret board, as seasoned guitarists do. Users can also load the ‘Free Play’ setting, which allows them to use the gTar as an instrument. Various voices and effects can be added by selecting them through the app. The video below explains more about the premise behind the product: Having successfully reached its funding target on Kickstarter, the USD 399.99 device could provide the Guitar Hero generation with the next step towards being able to play a real instrument, although there are rightly some concerns with learning in such a mechanical way. However, by quickly providing a sense of accomplishment, it may lead users to consider more serious education options. Are there other musical instruments – or even other tools – that could benefit from an intermediate digital alternative such as this?