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Top 11 Most Innovative Business Ideas

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We hope that you’ll find these concepts as inspiring as we do, and that they spark even more innovation in the year to come!

1. Nerdalize

For all of the articles and papers discussing the numerous benefits of Big Data, it’s important to remember that all this data still needs to be stored somewhere. As more and more data centres are built every year (it’s a booming industry), enormous expense goes into regulating the temperatures within those centres, with large cooling isolations designed to handle the excess heat produced. Dutch startup Nerdalize offers a new solution which makes use of this waste heat, by placing individual servers in people’s homes where the heat can be useful, rather than a problem. Homeowners can lease the two-in-one heater/server from Nerdalize, who cover the electricity costs of the device. The multiple servers then connect to create The Nerdalize Cloud, while helping to warm homes.

2. The Prado Museum

In March, The Prado Museum in Madrid displayed six 3D replicas of famous paintings, which visually impaired visitors could explore through touch. The article we wrote about the exhibit proved to be one of our most popular from the last year, and was just one of many inspiring innovations from museums in 2015. We also saw the MCA Chicago offering free EnChroma glasses to colorblind visitors, enabling them to see artworks in full colour.

As well as becoming more accessible, we saw museums become more personalized, with the Muzeums app creating individually curated experiences based on the visitor’s unique profile. The app was similar in principal to the BBC’s experiments with presenting different versions of the same film based on the viewer’s preferences. It should already be clear that personalization, powered by big data, is set to be the major theme for 2016.

3. Glia

We saw a wealth of innovation in retail this year, and a special mention should go to the digital keychain in Helsinki that creates the offline equivalent to online cookies, enabling brick and mortar retailers to gather data on customers and serve more relevant ads accordingly.

The most intriguing innovation from the world of retail, however, came from Glia, which further appeals to the customer’s desire for curated experiences based on personal preferences. The app enables consumers to examine the social, political and economic values of businesses, giving them the option to support or boycott organisations based on how closely they align with the shopper’s own beliefs. The Greenease app offers a similar service for local restaurants — showing whether the establishment’s dishes are locally sourced, free range, grass-fed, organic, veg friendly, sustainable seafood, and more — while CareerLabs enables job-seekers to filter their job search by the politics and culture of a company.

A company’s values, and transparency around those values, will be a major factor in dictating success in 2016.

4. The Amazon Dash Button

The Amazon Dash Button enables consumers to make repeated purchases of household goods by pressing a single, physical button. For example, an order for extra washing powder could be made by pressing a button mounted on the washing machine. We also saw the on-demand service app ALICE partner with Bttn to make various hotel services available at the push of a similar, physical button. Marrying the convenience of e-commerce with the tangible familiarity of the physical world looks set to be a powerful recipe for success in the future.

5. Yellow Backie

The majority of sustainable travel initiatives we see on Springwise tend to veer towards the hi-tech. In 2015 we saw Highways England announce the trial of roads that can charge electric vehicles as they travel, while Berlin’s Ubitricity are retrofitting lampposts so they can charge electric vehicles using a city’s existing infrastructure. But perhaps the charm of Amsterdam’s Yellow Backie hitchhiking scheme is in its lo-tech simplicity. To take part, visitors must keep their eyes out for Backie drivers, who traverse the city on bicycles adorned with bright yellow luggage racks. When they spot one they simply shout ‘Backie!’ to hail a ride and jump on the back. Amsterdammers can become a Backie driver for free by applying online to the Yellow Bike store — the company behind the initiative.

Of course, it’s impossible to discuss the future of travel without looking at driverless cars, and a major step was taken when Formula E announced the world’s first driverless car race scheduled for the 2016/17 season. While it may be sometime before driverless cars are commonplace, we expect to see plenty more “technology assisted” automotive innovations in 2016 acting as a stepping stone, such as the Mobileye 5-series dashboard camera/>, which can reduce road collisions by 40 percent.

6. Knocki

2016 looks set to be the year that The Internet of Things takes its first meaningful steps into the mainstream. We’ve already seen a number of startups aiming to upgrade existing devices and appliances, retrofitting plugs and switches to turn once dumb objects smart. But as more smart devices enter the household, there will be a growing need for a centralized command center to control them all.

Last year, the most talked about interface for the new, smart home was Jibo. Probably the closest thing to a real life R2-D2 or BB-8, Jibo is a friendly personal robot designed to interact with your Internet of Things devices. But this year’s most fascinating foray into the arena was Knocki. Knocki is a battery-powered disc that transforms any surface it is mounted on into a smart communication tool — translating up to ten knocking patterns into commands for the user’s smart home. Knocki works by sensing vibrational patterns on the surface using an accelerometer-based system. The startup behind the device has a range of suggested uses, for example, two knocks on the living room wall could skip the current song, or five quick fire knocks on the bedside table could set the coffee brewing.

 

7. Heijmans ONE

Just like the Nerdalize servers, the best innovations look to solve more than one problem at once. Tackling the dual problems of derelict housing lots and a lack of affordable housing in Amsterdam, Heijmans ONE are complete, self-contained two storey living units. They cost around EUR 700 per month to rent and come equipped with all the basic required facilities, including kitchen, bathroom, separate bedroom, living room and outside patio space. The units can be installed in derelict lots in less than a day, breathing life into neglected areas. When building work is set to start in those areas, the units can be removed as easily as they were installed, and transferred to a new site.

This means that the accommodation can only ever be considered temporary, but another of this year’s standout startups, Kasita, makes this nomadic lifestyle their central feature. Kasita is creating simple apartment block ‘scaffold shells’, which are easy to build on small lots of urban space generally classified as not developable. These shells can literally be picked up and moved by a truck whenever — so users can move to other Kasita locations around the world simply by putting in a request on the companion app.

8. E-Nable

3D printing has the potential to revolutionise the way items are stocked and sold, but it will also have an impact beyond retail. The affordability of the production process means that we’ve already seen the creation of the world’s first robotic hand retailing for under USD 1,000, and this year we discovered E-Nable — a volunteer run network that matches people in need of prosthetic hands with local designers and makers in possession of a 3D printer. In an effort to make prosthetics more desirable for young amputees, we also saw the UK introduce the first line of superhero-themed bionic hands.

Driving down the cost of 3D printing further, 2015 saw the first filaments made from coffee and beer, while the fashion industry saw the creation of 3D printed shoes designed to perfectly fit the wearer’s feet and clothing that can cool the body through 3D printed vents.

9. LucidPipe

The best way to harvest renewable energy is to acquire it from existing sources without too much disruption to the current infrastructure. Putting that theory into practice, the LucidPipe is able to harvest low-cost renewable energy from water flowing through a city’s pipes. The LucidPipe can be installed in any system where water flows downward naturally with gravity, and each piece of LucidPiping contains three small turbines which spin in the flowing water. The turbines connect to a generator on top of the pipe, producing hydroelectric power, which can drastically reduce the cost for the water utilities or be filtered back into the city.

A collaboration between Norwegian oil company Statoil and the Scottish government meant 2015 also saw the introduction of the world’s first floating wind farms, and we saw the creation of smart wind turbines for the home — designed to learn local wind patterns in an effort to save power during periods of low wind activity.

10. UAViators

We could hardly look back on 2015 without some mention of drones. UAViators is an humanitarian UAV network, which signs up experienced amateur drone operators willing to provide disaster relief. Drones can capture aerial images faster, cheaper and at a higher resolution than satellites, which makes them excellent tools for communicating the lay of the land after hurricanes, earthquakes and other disasters.

We also saw the University of Nebraska-Lincoln developing autonomous drones that drop delayed ignition parcels to induce controlled forest fires, in an effort to contain the spread of wildfires.

11. Kinneir Dufort

Following on from last year’s methane backpacks for cows, the winner of this year’s Weird of the Year award goes to UK-based Kinneir Dufort and their 3D printed pancakes. To create the uncanny delights, a digital camera first captures a customer’s likeness. Kinneir Dufort’s bespoke software transforms brightness from the image into contours, which are then produced gradually by a batter dispenser. The result of all this effort is a 3D printed pancake designed to look exactly like the customer’s face. And that, is true innovation.

The article was written by the writers at Springwise.

Callum Connects

Benedict Heng, Founder of Mr. Farmer

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Benedict Heng is bringing back the ‘kampong’ days of having the Ho Liao (good ingredients) for Ho Jiak (good tasting) food.

What’s your story?
I’m Ben from Mr. Farmer. Mr. Farmer is an online grocer dedicated to supplying the freshest produce to our customers. We believe in sustainable and ethical farming. Since a young age, I have always been an avid food lover (especially meats), developing a strong interest in all things delicious. That is why I ventured into the F&B industry, working as a junior cook for 3 years.

Midway through my career, I made a move to the finance industry to pursue monetary rewards. I dove into high-risk investments and I made lots of money from these investments. However, the good fortune did not last long and all these came crashing down when I suffered a tremendous loss. This coincided with the time that I had just started my own family and it was a huge blow to me both materially and mentally. It was this crash that made me realize that this life wasn’t for me. I went on a hiatus and eventually, it was only through the strong support from my family that I managed to tide over this tough episode.

I went back to help the family business and this was how Mr Farmer came about. My family has been in the food industry for many decades and one thing they noticed from years of experience is that sustainable farming practices are not as developed as in Europe. This is why through Mr Farmer, we hope that we can provide the best quality products to families out there who want the best ingredients for their loved ones.

What excites you most about your industry?
Delicious and wholesome food excites me. I believe food is a critical component of life and it brings people together. The opportunity to serve the community with fresh produce for a healthy life, that brings me joy.

I feel that there is still so much more we can do to improve the quality of food and bring it to the masses. One of the key components of ensuring greater quality of food is to support ethical and sustainable farming. Due to commercialization and urbanization, most farming practices these days are no longer the way they were in the old “kampong” times. Shortcuts are taken, standards are compromised, all in the name of profit. At Mr. Farmer, profit is important too but we want to focus on the concept of One Welfare – sustainable farming directly impacts our health. Our vision is to bring back the ‘kampong’ days of having the Ho Liao (good ingredients) for Ho Jiak (good tasting) food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore. I call Singapore my home as it’s where my family and close friends are. I also travel frequently to Malaysia and APAC for work.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
It’s definitely Singapore. There is just so much this tiny city can offer! Singapore has been globally recognized for its top-notch business environment providing its residents with developed infrastructure, political stability and excellent connectivity. These factors have given us an outstanding support system for businesses to strive.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Surround yourself with people that inspire you, challenge you to rise higher, make you better and, keep them in your life.

Who inspires you?
I draw inspiration from my uncle, who is the head of both the family and business. He takes care of our family matters at home and manages hundreds of employees at work. Handling both the family and business side of things can be tricky, but he has shown me that success can be sustainable and done with a conscience. His guiding philosophy of handling business and family is simply, to have a big heart.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Even just one day of separation from the day the meat is slaughtered, makes a world of difference to its flavour.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I have come to learn that awareness is the beginning of everything. If I had my time again, I would have probably spent more time figuring out who I truly am and with that self-awareness, begun to lead my life with more purpose and meaning.

How do you unwind?
I like to spend my free time sipping white coffee at my favourite coffee place. I enjoy taking in the surrounding sights and letting my mind wander freely. It allows me to unwind and gain clarity at the same time. It also helps me organize my thoughts to prepare for the week ahead.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
It would be Bangkok as the people there are genuinely friendly and hospitable. They say people are what defines the city and I couldn’t agree more with this. I also enjoy the ‘laid back’ vibe of Bangkok. Not to mention Bangkok has all the good food and awesome shopping choices too!

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Spin selling” by Neil Reckham. It’s an amazing book that teaches you a process designed to help you successfully sell your products and services to business buyers.

Shameless plug for your business:
We at Mr. Farmer have the best tasting meats in Singapore, do a blind test and you will know why it’s Michelin chefs’ preferred choice. Not only are we very confident about the taste, we are also proud to say that all our products are chemical, hormone and antibiotic free. We also focus a lot on supporting ethical and sustainable farming practices believing in the ‘One Welfare’ concept. Do check us out if you enjoy good quality food like us!

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Callum Connects

Zac Chua, Founder & CEO of The Kettle Gourmet

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Zac Chua’s popcorn business validated itself straight away and fast tracked him to the startup world. Zac now employs 11 people and shifts 500 bags of popcorn daily.

What’s your story?
It’s a crazy one. It was an accidental startup. If you think about it, no university graduate would ever dream of becoming a popcorn seller. We crashed our first tech event to validate our idea and it took off from there. I bought a logo for $7 from a designers marketplace, printed some cheap name cards, and built a 1 page landing page. Sales started pouring in and eventually, we were serving B2B clients (corporate pantries) and we have never looked back. Today we move about 500 bags daily, we have 11 employees and we are growing. Talk about a validation that worked in our favour.

What excites you most about your industry?
It’s food! Everybody loves food! In Singapore the F&B scene is brutally competitive and it spurs me on to fight and compete for market share and to prove to myself that I can do it. It keeps me going and I won’t stop until we become the market leader.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Singapore, and have traveled to most of Southeast Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore! Even though Singapore has a high cost of living, the Government is actually very supportive of startups. They provide grants for us to tap into, and the technological infrastructure makes it possible for us to compete on a global scale. I believe if you can succeed in your business in Singapore, you can succeed in most of Southeast Asia.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
You only need to be right once, and the rest is history.

Who inspires you?
My father, who was a VC. In fact he was the one who gave me the best piece of advice which I shared above. Having one successful exit, he showed me that it’s okay to fail a million times – all it takes is just one time for you to win in business and in life.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The power of compounding.

  • Mary and John are the same age.
  • Mary saves $2k annually from the age of 19-25 – so she puts $14k into her portfolio
  • John saves $2k annually from the age of 26-65 – so he puts $80k into his portfolio, but 7 years after Mary.
  • If both are able to generate 10% per annum, who would have more at age 65?
  • John of course! But how much more?
  • Mary will have $944,641 whilst John will have $973,704
  • Think about it! Mary puts in only $14k but John delays for 7 years and puts in $80k.

CRAZY RIGHT!?!?

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing, my mistakes taught me how to become a better me. But if I really must choose, I’d say take more time to find the right business partner.

How do you unwind?
Poker, Mahjong and Dota 2.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Vietnam! Things are cheap, people are warm and friendly, and their coffee fills up my life. I would love to retire there if possible.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The richest man in Babylon

Shameless plug for your business:
We don’t need a plug. Just try our competitors and you’ll understand why!

How can people connect with you?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chuazongyou
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zacchua

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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