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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.

Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Laina Raveendran Greene, Co-Founder at Angels of Impact

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Here is our interview with Laina Raveendran Greene, Founder of GETIT Inc. and Co-Founder of Angels of Impact, an impact network focused on women social entrepreneurs helping to alleviate poverty. She is an entrepreneur and social impact investor, whose passion is female empowerment, and enabling women to be key agents to help alleviate poverty in Asia.

What makes you do what you do?
As a minority female Singaporean from relatively humble beginnings, I have never taken anything for granted. I learnt early on that I have to work doubly hard to overcome the “glass ceilings” but if I persevere, I can succeed. That is why I chose to focus on helping women-led social enterprises as I know how hard things are for them and I hope to make things a little easier for them.

How did you rise in the industry you are in? 
I rose by being courageous enough to push against the “glass ceiling” and seizing opportunities open to me no matter where they were. Early on, I realized I would have better opportunities overseas, so I worked in many countries, including Switzerland, USA, and Indonesia and used these opportunities to learn and open new avenues for myself. I now come back to Singapore with many more networks and skill sets.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
Yes, as a minority Singaporean, it may appear that I am not the usual leadership demography in Singapore. In my own way, however, I think I have amassed my own international accolades and work experience such as serving as the first Secretary General for the Asia Pacific Internet Association, CEO of one of the first few tech startups in Singapore in the early 90s, being on the International Steering Committee of the Global Telecommunication Women Network, and most recently selected as one of the 2nd cohort of Edmond Hillary Fellows in New Zealand.

I am now moving to the next phase of using these networks and skills to help other women to social enterprises, which seem to be exactly what I want to do in my next phase of life (after more than 25 years of global work experience).

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work? 
It was harder in my younger days, as one of the few women in tech to find mentors but today I do.  Men were reluctant to mentor me for fear of rumors.

How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him? 
I found my mentor when I was taking an executive program at Stanford. He was one of the keynote speakers and I went to talk to him. Intrigued by my background, when I asked if he would mentor me, he said yes. I meet with him at regular intervals and I always ensure I have put his ideas to test before reporting back to him. I feel that I value his time if I do actually listen and act on his advice.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent? 
The key qualities I look for is an eagerness to learn and humility to be open to new ideas. Also, when asked to be a mentor, I usually give homework and see how proactive they are. Only the ones who do their homework, take the advice and act on it, are the ones I actively mentor.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I consciously and unconsciously support diversity, as I see the importance of diversity on true innovation. You never get anything new, talking to like-minded people. It is always good to have different perspectives to create new ideas. I am also an active supporter having faced racial and gender discrimination in my life and want to ensure that others are given a better chance.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb? 
A great leader to me is one who has empathy and humility, and a genuine spirit of service. Today’s challenges such as climate change and social injustice, requires many players to apply their knowledge and skills to solve and have a sense of ownership in solving these issues

Advice for others?
The only advice I can think of is do what you are strongly passionate about. You need to persevere to succeed so it helps if you truly care about the endeavor you are working on.

If you’d like to get in touch with Laina Raveendran Greene, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laina/

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Callum Connects

Denise Morris Kipnis, Founder & Principal of ChangeFlow Consulting

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Denise Mossis Kipnis’ curiosity in people and the world, lead her to set up ChangeFlow Consulting.

What’s your story?
I’m driven by curiosity. Having been the only one in a room who looks like me for most of my life, I developed a curiosity about who stays, who leaves and who thrives in minority/majority situations including when and how connection and collaboration happen. I was a systems thinker long before I knew what that was, always asking why and so what; and seeing the pieces, the whole, and the places in between. So helping people and organisations move through the complexity of transformation feels natural to me.

What excites you most about your industry?
I see change and inclusion as two sides of the same thing; I don’t practice one without the other. Some people see change as death, as loss, as exhausting. And it can be. But I see in the work I do as an opportunity for something new or hidden to emerge. When an organisation understands that it is first a group of people, who themselves represent and belong to groups of people, and it begins to tackle what it would mean to understand and learn from all that talent, all that diversity, to have them all working for and not against the organisation, to truly unleash all that their people have to offer; that’s magic.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Change and inclusion are personal values as well as professional strengths. For me, living and working outside of the States was a bold experiment to see whether any of the stuff I’d learned about change and inclusion would work outside of the US. My husband and I targeted Asia specifically: it would be the greatest contrast, culturally speaking, for me; and a unique career springboard for him.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Although I’ve practiced in other cities, I am biased towards Singapore. In some ways it’s what Los Angeles is to the rest of the United States, a microcosm of sorts. The regional/global nature of it means that so many different nationalities and cultures are represented. As a result of this mix, you never know what you might get. In some situations, cultural dynamics are obvious, sometimes subdued. The variability is compelling.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Never ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.” Michael Rouan.

Who inspires you?
Often it’s a “what” not a “who.” I can get inspiration from a passage in a book or a situation in a movie, as well as a turn of a phrase or watching people interact. I often make the biggest connections between the various threads I’m working on when I’m sitting in someone else’s event.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’m honestly not blown away by much. Instead, I’m struck how circular things can be: ideas often come back around with a slightly different twist and I watch the way it shakes things loose for people. I recently sat through a workshop on Self as Instrument, and despite being thoroughly versed already, I learned something. In preparing for a panel on design thinking, I unearthed a new language to describe things.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
You’ve caught me at a good time. I’m sitting in appreciation and gratitude for all my experiences, because I wouldn’t be who I was today if all that has happened, didn’t. And yet one thing comes to mind: It wasn’t until I redesigned my website two years ago (shout out to Brew Creative!) that I realised I hadn’t made explicit agreements with my past clients as to what I could share publicly about our engagement, or whether I could use their logos in my promotional materials. In my business, confidentiality is so important, and yet I need to be able to talk about the work as reputation and experience leads to the next success, and so on. It turned out a lot of the contacts I had known had left the organisations where the work was done, so they couldn’t help at that point. So the practice I’m carrying forward is to get those agreements up front, and to make sure my relationships in client systems are broad as well as deep.

How do you unwind?
Science fiction, puzzles, wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Home. I don’t travel to relax, I travel to learn and explore.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Built to Change, by Ed Lawler and Chris Worley. To my knowledge, it’s the first pivot from advising organisations away from stability and toward dynamism, from strategic planning to strategizing as an action verb; to blow up the traditions and rigidity that impede organisations from developing change capability.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re taught that there are two kinds of people: those who see forests, and those who see trees. There is a third type, my type, and we see the ecosystem. Worms, climate, birds, the spaces in between. This is the perspective organisations need to be successful in solving complex problems and thriving in change.
ChangeFlow uniquely blends four disciplines (two of which are multi-disciplinary in themselves): organisation development, culture and inclusion, change management and project management.

How can people connect with you?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChangeFlowConsulting/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dmorriskipnis/
LinkedIn Company page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/4862954/
Email: [email protected]
Website: http://www.changeflowconsulting.com

Twitter handle?
@ChangeFlow

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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