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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

Benjamin Kwan, Co-Founder of TravelClef

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Making music to create a life for his family, Benjamin Kwan, started an online tuition portal and his music business grew from there.

What’s your story?
I am Benjamin and I’m the Co-Founder of TravelClef Group Pte Ltd, a travelling music school that conducts music classes in companies as well as team building with music programmes. We also run an online educational platform which matches private students to freelance music teachers. We also manufacture our own instruments. I started this company in 2011 when I was still a freshman at NUS, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

I was born to a lower income family, my father drove a taxi and was the sole breadwinner to a family of 7. I have always dreamed of becoming rich so that I could lessen the burden placed on my father and give my family a good life.

After working really hard in my first semester at NUS, my results didn’t reflect the hard work and effort I put in. At the same time, I was left with just $42 in my bank account and it suddenly dawned on me that if I were to graduate with mediocre results, I would probably end up with a mediocre salary as well. I knew I had to do something to gain control of my future.

During that summer break, I read a book “Internet Riches” by Scott Fox and I knew that the only way I could ever start my own business with my last $42 would be to start an online business. That was how our online tuition portal started and after taking 4 days to learn Photoshop and website building on my own, I started the business.

What excites you most about your industry?
Music itself is a constant form of excitement to me as I have always been an avid lover of music. As one of the world’s first travelling music schools, we are always very eager and excited to find innovative ways to a very traditional business model of a music teaching.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore and I love the fact that despite our diversity in culture, there’s always a common language that we share, music.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hands down, SINGAPORE! Although we are currently in talks to expand to other regions within Asia, Singapore is the best place for business. I have had friends asking me if they should consider venturing into entrepreneurship in Singapore, my answer is always a big fat YES! There’s a low barrier of entry, and most importantly, the government is very supportive of entrepreneurship.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have been blessed by many people and mentors who constantly give me great advice but right now, I would say the best piece of advice that I received would be from Dr Patrick Liew who said, “Work on the business, not in it.” This advice is constantly ringing in my head as I work towards scaling the business.

Who inspires you?
My dad. My dad has always been my inspiration in life, for the amount of sacrifices that he has made for the family and the love he has for us. He was the umbrella for all the storms that my family faced and we were always safe in his shelter. Although my dad passed away after a brief fight with colorectal cancer, the lessons that he imparted to me were very valuable as I build my own family and business.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
You can not buy time, but you can spend money to save time! With this realisation, I was willing to allow myself to spend some money, in order to save more time. Like taking Grab/Uber to shuttle around instead of spending time travelling on public transport. While I spend more money on travelling, I save a lot more time! This doesn’t mean that I spend lavishly and extravagantly, I am still generally prudent with my money.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more time to spend with my family and especially my father. While it is important to focus our time to build our businesses, we should always try our best to allocate family time. Because as an entrepreneur, there is no such thing as “after I finish my work,” because our work is never finished. If our work finishes, the business is also finished. But our time with our family is always limited and no matter how much money and how many successes we achieve, we can never use it to trade back the time we have with our family.

How do you unwind?
I am a very simple man. I enjoy TV time with my wife and a simple dinner with my family and friends.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Batam, it’s close to Singapore and there’s really nothing much to do except for massages and a relaxing resort life. If I travel to other countries for shopping or sightseeing, I am constantly thinking of business and how I can possibly expand to the country I am visiting. But while relaxing at the beach or at a massage, I tend to allow myself to drift into emptiness and just clear my mind of any thoughts.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Work The System, by Sam Carpenter. This book teaches entrepreneurs the importance of creating systems and how to leverage on systems to improve productivity and create more time.

Shameless plug for your business:
If you are looking for a team building programme that your colleagues will enjoy and your bosses will be happy with, you have to consider our programmes at TravelClef! While our programmes are guaranteed fun and engaging, it is also equipped with many team building deliverables and organizational skills.

How can people connect with you?
My email is [email protected] and I am very active on Facebook as well!
https://www.facebook.com/benjamin.christian.kwan

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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Before you enter a Startup or before you choose your founding team or new hires read, “Entering Startupland” by Jeff Bussgang

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Before you enter a Startup or before you choose your founding team or new hires read “Entering Startupland” by Jeff Bussgang.

Jeff knows how to spot and groom good culture, as the book session was held in Zestfinance a company he invested in and now, “The Best Workplaces for Women” and for “The Best Workplaces for Tech”, by Fortune.

These are the questions during the Book Launch.

How to know if a hire including the founder is Startup material?
Jeff says to watch for these qualities.

First, do the hires think like an owner?
Second, do the hires test the limits, to see how things can it be done better?
Are they problem solvers and are biased toward action?
Do they like managing uncertainty and being comfortable with uncertainty? And comfortable with rapid decision-making?
Are they comfortable with flexible enough to take in a series of undefined roles and task?

How do we know if we are simply too corporate to be startup?

Corporate mindsets more interested in going deep into a particular functional area? These corporate beings are more comfortable with clear and distinct lines of responsibility, control, and communication? They are more hesitant or unable to put in the extra effort because “it’s not my job”.

If you do still want to enter a startup despite the very small gains at the onset, Jeff offers a few key considerations on how to pick a right one.

He suggests you pick a city as each city has a different ecosystems stakeholders and funding sources and market strengths. You have to invest in the ecosystem and this is your due diligence. Understand it so you can find the best match when it arises.
Next, to pick a domain, research and solidify your understanding with every informational interview and discussion you begin. Then, pick a stage you are willing to enter at. They are usually 1)in the Jungle, 2) the Dirt Road or 3) the Highway. The Jungle has 1-50 staff and no clear path with distractions everywhere and very tough conditions. The Dirt Road gets clearer but is definitely bumpy and windy. Well the Highway speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

Finally Please – Pick a winner!

Ask people on the inside – the Venture Capitalists, the lawyers, the recruiters and evaluate the team quality like any venture capitalists would. Would you want to work for the team again and again? And is the startup working in a massive market? Is there a clear recurring business model?

After you have picked a winning team and product, how would you get in through the door?

You need to know that warm introductions have to be done. That’s the way to get their attention. Startups value relationships and people as they need social capital to grow. If you have little experience or seemingly irrelevant experience, go bearing a gift. Jeff shared a story of a young ambitious and bright candidate with no tech experience who went and did a thorough customer survey of the users of the startup she intended to work with. She came with point-of-view and presented her findings, and they found in her, what they needed at that stage. She became their Director of Growth. Go in with the philosophy of adding value-add you can get any job you want.

And as any true advisor would do, Jeff did not mince his words, when he reminded the audience that, “If you can’t get introduced you may not be resourceful enough to be in startup.”

Startupland is not a Traditional Career or Learning Cycles

Remember to see your career stage as a runs of 5 years, 8 or 10 – it is not a life long career. In Startup land consider each startup as a single career for you.

Douglas Merrill, founder of Zestfinance added from his hard-earned experience that retention is a challenge. Startup Leaders to keep your people, do help them with the quick learning cycles. Essentially from Jungle to Dirt road, the transition can be rapid and so each communication model that starts and exists, gets changed quickly. Every twelve months, the communication model will have no choice but to break down and you have to reinvent the communication model. Be ready as a founder and be ready as a member of the startup.

Another suggestion was to have no titles for first two years. So that everyone was hands-on and also able to move as one entity.

Effective Startupland Leaders paint a Vision of the Future yet unseen.

What I really enjoyed and resonated with as a coach and psychologist was how Douglas at the 10th hire thought very carefully what he was promising each of his new team member. He was reminded that startups die at their 10th and their 100th hires. He took some mindful down time and reflected. He then wrote a story for each person in his own team and literally wrote out what the company would look like and their individual part in it. In He writing each of the team members’ stories into his vision and giving each person this story, it was a powerful communication piece. He definitely increased the touch points and communication here is the effective startup’s leverage.

Douglas and Jeff both suggested transparency from the onset.

If you think like an owner and if you think of your founding team as problem solvers. Then getting transparent about financials with your team is probably a good idea. As a member of a startup, you should insist on knowing these things
Such skills and domain knowledge will be valuable. There is now historical evidence of people leaving startups and being a successful founder themselves because they were in the financial trenches in their initial startup. Think Paypal and Facebook Mafia.

What drives people to enter a startup?

The whole nature of work is changing. Many are ready to pay to learn. Daniel Pink’s book Drive showed how people are motivated by certain qualities like Mastery, Autonomy and Where your work fits into big picture. Startups do that naturally. There is a huge amount of passion and the quality of team today and as it grows then the quality of company changes.

The Progress principle is in place, why people love their startup jobs is not money rather are my contributions being valued? Do I see a path of progress and do I have autonomy over work and am I treated well?

Find out more about StartupLand on Amazon

And learn from Zestfinance

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