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Archive for the ‘Innovative Ideas’ Category

Recently I wrote a blog post on “Donate your Desktop” a New Zealand organization that had thought outside the box and found an untapped advertising/social entrepreneurial opportunity. In this post I am going to write about Taxiback.com a British company whose similar innovative thinking has enabled them to find a new untapped market to offer consumers cheaper transportation.

So what is Taxiback.com?

Every day across the world taxis take passengers to the airport and other destinations, charge their fee, drop the passengers off and then often return to their base empty. Essentially the empty ride back to base is a missed opportunity, to gain additional revenue from potential passengers heading in the same direction. Taxiback.com has capitalized on this previous missed opportunity, by providing the technology to create a return load service which links taxi drivers to potential passengers.

How it works:

Potential passengers enter where they are traveling to and from and the site functions as an auction where taxi drivers can place bids. Within 24 hours the 3 lowest bids are sent to the passenger, who can then arrange their transportation direct with the taxi company they select.

The benefits:

The cab companies and their drivers’ benefit from extra revenue and tips they wouldn’t have otherwise received, while passengers benefit from lower fares. This concept is also sustainable saving fuel and time.

I think this start-up has a lot of potential and could work well in other countries. I particularly could picture it in the larger US cities. However, my take home message from this concept is for readers to consider what other missed opportunities may exist in their industry, to rethink a task in order to create new sources of revenue as taxiback.com have done.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

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A screen shot of the True Office application

In recent months I have read several articles in he business press of forward-thinking companies who are incorporating the gamification trend in to their training programs.  Gamification in this context can transform a training program in to a story telling video game experience with progress-based scoring and rewards.  This approach if optimized correctly can greater captivate the employee’s attention and enhance the learning experience, to achieve greater knowledge retention.

Fortune Magazine recently featured an example of True Office’s compliance game training applications.  The applications take the form of an interactive story, told in a fast paced manner over the course of about 20 minutes.  Following the game’s completion, trainees complete a 10-minute quiz to confirm their understanding of the material. Here is the True Office demo:

True Office applications are delivered by the cloud and are compatible with almost any device.  The video below explains a little more about the True Office application software:

As you can see in the video above True Office consider their software to be a way to greater engage my generation the Millennials, when doing compliance training.  Since my generation has grown up with technology and are accustomed to interaction, True Office believe their applications which use tablets and mobile technologies are far more suited to engaging what they refer to as the ‘New Media Workforce’ than binders and videos from the 80’s.  I couldn’t agree more, this approach is very current and relevant to the 21st century business environment.

In addition to the obvious advantage of making compliance training less tedious for employees, the program also offers advanced analytics.  Companies using the True Office game are able to obtain exact figures of how long employees spend reading policies.  Such information is greatly helpful for compliance protection in the case of liability suits.  In addition the analytics can help companies to identify areas where additional training is needed.  For example, if employees consistently make the same mistakes on the quiz, areas of confusion can be addressed in additional training or can be sued to revamp the current training process.

The analytics and fun aspect of gamified training programs demonstrate great potential, but what do you think?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Donate Your Desktop is an innovative application created in New Zealand, which enables Mac or PC users to donate their desktop background to raise money for charity.

The Opportunity:

When you think about it, your computer desktop is a wasted space that may at best display photos and at worst be a bland computer selected design.  Since people look at their desktops frequently this idle space represents a potential advertising opportunity.

How it Works:

Companies pay Donate Your Desktop to advertise on people’s desktops.  75% of advertising revenues are then donated to charity.  People can choose to download and install the Donate your Desktop application.  The download process is simple, no credit card details are required and all a user has to do is select a charity.  Current New Zealand charities include Oxfam, WWF, Breast Cancer Foundation and the Starship Foundation (which raises money for child healthcare).

The application does not disturb normal computer usage and it is risk-free and no access is permitted to any files on your computer.  The application merely sits on the system tray and allows the current desktop background to be replaced everyday with a new advertising image.

Each day on computers using the Donate Your Desktop application, a different wallpaper will be displayed advertising that day’s sponsoring company.  Advertised images have been designed to be attractive and visually appealing (see example advertising image to the left), to avoid user irritation.

The Vision:

Donate Your Desktop offers great potential to make a difference in the world as the company describes in their vision statement:

‘There are over a billion computer users across the world that could be helping those in need.  Our vision is to turn your collective efforts into large ongoing donations to our partner charities.’

While Donate Your Desktop is currently only available in New Zealand, there are plans to launch in other countries across the world soon.  If you would like to be notified once the application is available in your country please register your interest at this link.

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In recent years many people have expressed concern regarding Facebook’s ever-changing privacy policy and use of user data to generate advertising revenue. A few years ago a small group of New York University students came up with an idea to try to create a new kind of social network where users rather than companies, own their personal data. The students called their idea of social freedom Diaspora and posted a thrown together amateur video on crowdfunding website Kickstarter to try to raise $10,000 to create this social network. The video far exceeded expectations raising $200,641 before coding had even begun.

The Original Diaspora Concept

The student founders of Diaspora envisaged an owner-centric social network, where users didn’t have to be concerned about their data being exploited. On Diaspora, users could store data on a server of their choosing (either their own or sign up on for someone else’s) and use, share or delete the data whenever they chose.

Using open source software the founders hope that Diaspora can challenge Facebook and destroy the notion that only one social network can dominate the market.

The Challenge

Currently Diaspora is a private site with a small dedicated following. Without any marketing more than 600,000 people have requested invites to the site. However, this is obviously a miniscule number of people in relation to Facebook’s hundreds of millions of users. When Diaspora opens to the public later this year, they will need to be able to offer other reasons beyond data ownership to entice people to join.

Potential Differentiation Opportunities for Diaspora

One idea the company is exploring relates to the possibilities that could open up for people who own their own social network data to greater analyze, learn and profit from it. Along these lines a data locker model is being explored where users can choose to share their data selectively with businesses they trust.

Diaspora is also working to add greater artistic ownership to the site, to allow users to control how each post appears visually, in order to greater display their personalities on their profiles. Once this prototype becomes a reality users will be able have creative control over their page and status update layout, font, and how photos and videos are displayed. The idea is to allow users to create innovative page imagery that they could be proud to share. Users can also share their Diaspora profile on other social network sites, which will help Diaspora to recruit new users.

Diaspora’s Potential

A recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek on Diaspora suggests that:

‘The data economy’s “disregard for individuals” is a ticking time bomb, that increasingly large security breaches and that feeling of being tracked will slowly shift consumers to demand more control. And that could mean a larger audience for Diaspora.’

In June Diaspora will join the startup accelerator program Y-Combinator. Y-Combinator has helped launch cloud storage site Dropbox and house/vacation sharing website Airbnb which I wrote about last week among other companies. It is hoped that Diaspora will evolve during its time at Y-Combinator with a possible public launch later in the year.

The recent success of Instagram illustrates that users like creative control, which suggests that Diaspora could be successful by giving users design freedom. However, so many social networks have failed to compete with Facebook. MySpace for example, offers users more creative freedom than Facebook, (albeit not as much as Diaspora is proposing) and is no longer popular. Time will tell how Diaspora performs, but what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. Meanwhile if you would like to learn more about Diaspora check out the project website and to request an invite to join click here. 

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Airbnb PinterestE-commerce company Airbnb, began in 2008 in San Francisco as a house-sharing website, helping people to find a place to sleep for the night when local hotels were sold out.  Today Airbnb has over 100,000 listings in 192 countries and has expanded to incorporate other rentals such as parking, storage, bikes, cars etc.

The video below sums up Airbnb’s basic concept:

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, intends Airbnb to become an online marketplace enabling small businesses and entrepreneurs to participate in what he refers to as the “sharing economy.”  Current users are typically independent and have an average age of 35 years old.  It is hoped that Airbnb can eventually enable its users to locate or offer almost anything they want to rent, while managing the transactions through Airbnb’s online transaction management system.  Chesky, recognizes that Airbnb’s scope is potentially endless, though caution is needed:

“There are so many things we can do; the most challenging part of this is to figure out what not to do.”

Airbnb PinterestThe current issue of Fortune magazine suggests that Airbnb may even have the potential to become the next eBay.  Indeed, this e-commerce company has made money from day one, by charging a commission fee of 6 – 12% on each transaction.  The company has certainly been successful in winning the support of high-profile investors including actor Ashton Kutcher and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman.

Whether or not Airbnb can realize their vision will like any other company be based on their ability to outpace their competition.  Imitation websites for bikes, ride shares, office space and other things have emerged and as the company diversifies it will also face competition from other websites that allow small businesses to have online storefronts such as Amazon, eBay and Etsy.  Airbnb hopes to differentiate themselves by paying close attention to detail to all aspects of their service, by being user-driven, and by focusing on ease of use with their 3-step buyer and seller transaction process.

Interested in learning how to use Airbnb? Check out the video below:

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Ever since I began this blog 3 months ago, I’ve been waiting for an excuse to do an entire post on a new innovative idea from one of my favorite organizations: Disney. Fortunately for me given Disney’s innovation and creativity it didn’t take long. This week Disney began testing their high-tech FastPass (part of their NextGen project) at their Magic Kingdom park.

The current system: Since 1999 Disney theme parks have offered a virtual queuing system through use of a FastPass. Guests insert their park ticket into a machine at one of the busiest attractions and receive a ticket to return later in the day and skip the line. Typically guests can only get one FastPass every two hours and only a certain predetermined number are issued each day. FastPass holders cannot use their FastPass prior to its listed time, but in spite of its one-hour time slot it is unofficially (based on my experience as a cast member and guest) valid at any time throughout the rest of the day. The FastPass is essential for some attractions such as Soarin’ over California which in my experience typically has long lines.

The proposed system: Disney’s NextGen project is a “next generation experience” technology project rumored to cost over $1 billion. Part of this project is expected to result in the creation of guest wristbands implanted with RFID microchips. Prior to arrival guests may be able to pre select a number of attractions for FastPass, reserve show seats, book character-greeting slots etc. This information would then be downloaded into the RFID microchips, to interact with sensors located throughout the Disney parks and resorts. Additional attraction interaction features may also occur based on the information obtained on the chip on the guest’s specific interests.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/pazca/6993985474/

The “test sensor posts” and the current FastPass

The current test: This week at Disney’s Magic Kingdom park in Orlando, FL blue RFID sensor posts with a Mickey mouse symbol have been temporarily installed throughout the park. A small number of selected guests have been given bands to scan and test. As they scan their band, reservation data is sent to a cast member’s iPad. The bands are intended to provide faster access to attractions than the current FastPass system.

The full extent of what Disney’s NextGen experience could be, is still under wraps. But one thing is for sure the scope for what RFID technology could do to enhance the Disney park’s experience is potentially endless. I know I would love to test this technology, but what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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BuyMyFace.com

Of all the innovative ideas I’ve written about in this blog, BuyMyFace.com may be the most bizarre. BuyMyFace was created in September 2011 by two University of Cambridge graduates Ross Harper and Ed Moyse. Faced with a tough economy and poor job prospects the pair created a one-year innovative project to pay off their student loans of £50,000 (approximately $80,000). Beginning on October 1, 2011, every day for 366 days Ross Harper and Ed Moyse are selling advertising space on their faces. Harper explains:

“Companies can literally buy advertising space on our faces. We then paint whatever they’d like: a message or logo onto our faces,”

Each day photographs are taken of the pair’s faces and posted onto the home page on their website. The video below sums up the experiment:

Advertising rates initially started at £1 (approximately $1.59) a day and have since increased substantially based on demand. The rate to advertise on May 1, 2012 for example is £900 (approximately $1425). At the end of the 366-day experiment the website will be transformed into an online calendar offering continuous exposure for all buyers.

By optimizing social media platforms Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and writing a blog, this human billboard experiment has been optimized into an effective advertising campaign. As crazy as the idea may sound it has been a big success. Robert Dinsey from Altitude Solutions Ltd. sums up his company’s results from using BuyMyFace:

 “The two days we sponsored through BuyMyFace remain the highest traffic levels our website has experienced this year, with a massive concentration of new visitors.”

Some of the sponsoring companies have sent Ed and Ross to fun innovative places to generate greater buzz. For example Altitude Solutions sent the pair Skydiving. While one of BuyMyFace’s biggest sponsors Ernst and Young sent them on a ski trip, which the pair documented in a youtube video:

Unique daily website hits have reached as high as 8,500 a day. With the website receiving press from all over the world. Harper and Moyse have also received job offers for when the project is over. Better still advertising revenues as of April, 15 2012 cover 69% of the pair’s student loans, putting them well on track of reaching their target.

While BuyMyFace could definitely use a Pinterest account to generate further traffic, the idea seems to have working exceptionally well. For more information on this quirky campaign check out the BuyMyFace website.

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