Sweet new business ideas from around the globe

Every entrepreneur needs a little inspiration sometimes. Whether you’re the head of a start-up, a management consultant, marketing manager, business development director, trend watcher, or anyone else interested in creating or expanding companies, it helps to get a pulse on promising young ventures from around the world.

Springwise, an Amsterdam-based independent innovation firm, does just that. The company’s network of 8,000 spotters scans the globe seeking brain food for entrepreneurial minds.

Here’s a sampling of what they found:

1. The Match.com of housing: Shared Spaces in the United Kingdom helps potential real estate buyers find others with whom to pool their resources.

Faced with rocketing real estate prices, first-time homebuyers have a new option in the UK: partnering up with another buyer they’ve found online. Shared Spaces is a ‘co-buyer network’, enabling potential buyers to join forces. Like most online social networks, members begin by posting a profile. They describe their likes and dislikes, what they’re looking for in a potential co-buyer/roommate, and which towns and neighbourhoods they’ like to move to.

The website offers tips on doing background checks and advises co-buyers to have a deed of trust drawn up by a notary, outlining issues like ownership share and what would happen if one of the parties wants to sell or move out. Membership is currently free of charge.

Shared buying is meant to be a short term arrangement, whereby 2, 3 or 4 people help one another get a foot on the property ladder. While living in their shared space, co-buyers usually spend less than they would on rent and are able to share purchasing and owning costs. This means they’re able to work towards the goal of selling the property, turning a profit, and making their first solo home purchase.
Website: http://www.sharedspaces.co.uk

2. Household recycling plant makes it easier to be green. Ecopod, a home compactor for cans and plastic bottles, was created in partnership with BMW DesignWorksUSA.

Ecopod’s E1 Series is a household recycling center that changes the way consumers take out their trash. The appliance houses a compactor and provides an efficient way to crush, store and redeem recyclable beverage containers, specifically plastic bottles and aluminum cans.

Consumers throw their bottle or can in the appropriate slot, step on a foot pedal, and enjoy the satisfying sound of compaction. The compacted container falls into an internal bin which can be removed for redemption or curbside disposal. Each pod has storage capacity for approximately 50 crushed containers, while an upper compartment has additional room for glass bottles, newspapers and other recyclable materials. Everything is neatly stored and ready for the next step in the recycling chain.
Website: http://www.ecopod.org

3. Turning phone calls into phonecasts: members call Pheeder to leave an audio message that’s distributed to their friends, colleagues or regular listeners.

Voice over IP isn’t just making phone calls cheaper. It’s also spawning innovative services that make calls smarter. Case in point: a new US start-up called Pheeder allows users to communicate with groups of people simultaneously, with just one phone call. A registered member simply calls Pheeder, leaves a message, and hangs up. Seconds later, the message is delivered to a pre-selected group of friends, who can either reply to the message or forward it to their friends.

Members can also subscribe to another member’s pheeds, turning phone calls into subscription phonecasts. (Will phoneblogs be the next podcasts?) Micro-broadcasting aside, Pheeder is a useful, time-saving service for consumers, whether they’re coordinating a business meeting or a playgroup.
Website: http://www.pheeder.com

4. Let your buses do the talking: Yell is running a GPS-controlled advertising campaign on London buses with local search results reflecting a bus’s location.

London buses will soon carry the world’s first GPS advertising. Yell.com has retained 25 buses outfitted with digital LED panels that will show messages matching the bus’s geographical position.

Yell.com is using the GPS panel system as part of a five-month campaign to raise awareness of its local search facility. Besides intelligent buses, the campaign also includes “knowledgeable bus shelters” where interactive screens will highlight local shops, restaurants and bars as well as provide directions.
Website: http://www.yell.com

5. “Being space” for mobile warriors: flexible office space from Canada and South Africa.

The Coffee Office (TCO) is built for business – meeting spaces, workstations, conference rooms and café are combined into a centre for mobile professionals.
Based in Windsor, Ontario, The Coffee Office was founded to offer business professionals everything they need to stay productive outside a traditional office. The café section is open to everyone, and like the rest of the building, offers free high-speed wireless internet and plenty of power points.

The rest of the space is reserved for TCO members, who have access to private workstations and conference rooms. For a fee of (CAD) $90 per month, members have free use of the workstations and members’ lounge and to fuel productivity, 25 complimentary coffees per month. Conference rooms can be rented for $35 or $50 per hour depending on size, and private cubicles are available for $5/hour.

When it’s time for a power nap, a sleep module is available for $10/hour. Other thoughtful touches include noise diffusers to keep conversations private as well as access to technical support through its Nerd On Site.

(There are similar incentives in New York, which offers work spaces to writers or parents. The Yankee Group, a Boston-based research and consulting firm, estimates that 50 million people — about 38 per cent of the working population in the United States — are mobile workers, defined as those who spend at least 20 per cent of their time away from their primary workplace. These employees in the field, independent contractors, and freelancers all need a flexible base for doing business.)

The Coffee Office is currently working on expansion through franchising.
Website: http://www.thecoffeeoffice.com

The South African company Habitaz offers flexible office space with a novel twist: the pre-paid office card. While most of Habitaz’ lease plans are per month, their pre-paid GreenCard allows customers to rent space and facilities by the hour, minute or megabyte. The pre-paid card gives holders access to all of the facilities at Habitaz, which are charged by use.

Facilities include open plan workspace that’s open 24/7, with free parking and ‘bottomless’ Ethiopian coffee, administrative support and secretarial services.
Website: http://www.habitaz.co.za

Source: www.springwise.com