While we love some of the ideas from the New York Times’ 32 Innovations That Will Change Your Tomorrow (hangover cures! Roller coasters with wings!), we somehow doubt many of them will dramatically change the way we live. If you really want to find the products, services, and business models that are going to reinvent the way we work, shop, and play, take a look at these nascent companies:
- 3D Printing. We’ve already seen some of the handiwork of MakerBot, the 3D printer company based in Brooklyn, and we continue to be excited by this truly game-changing technology. Instead of shopping online and having a plastic toy or tool shipped to you from around the world, you’ll be able to search for your favorite design online, modify it, and “print” it from your home print or local 3D print shop. This on-demand service will let companies reduce inventory and shipping costs, not to mention make prototyping even faster.
- Crowdfunding. The crowdfunding model made famous by Kickstarter is flipping the typical business model from “build it, and they will come” to “see where people go, then build.” Independent video game designer Double Fine recently raised more than $3 million for a proposed adventure game, promising to give investors a copy of the final version for a “donation” of as little as $15. This strategy was duplicated by inXile Entertainment for its property, Wasteland 2, raising just over $3 million. Other companies are also adopting the Kickstarter model, like SmallKnot, a start-up that lets people invest in local businesses in return for special benefits. Thanks to the recently passed JOBS Act, which will allow anyone—not just wealthy venture capitalists or angel investors—to invest in start-ups, we fully expect to see more variations on crowdfunding in the immediate future.
- Shared Ownership. ZipCar has attracted plenty of attention for its car-sharing model, but the “part-ownership society” is just getting started. People can now rent spare rooms to travelers through AirBnB, get a luxury dress for a night through Rent the Runway, hop on a bike for a crosstown ride on EcoBici, or borrow tools through SnapGoods. They’re ideal solutions given current economic conditions, in which consumers are short of capital or don’t want to take on the risk of making a one-time, expensive purchase.
These innovations might not be as attention-grabbing as analytical underwear, but do have the potential to affect every aspect of our lives. That said, we still eager await the arrival of our Hoverboards.