Free Agent Nation: Is your business serviceable? Seductive? Supportive?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Free Agent Nation
Cover Free Agent Nation Daniel Pink

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER—This week, we’re spanning generations and perspectives in welcoming guest writers Kathy Macdonald, president of The Macdonald Group with four decades of helping organizations through changes, and Miles Grofsorean, a junior at the University of Michigan, facing career decisions that will shape his working life for decades to come. We will all have fun this week as they show us some very creative ideas from entrepreneurs. Here is their first column …

Microsoft just announced 18,000 layoffs, about 14% of its full-time workforce. It wasn’t long ago that a high-tech job at a place like Microsoft was the ticket to a secure future for hopeful Millennial men and women—not unlike how Boomers once imagined a job at one of the big domestic auto companies several decades ago. For a growing number of workers, the Fortune 500 no longer holds much appeal in terms of long-term job security.

When Daniel Pink described the start of this revolution in his still-popular book, Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself, he advised readers: The job-hopping, tech-savvy, self-reliant, independent worker is transforming America as these workers choose to sell their services individually or in creative new businesses. Many of these “free agents” are providing goods and services that earlier generations earlier could not have imagined.

“Power is devolving from the organization to the individual. The individual, not the organization, has become the economy’s fundamental unit,” Pink wrote.

The turmoil of this past recession has only sped up this transformation. For many, finding employment has become increasingly difficult. More and more people have shifted from finding a job to banding together and creating one. This is a trend found across generations from the Boomers who have given up looking for work to Millennials who have found entry-level jobs too few and too competitive—and are shunning the corporate world in favor of creating their own new ventures.

These new Free Agents are everywhere. Check out the local strip malls or the second floor offices on any Main Street in America. They work from home, they work in shared office spaces, and of course, in your local coffee shop.

What evidence have you seen of these new ventures in your area? Have you started one? Tell us about it.

Join us all this week as we take a look at these new ventures. We’ll look at three types: the serviceable, the seductive, and the supportive.

Each day we will ask you to judge: Are you interested in these ideas? Will they make it? Or not?

PLEASE, leave a comment below—and share this series with friends by clicking on the blue “f” Facebook icons or the small envelope shaped email icons. This is a great time to invite friends along for this intriguing series. Tuesday: We’ll show you a cool new bicycle tool—and a high-tech park bench!

Free Agent Nation: Patchnride and Soofa, a cool bike tool and a high-tech bench

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Free Agent Nation
Soofa developers in a park with their device

That’s no ordinary park bench! It’s a Soofa, a high-tech hub away from home. From left are Soofa’s developers: Sandra Richter, Nan Zhao and Jutta Friedrichs.

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER—This week, we’re spanning generations and perspectives in welcoming guest writers Kathy Macdonald and Miles Grofsorean. In this five-part series, they are reporting on some very creative ideas from entrepreneurs. Here is their second column …

We are exploring our new Free Agent Nation, this week by showing you some remarkable products and concepts in three areas where entrepreneurs are bringing new products to market: Serviceable, Seductive and Supportive.

Our question all week: What do you think of these ideas? Will they make it? Think about this: If an idea catches your eye this week, you can make a real difference by simply sharing these columns with friends. Use our email or Facebook icons. Some of these projects just need a handful of people spreading the news. But—that’s only if you like these ideas. This week: You’re the judge.

SOOFA: A PARK BENCH? NO, A POWERFUL HUB

Soofa, a project developed by the Changing Environments spin-off of MIT’s Media Lab, is an outdoor, solar powered bench that charges your phone while giving you information about the surrounding environment. For example, the benches will inform you of the weather forecast and current noise level in the area surrounding that bench. The data is then will be uploaded to the Soofa website for individuals to view. Changing Environment’s founding team created their company to develop small-scale, solar-powered solutions for urban businesses, college campuses, and resorts alike in the form of furniture. Their mission statement: “Our core value is to help cities, campuses, corporations and resorts to update their urban context for the mobile generation.”

The co-founders are three women who share the goal of getting people out of their homes and into a smarter and more sustainable city. “We want to connect people to their city with smart technologies,” says Nan Zhao, co-founder of Changing Environments and PhD candidate at the MIT Media Lab. Her co-founders are Sandra Y. Richter and Jutta Friedrichs. The three women were just invited to be part of a White House-sponsored entrepreneurial fair and they brought one of their units to the big Washington D.C. event.

Like their idea? Will they make it? You could help them simply by telling friends.

PATCHNRIDE: BIKE TIRE BLOWN? NO PROBLEM!

Patchnride bicycle repair kit demoYou can watch the brief Patchnride demonstration video, below. When a nail ruins a bicyclist’s day, this handy little device about the size of a small flashlight saves the day. Or, as the demo guy puts it after he sees the nail: “Well crap! This sucks! But it’s not the end of the world, ’cause I’ve got this little thing!”

Patchnride was formed by a group of cyclists with a passion for the environment. According to the company, there are an estimated 20 million flat tires a year in the United States, most of which end up in landfills. This is because most bicycle tires, when punctured, send millions of bicyclists to a repair shop for replacements. This creates waste—and often costs cyclists around $20-25 per tire. Not to mention the time to take the bike to a repair shop! The technology in Patchnride allows cyclists to permanently repair punctures themselves, saving time and money.

Click the video screen below to watch the brief Patchnride demo. If there’s no video screen in your version of this column, first try clicking on the headline and reloading the column. Still no video? You also can find the demo on YouTube.

Like this idea? Will it succeed? You could help to insure its success simply by telling friends.

PLEASE, leave a comment below—and share this series with friends by clicking on the blue “f” Facebook icons or the small envelope shaped email icons.

Free Agent Nation: Scented Jeans? ‘Ficks’ a hangover? High-tech bookmark?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Free Agent Nation

Fragrance Jeans

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER—This week, we’re spanning generations and perspectives in welcoming guest writers Kathy Macdonald and Miles Grofsorean. In this five-part series, they are reporting on some very creative ideas from entrepreneurs. Here is their third column …

America isn’t the only Free Agent Nation, and today we’re taking you on a quick trip around the world to show you three more products we’d like you to rate—and tell friends (via the blue-“f” Facebook icons or envelope-shaped email icons) if you think these ideas are worth sharing.

Yesterday, we looked at Serviceable ideas. Today, we focus on the second “S”—Seductive ideas.

PORTUGESE FRAGRANCE JEANS?

Portuguese fashion brand, Salsa, has created scented jeans.

The pants, made from a blend of cotton and elastane, are embedded with microcapsules of fragrance. According to the manufacturers’ sales pitch, many jean enthusiasts believe that jeans are best left unwashed to protect their style and texture. Obviously, this can lead to undesirable side effects, which prompted Salsa to develop the product. They claim their fragrances will last up to 20 washes, and you can choose from 5 different scents: apple, blueberry, strawberry, lemon and orange.

CALIFORNIA FICKS HANGOVER RELIEF

Ficks Cocktail fortifierIf scented jeans are designed to keep young people smelling sweet even if they socialize night after night—a California company has created Ficks to take care of another problem associated with too much partying.

It’s a hangover solution, an “all natural cocktail fortifier” that was created in tandem with Fortitech, the company that formulated Vitamin Water. Their products are based on “years of research on scientific studies related to alcohol metabolization, liver health and medical causes of hangovers.”

Even Amazon now sells Ficks and so far the six reviews posted on the product page are voting 2 to 1 in favor of Ficks. There are four 4- and 5-star reviews vs. only two 1- and 2-star reviews; no one is wishy washy about this one—not a single 3-star review.

BRAZILIAN READING REMINDER

Dancing the night away? Worried about hangovers? Well, millions of people aren’t tempted in either direction. In fact, a Brazilian company is launching a small high-tech device that encourages—more reading.

Tweet For a Read is a campaign launched by a Brazil-based Penguin-Companhia publishing house. They recently developed a computerized bookmark with a WiFi-enabled computer, timer and light sensor. When the book is closed, the light sensor sets off the timer. When it’s been too long since you last opened the book, the bookmark (which is linked to your Twitter account) will notify the author’s Twitter account, which in turn will send you a reminder to continue reading the book in question. The tweets are actually pre-written by the author, or are phrases taken from the book you’re reading.

Here’s a short video about this product:

PENGUIN BOOKS | Case Tweet For a Read from Rafael Gonzaga on Vimeo.

Like this idea? Will it succeed? You could help to insure its success simply by telling friends.

PLEASE, leave a comment below—and share this series with friends by clicking on the blue “f” Facebook icons or the small envelope shaped email icons.

Free Agent Nation: Pavlok wrist band? Jibo the family robot? Kitty bistro?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Free Agent Nation

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER—This week, we’re spanning generations and perspectives in welcoming guest writers Kathy Macdonald and Miles Grofsorean. In this five-part series, they are reporting on some very creative ideas from entrepreneurs. Here is their fourth column …

pavlok-bandYOU can make a difference this week by telling the world what you think of our series of entrepreneurial ideas. So far, we’ve looked at Serviceable and Seductive ideas. Today, we’re reporting on some ideas in the Supportive sector—potentially helping us with a wide range of human needs.

ZAP! THE PAVLOK BAND?

Some of these ventures appear flashier than others. For instance, those of us in need of help breaking bad habits can invest in Pavlok. This shock bracelet can be programmed to monitor the wearer’s behavior and deliver an electric shock when his or her goals are not completed. It follows the principles of Pavlovian conditioning–the idea that a behavior can be eliminated by associating it with a positive or negative stimulus.

This idea is just the latest offering from a prolific Indian-American blogger and entrepreneur: Maneesh Sethi, best known for his Hack the System schemes to leap ahead in a tough economy. A couple of years ago, Sethi went viral with news that he had hired an aide to sit next to him while he worked—and slap him anytime he strayed from his work to check out social media. That slapping experiment led Sethi to develop this wrist band, which has even been mentioned by Jimmy Fallon. See the video clip below …

“Say, Hi!” Jibo the Family  Robot?

There are other entrepreneurial ventures that provide all around assistance for your daily life. Jibo, a robot that resembles the Pixar lamp, is installed with two hi-res cameras, 360° microphones, a speaker, an on-board computer and WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. Jibo recognizes it’s owners’ faces and voices, so that it knows who it’s speaking to in its Siri-like voice. Jibo can also be synced with other WiFi and Bluetooth capable devices so it can activate them depending on the owner’s habits. Jibo can, it seems, do anything from taking family photos to reading stories aloud to children. It’s hard to summarize the complete range of Jibo’s capabilities, but this informational video can:

MEOW! A KITTY BISTRO?

The products of the supportive sector are not limited to assisting humans. Bistro, a computerized cat feeder, uses facial recognition to monitor individual cats’ facial expressions to identify any potential health problems. It does this by comparing the images of a running compilation of images of the cat’s faces. It can even track multiple cats. And that’s not all! This device keeps track of food and water intake, and uses its onboard computer to send the data and images to your smartphone.

These supportive products offer more assistance than their serviceable and seductive counterparts. But will that make them more successful?

Do you think Pavlok is more for show or a functional product?

Would you want Jibo to be part of your family, or is having a highly intelligent computer so close to your family an intimidating prospect?

Is buying Bistro worth the money?

Like these ideas? Will they succeed? You could help to insure success simply by telling friends.

PLEASE, leave a comment below—and share this series with friends by clicking on the blue “f” Facebook icons or the small envelope shaped email icons.

Free Agent Nation: Will HitchBOT make it? How about the amazing HelpDesk?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Free Agent Nation

Meet HitchBOT video from Ryerson University

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER—This week, we’re spanning generations and perspectives in welcoming guest writers Kathy Macdonald and Miles Grofsorean. In this five-part series, they are reporting on some very creative ideas from entrepreneurs. Here is their fifth and final column …

Young entrepreneurs are launching new ideas every day, as we’ve been reporting in this week’s series “Free Agent Nation.” Of course, the “nation” we’re talking about here is bigger than the U.S. Free agents around the world are coming up with fresh solutions to daily problems that span international boundaries.

HIGH TECH: Will HitchBOT make it?

In fact, as we complete our series, one such experiment is crossing North America from the Atlantic shores of Nova Scotia all the way to the Pacific. At least that’s what researchers David Smith (McMaster University) and Frauke Zeller (Ryerson University) are hoping! Every day, this summer, new headlines are popping up as their computer commuter, HitchBOT, tries to reach its goal thousands of kilometers away.

Many of the entrepreneurial ideas we’ve summarized this week try to build relationships between computers and humans. HitchBOT literally tests the strength of this relationship. Smith and Zeller aim to answer the question: “Can people trust robots?” To find the answer they created HitchBOT, an intelligent robot that is hitchhiking across Canada. Equipped with tweeting capabilities, HitchBOT will engage with its drivers during each trip and tweet information about its travels and location so that others can pick him up.

You can watch HitchBOT’s progress at the experiment’s website. (As this column is published, the little guy has made it past Toronto.) You also can learn about HitchBOT in this brief video made by the creators …

AND … LOW TECH: An amazingly cheap Help Desk from India

Americans joke about a simple fact of life today. Often, when we call for help, we’re reaching someone sitting at a Help Desk in India.

While that huge nation is known for its growing high-tech sector, the nation also is trying to help its millions of rural school children, many of whom grow up in harsh conditions. Students sit and write on the floors of dusty rooms—sometimes stirring up dust themselves from dirt floors. A non-profit organization named Aarambh is launching an extremely low-tech solution to improve these schools.

Even better is the fact that this new Help Desk meshes neatly with other cardboard recycling systems! Aarambh simply takes bundles of flattened cardboard boxes, ready for recycling, and turns them into portable book carriers for students can easily unfold into desks. Want to see how this works? Watch the video …

All this week, we’ve been exploring various new ventures that are in part a response to the transformation we are seeing in the economy–more and more people are shifting from finding jobs at well-established companies—to creating their own.

We’ve given examples of at least three types of “answers”: serviceable, seductive and supportive entrepreneurial ventures.

Where this will go is anyone’s guess, but will you be a part of it?

Like these ideas? Will they succeed? You could help to insure success simply by telling friends.

PLEASE, leave a comment below—and share this series with friends by clicking on the blue “f” Facebook icons or the small envelope shaped email icons.