3 Startups Making a Big Difference with Small Innovations
Most innovation is not a game-changer or breakthrough in nature. It is about creating novel and valuable solutions to problems and small but effective adaptations to processes, ways of working and models.
Very few startups live it. And very few have innovative ideas that can bolster transformation, create a new philosophy or set new standards. But innovations don't have to be dramatic or breakthroughs to impact people's lives. They can be as small as business model tweaks, changes to a process, improved customer service or enhancement to a product. Innovations can be as simple as offering a new way of doing things that adds value. Think of wheels on suitcases, for example.
More often than not, innovation is not about drastic changes and coming up with something big. It can be a strategy, business model, service or product that is both useful and unique. It is a product that makes a difference, promotes wellness, helps people build their strengths, or solves a problem many are troubled by. Even small innovations can improve efficiency, quality, safety, and comfort, leading to new and better experiences.
Born out of innovative problem-solving and creative thinking, small innovations create alternatives and a better way of life. And it is often startups that come up with small innovations in areas like customer service, care delivery or home design. From enabling healthy lifestyles to rescuing unsold food, innovative startups empower people, and here are three examples of startups that make a difference with innovations.
Cadence (U.S.A.) — Remote Patient Monitoring
Wearable technology is increasingly used for patient monitoring, enabling providers to take action in emergencies and patients to track their health. Some wearables are specifically designed to support patients with chronic conditions and delay or reduce exacerbation through real-time monitoring. Monitoring outside the clinical setting enables such vulnerable patients to avoid physical contact and access routine and preventive care.
The onset of the pandemic caused many chronic patients to avoid or delay procedures, treatments and emergency care, creating severe health complications. With wearables, chronic patients can be more active in their care and more proactive in seeking treatment without worrying about visiting the doctor's office.
To help patients manage chronic conditions while reducing the need for physical contact, health technology company Cadence designed a remote monitoring solution that collects wellness and health data and integrates that information with patients' medical histories. Health data is used to create personalized care plans that keep patients engaged and reduce the risk of hospitalizations.
Cadence's monitoring solution is specifically designed for patients with chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The platform enables patients and physicians to assess blood pressure and glucose trends, thus allowing for better control and medication titration.
Ministry of Supply (U.S.A.) — High-Tech Shirts
The concept of high-tech clothing is relatively new, but designers and entrepreneurs are already seeking new ways to push boundaries. You will find garments that sense posture and movement, Internet-connected outwear and even socks that track the wearer's altitude, speed, steps and distance traveled.
Smart clothes aren't mainstream yet, but some exciting developments exist in the high-tech clothing world. Ministry of Supply, for example, claims to have invented "simple solutions for complex problems" through performance fabrics that improve comfort and are produced sustainably. Using space-age fabrics, their suits absorb heat, cool the skin in hot weather and release heat back when the body cools down. They also come with odor control and are machine washable, wrinkle-free, stretchy and super soft.
While all their products focus on heat control, their intelligent jacket has taken it one step further. Using machine learning, the Mercury jacket learns to adjust heat to the wearer's optimal temperature. It monitors user preference, motion, body temperature, and the weather to create the perfect microclimate. Meanwhile, added voice technology enables the user to adjust the temperature through Amazon Alexa.
Science is built into all of their products and even their supply chain. Ministry of Supply minimizes its carbon footprint and environmental impact through on-demand knitting, using recycled materials and reducing air freight. To reduce its footprint even further, the brand has introduced its "4-step method to zero", eliminating emissions throughout its supply chain, from material sourcing and manufacturing to shipping.
Too Good to Go (Denmark) — Reducing Food Waste
Food waste is a significant issue for societies, economies and the environment. About 1.3 billion tons, or 30% of all food, is wasted or lost annually, costing over $940 billion. Food waste is also a solvable problem, and Too Good to Go is proof of this. Launched in 2016, it has become a global marketplace for soon-to-expire food, connecting consumers with wholesalers, bakeries, supermarkets, cafes and restaurants via its anti-food waste app.
More than 90,000 food stores in 14 countries have joined the service since its launch, selling surplus food at a reduced price. In exchange, they either pay a commission for each "magic bag" sold via the app or a yearly subscription fee. Partnering stores update the app to connect with consumers and add their unsold food.
Customers who range from young families to bargain-hunting college students search for stores in their area and purchase food via the platform. They can specify categories like fresh greens or baked items or only see stores with unsold food. Instead of individual items or portions, customers get a magic box or bag with food close to the end of its shelf life. By rescuing products that would otherwise be thrown away, Too Good to Go empowers consumers and businesses to fight food waste.
Very few innovations are major breakthroughs or inventions that change the world. Most are improvements to existing products, processes and business models that add value to the customer experience and the marketplace. Innovations are novel products and ways of working that help reduce costs, increase productivity or improve customer service or staff retention.
Innovations with a business purpose help improve employee relations and the knowledge, expertise and engagement of staff. Those with a social dimension have the potential to improve the quality of life of a particular group of people. And even simple social innovations can contribute to solving a specific problem that society is facing, be it food waste reduction or ineffective agricultural practices in poor rural communities. Whether business or social-oriented, innovation doesn't have to be disruptive or world-shattering. It is often small or incremental, solving today's problems in new and better ways.
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