Category Archives: Technology

ReThink: Awareness

If you are reading this, you have probably been elsewhere on the Internet, which means you have most likely heard about the human rights campaign known as KONY2012. While the seriousness of the campaign and its potential ramifications (both positive and negative) are not to be taken lightly, UnConventional has decided to feature Invisible Children’s latest push to make a difference in Central Africa for one reason. What is unconventional is not the campaign; what is unconventional is the way the campaign is being promoted. It was designed to be spread by word-of-mouth, which in our digital age means via social networks. This it has done exceedingly well: the KONY2012 has been viewed 14.1 million times since it was posted two weeks ago on Vimeo and over 55 million times since it was posted fourĀ days ago on YouTube, literally creating an overnight sensation (if you just crawled out from under a rock and haven’t seen the video, you can find it here or here – we are refraining from jumping on the blogwagon and embedding it in the midst of our commentary). By using Twitter hashtags such as #KONY2012 and posting links on Facebook, the word spread faster than wildfire, bringing back memories of Arab Spring revolutions powered (and tracked) by social media. Whether the campaign ultimately succeeds remains to be seen, but if nothing else, it has proven that awareness is finding new and powerful vehicles that are reshaping the way we interact with our world.


ReThink: Personal Finances

With the advent of mobile banking, a slew of new startups have appeared that offer ways to transfer money from one party to another via a mobile device. While all operate on essentially the same idea of bypassing traditional banking institutions (we’re talking institutions like checks, ATMs, wire transfers, etc), each has its own niche. Back in UnConventional’s early days, we highlighted Dwolla, which lauds itself as the “online cash option;” it essentially acts as an electronic wallet. Today, we’re taking a look at a Serve, which has its own unique structure and function.

Beyond the electronic wallet function shared by most like-minded companies, Serve (which is actually a branch of American Express, which was incidentally nominated as one of the most innovative companies by FastCompany) offers two stand-out features: the Serve card and subaccounts. The Serve card acts like a debit card for your Serve account, meaning you can use it to access your Serve funds anywhere American Express is accepted. This is especially useful if you are worried about your card being stolen or about going over your budget (think traveling). Subaccounts are just that: accounts within your main Serve account. Each subaccount also gets a Serve card, so you could, for instance, set up a subaccount for your daughter at college, allowing effortless financial provision for her while simultaneously keeping tabs on her spending. What’s more: Serve is almost completely free. Starting this June, the only fees associated with Serve are funding your account via a credit card (which is silly) or withdrawing funds more than once per month from an ATM. And we haven’t even touched on Serve’s widgets, which is yet another way American Express is proving itself to be rethinking personal finances from the bottom up.

ReThink: Web Security

We all hate them. Those annoying boxes that prompt us to “enter the following characters into the box below,” the characters which appear to have been scrawled by a two-year-old. Known as CAPTCHAs, they are designed to stop spambots from infiltrating secure systems by “proving” that the user is actually a person and not a computer program. However, their irksome qualities are coming to an end, thanks to rethinking being done by Are You a Human. Now, taking part in making the web more secure is fun, because Are You a Human uses games to prove your humanity instead of presenting you with intelligence-insulting, undecipherable script. It’s one more way innovation is improving our world, one booted CAPTCHA at a time.

ReThink: Accounting (Again)

Here at UnConventional, we believe that rethinking is a never-ending process. You might have noticed, therefore, that we rethink some things two or three or ten times, because one good idea deserves another. Today, we’re again rethinking accounting and taking a look at a company taking the next step in making accounting easier, simpler, and more user-friendly.

The reality of cloud computing is well upon us, and this holds no less true in the realm of accounting. Most new accounting products are in fact web-based programs that operate independently of any one computer. Xero is every bit in line with this new paradigm, but they have taken things a step further. Now, not only is keeping the books simple, intuitive, and manageable from any computer, it’s manageable from anywhere. Xero has unleashed the power of our mobile devices in the pursuit of cleaner, simpler accounting. No more receipts, no more missed transactions, and no more surprises. It’s one step closer to a world without clutter, confusion, and complexity, leaving our hands and minds free to work in our business, not in our accounting.

ReThink: Shoes (Yet Again)

Although UnConventional has rethought shoes twice before, shoes are always worth rethinking, so here’s the latest iteration of pedestrian innovation. And despite what seems to be a backward step (no pun intended) from our original shoe-related UnConvention, this one is worth mentioning for a specific reason, made all the more important by the promised magnitude of its production run: waste.

Until recently, the trend with running shoe construction was increasing cushion, stability, and resulting structure. We are witnessing a reversal, however, in the recent pursuit of lighter, freer, minimal-construction shoes, and Nike, not to be outdone, has released the Flyknit, the shoe that fits like a sock. Inventing brand-new manufacturing techniques, Nike has created a shoe with a seamless woven upper that reduces the shoe’s weight and, equally importantly, its waste. No cutting, no stitching, no scraps, no waste; the Flyknit is a step closer to a sustainable, high-performance shoe that leaves the competition begging for…less.

ReThink: Branding

No business can grow and prosper without an identifiable brand. However, branding is an expensive and time-consuming process, something that small companies cannot afford to do well, if at all. Now, thanks to Brands for the People, branding is simple, inexpensive, and attractive, making branding a snap. Focusing primarily on startups, Brands for the People allow clients to submit their product or business to multiple brand designers, who then propose different brand ideas. Clients simply select the branding they like best, and presto! the brand is created. And because Brands for the People requires their clients to be companies dedicated to doing good, the brands created do anything but add to the noise of modern, invasive, degrading branding. No fluff, no fat, no nonsense; it’s branding the way it should be.

(Note: Despite the high-quality video on their homepage, Brands for the People has decided to limit its exposure by not allowing it to be embedded in other websites. Hence, the above, dated, lower-quality video will have to suffice.)

ReThink: Brokerage

Traditional investment opportunities are rather limited for the public investor. Stocks, bonds, CDs, and derivatives of each pretty much define the extent of available places to profitably park extra money. However, SecondMarket is blowing open a number of previously semi-closed markets, such as private company stock, community bank stock, bankruptcy claims, and a variety of fixed income and private equity securities. Though probably not appropriate for Joe Stockholder, significant opportunities are available for the savvy investor as well as for sellers of its eclectic investments. In an age of mind-numbing complexity, SecondMarket is making access to the full spectrum of financial instruments simpler for all.

ReThink: Accomodations

Every night, tens of thousands of comfy beds lay cold and dormant, unused and forlorn. The beds are sad because they are so cold and lonely. The owners of those beds are sad because the beds are not making any money. Worse still, sleepers in hotels are sad because they are paying an arm and a leg for a generic, uncomfy bed in a cookie-cutter hotel. Airbnb saw all of this sadness and decided to do something about it. Creating a place for beds and sleepers to meet, Airbnb allows unused beds to be used and sleepers to find unique, affordable places to sleep. Anyone can list their unused bed (or room, or apartment, or house, or guest house, or condo, or teepee, or yurt) to people in need of a place to stay. Beds are happy because they get slept in. Bed owners are happy because they make money on an otherwise unused bed. And sleepers are happy because they found the perfect place to stay at just the right price.

ReThink: Credit Card Payments

Accepting credit card payments is a hassle. With merchant accounts, device fees, transaction fees, and swipe fees, accepting plastic can be complicated and costly. Not so with Square. Using a mobile device and a simple card reader, Square allows merchants to accept credit cards with one low, flat transaction fee. The interface is simple, the process is painless, and the payouts are made in twenty-four hours. Rethinking credit card payments means anyone can accept plastic, anywhere, anytime. Now, you can afford to think inside the Square.

ReThink: Computers

Is the thing you are using to view this blog actually necessary? Google doesn’t think so. The computer as we know it is only slowing us down: it requires updates, it needs virus protection, it can get stolen, it can break, and it gradually slows down the longer you own it. Enter the Chromebook. Essentially an Internet interface, a Chromebook runs on the idea that everything that you could possibly need to do on a computer can be done on the Internet, in the cloud. Therefore, why would you need anything more than just access to the Internet? No programs, no operating system, and most importantly, no loss of data from losing, breaking, or theft of your computer. As a result, Chromebooks are smaller, simpler, and less expensive than a traditional computer. Freedom? It’s here. Welcome to the new normal.

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