The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.
Each weekend, Mashable selects startups we think are building interesting, unique or niche products.
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This week we focused on three companies creating new ways to connect online and offline.
Tutorspree connects students and tutors. Taap.it is a local Craigslist that connects buyers with listings nearby, and QR Living makes a bracelet that makes it easy for offline acquaintances to connect online.
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Tutorspree: A Peer-to-Peer Market for Tutors
Quick Pitch: Tutorspree is an online marketplace for private tutors.
Genius Idea: Screening tutors before listing them on the site.
Mashable’s Take: Just like Airbnb is a peer-to-peer alternative to hotels and Getaround is a peer-to-peer alternative to car rentals, Tutorspree is a peer-to-peer alternative to tutoring agencies such as Sylvan Learning.
Anybody can apply to offer tutoring services on the site. Tutorspree screens each applicant by hand, and all of its 3,500 tutors have (or are in the process of obtaining) at least a four-year degree. Once they’re approved, tutors get a profile page and become part of a searchable database through which students can hire them. They control their own schedules and rates, but pay a commission or fee to Tutorspree for each hour they bill.
Eventually co-founder Aaron Harris says the startup will offer online tutoring in addition to its current in-person sessions.
“It’s definitely part of the plan,” he says. “We see 1-on-1 learning as the goal, and enabling it in whatever way is most convenient for the student/teacher pair is a major concern — but we need to make sure that that experience is good enough. We don’t just want to throw a decent solution out and see what happens.”
Tutorspree is more flexible than a traditional tutoring agency, and with its screening and transparent rating system, it’s more reliable than Craigslist listings — a smarter way to get smarter, if you will.
Taap.it: An App for Local Shopping
Quick Pitch: Taap.it, formally “Social Listing,” is an Android and iOS app that lets users sell their stuff or search for specific items nearby.
Genius Idea: Making Craigslist local and relevant to small businesses.
Mashable’s Take: To post an item on Taap.it, just snap a photo and write a description. Other users nearby can now search for it and contact you if they’re interested.
The company is hoping to appeal to not just individuals, but also small businesses that want to advertise individual items.
QR Living: A QR Bracelet
Quick Pitch: QR Living makes wristbands with QR codes that link to social profiles.
Genius Idea: Merging offline and online connections.
Mashable’s Take: Instead of spelling out contact information when you meet someone in person, QR Living automatically connects you online through a wearable QR code.
We’ve seen a similar concept that allows medical professionals to determine whether a patient has received medication by scanning a QR-code bracelet, but QR Living’s purpose is matched more closely with companies such as MagnetU, which uses a tiny gadget to automatically build you a proximity-based social network, or Bump, which exchanges contact information between tapping phones.
As QR codes creep into fashion, they’re becoming a promising method for merging online and offline worlds. We are, however, a bit skeptical about the approach that QR Living has taken with its wristbands.
Instead of connecting to existing social profiles, users fill out a separate QR Living profile to link with their QR codes. Because few people are eager to enlist in their 350th social network, this makes the product significantly less appealing. The company has also taken an odd approach to the design of the bracelet. It urges customers to “rub the symbols on your wristband for good luck and motivation…for instance, rub the ‘Cash Flow’ symbol when purchasing lottery tickets for good luck.”
Competitor Skanz, with its simple bands and option to link with existing social media profiles, makes a better proposition.
Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark
The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.
This story originally published on Mashable here.