by: Idris Mootee

Two interesting businesses launched this week and both worth special mention. First one is Wal-Mart has decided to compete with Craiglist and Kijiji (an eBay company); they quietly launched a free online classified service, and sell practically anything to anyone. It is still at pilot stage and currently carries 30 mil items. I searched for Tiffany and I got this Tiffany bracelet for $135. There's no fees involved for buyer and seller. I don't think eBay likes this idea.

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The service is totally free through Walmart.Oodle.com. It is a way to attract their 130 mil customers who shop online every week. The service was provided by Oodle.com which was launched 3 years ago in San Francisco by former eBay Inc. and Excite executives. There is no business model but it doesn't cost much to run it either. The success rate is 50/50.

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Former CEO of Technorati David Sifry’s latest new venture is Offbeat Guides, a service for printing customized travel books. When you go to the site, it asks you 5 basic questions: your name, your destination, your trip's dates, where you live, and where you're staying . With that, it goes out to the web and finds related content and assemble it. You can tweak the content: if you don't know where you're staying you can be sure the hotels section is included; if you already have a place, you can remove it and save some paper. 

 
It is probably the first personalized publishing platform. You can add sections on food, events, transportation, etc. Books will always be customized for your travel dates and will be printed with the weather forecasts, exchange rates, and other relevant and timely information like local events happening when you're there. Your custom book will be sent in 4 days and costs $24.95 (including PDF download). I think this model will ultimately evolve to ad sponsored where the book is free. To make this really work, they need to bring in the local to create unique content. Quality control of the content is crucial. Extreme personalization is next as I can see people looking for the Antique Shopping in Paris, Electronics Shopping in Akihabara or Cosmetic Surgery Guide in Seoul. I like the business concept as many have explored this over the years.
 
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There was this Nile Guide launched a few months ago. Nile Guide is a travel planning and what it does is they aggregate travel data from over 10 sources, including Citysearch, OpenTable, and Expedia, and add its own reports and reviews from local experts for 80 international destinations. Then all information is made searchable from within a tool that takes into consideration both objective and subjective factors related to your preconceived preferences. The four main search types on Nile Guide: food, lodging, nightlife, and “see & do”.

When you search from within anyone of them, you can filter the results in real-time using a variety of criteria. For example, you can choose to view only restaurants in a given city/region that are lively, quiet, off beat, romantic, family, or business entertainment etc. And when you're done planning your trip, simply download a PDF of your itinerary for FREE (with lots of ads).

 
A few more interesting start-ups here for you to check out:
 
Ffwd: This is a video content site with "social awareness and predictive recommendations".
 
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Lil'grams: Not just another online baby photo site. The most precious moments of your baby's life are countless and now you can keep, track, and share anything about your baby.

 
SocialMedia Networks: An attempt to build an advertising network for social platforms and apps.
 

Xumii: A utility that gives you access to your social network contacts on your mobile phone. Pretty cool idea.

Original Post: http://mootee.typepad.com/innovation_playground/2008/06/walmarts-latest-innovation---free-classified.html

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