The entire Internet is now an episode of Shark Tank. Inventors with a good idea no longer have to go the traditional route and sell out to VCs and banks—they can take the product right to the consumer and test the waters for investment.
If you don't already know about the concept, it's called "crowdfunding." You work up a prototype for your product and float the idea out there, and if there are enough people willing to plunk down dollars to buy one, your invention is a go.
Three interesting new travel products are vying for your approval by taking "pre-orders," or a fancy code for "not yet in full production." The products may be untested, but the concepts are compelling.
Would you want to travel with any of these new inventions?
SittingBridge's Napwrap, $20, shipping December 2013, www.sittingbridge.com
Ever fall asleep on a plane and find yourself elbowing your seat mate? This lightweight, breathable arm sling, which is lined with bamboo velour, keeps your arms snug in a self-snuggling position.
When you're not napping, it'll hold your MP3 player or phone in place on your arm, where the headphone cord won't yank from the socket, while you do other things. Or it can wrap your luggage handle to make it softer.
This summer, it doubled its fundraising goal on Kickstarter and it's heading to an airplane near you.
Pop this tiny sticker onto the SIM card in your smartphone, and the instant you get to a foreign country, it'll scan the skies in some 200 countries for a local carrier that charges you fair local rates, not your homebound wireless company's rip-off prices—saving you huge amounts of roaming charges.
The sticker, which doesn't have to be removed in between trips, works in tandem with an app that monitors your usage of your iPhone or Android device. You may need to drop a little money into a pay-as-you-go account with the foreign provider you switch to during your vacation, but Knowroaming lets you do that from the app.
"It's a chair. It's mat. It's a hanger. It changes shape." That's the nutshell pitch from this versatile shoulder bag, 15 inches by 15 inches by 5 inches, by a German designer. The idea is if you use this product, you'll both have somewhere to stow your suits and your rear end at crowded airports or on impromptu picnics.
Will these products make it in the marketplace? Will they work for travelers? Time will tell, but it's fun to see people with good ideas have a shot at success without having to kneel for approval before the big corporations first.
Know of a great new travel product seeing Kickstarter support? Let Frommer's know about it!