In our latest edition of the HuffPost Innovators Series, we've highlighted a company that's bringing sustainability to the denim market, a startup that hopes to be the Expedia of ground transportation and one firm that has a particularly interesting take on the problem of globalization. Rural America Onshore Outsourcing hopes to convince the business world that workers from rural America can be as cost effective -- and high-performing -- as their counterparts overseas.
The firm works as a placement agency for IT, marketing and design workers, giving companies that offshore an "alternative in their own rural backyard," says CEO Christopher Hytry Derrington.
To submit an innovative entrepreneur, startup or established company, click "ADD A SLIDE" below and upload a short description and picture of the founder or business leader you'd like to nominate. (Note: Please skip the marketing jargon and keep your descriptions short.) If your story is compelling, a HuffPost staffer will contact you to learn more about your story.
Which company is most innovative? Check them out and vote below:
Number of Employees: 600+ Based In: Two Rivers, Wisconsin Founded: August, 2008 Funded By: Self-funded Five-Year Plan: Expand to all 50 U.S. states. A growing number of U.S. companies are saying goodbye to Bangalore, India and hello to America’s boondocks. Firms that previously outsourced work to cheap job markets in foreign countries are increasingly finding they can save almost as much money hiring Americans in rural towns. "It's really a win-win situation. The person in Dodge, Kansas is making more money on average than his neighbors and the U.S. companies are now getting services performed for them at close to offshore rates," says Christopher Hytry Derrington (pictured), CEO of Rural America Onshore Outsourcing. Rural America connects U.S. workers who live in regions with low living costs and low wages with companies that outsource IT, marketing and design projects. Derrington says they provide “American talent who are used to thinking and operating like Americans" at costs that are 25 percent to 40 percent less than the cost of employees based in U.S. cities, and typically just 17 percent more than the cost of overseas workers. About two years ago, Derrington was the CEO of a cash-strapped start-up that "had to offshore to India not once, but twice -- both times with dismal results." For a number of reasons, including communication differences and sub-par project management at the overseas firms, the work he sent to India was not getting done on time or within budget. Then, on a personal trip to rural Wisconsin, Derrington discovered he could hire entry-level IT workers in the region for just 20 percent more than the workers he employed overseas. That discovery ultimately lead to him starting Rural America. Now, his firm gives U.S. companies that can't afford the high cost of labor in America's metropolitan areas, and are dissatisfied with their overseas resources, “an alternative in their own rural backyard.” -- Nathaniel Cahners Hindman, Huffington Post Submitted by HuffPost User Wendy Kalman Hersh: "Rural America OnShore Outsourcing serves as a resource for companies looking to outsource functions they can’t or won’t tackle in-house. Thanks to technology and a unique business model, co-Founder and CEO Christopher Hytry Derrington was able to create a company that can give each client the people best suited for the job at hand, regardless of where they are based."
Number of Employees: 2 Based In: Miami, Florida Founded: July, 2010 Funded By: $40,000 from undisclosed angel and $25,000 in prize money from We Media’s 2010 PitchIt! Challenge Five-Year Plan: Become the location for independent music on the web. Independent musicians face one particularly exhausting reality: music promotion often takes just as much time as actually playing the tunes. Here to “turn an artist's die-hard fans into their best sales-force," Audimated is a social network that helps artists and fans share, browse and monetize independent music. Audimated’s free site lets artists share their music and sell anything from their newest single to the sweatband their drummer wore at last night's performance. Fans can browse and buy music or paraphernalia, which fans then promote via their personal "store." If other users buy an artist’s tunes, concerts tickets or swag from a fan’s store, the artist and the fan can get paid. Artists get to choose whether or not they want to offer commission to the fans that promote their content. And Audimated, for its part, takes a 10 percent cut of all sales on the site. "We are crowdsourcing the marketing arm of independent music," says Audimated's co-founder, Lucas Sommer, who, with his partner Andrew Levine, launched in beta this past July. They’re adding a new user every hour and have amassed 510 users since the site’s birth. Though it’s still a baby, the co-founders have grown-up ambitions for Audimated: "The iTunes and MySpace model is decaying, and we're looking to become the location for independent music on the web," says Sommer. -- Nathaniel Cahners Hindman, The Huffington Post Submitted by HuffPost User Audimated:"Audimated is a new social platform, which helps artists and fans share, discover and monetize music. For the first time, a music community gives fans the ability to make money sharing their favorite independent content, while giving artists the tools they need to make money in their music career. Artists submit their musical works and products for sale and allow their fans to become commission based sales affiliates for that content. Audimated will revolutionize the independent music space."
Number of Employees: 8 full-time Based In: Raleigh, NC Founded: 2008 Funded By: Initially, Victor Lytvinenko sold a video camera and a bicycle for $4,000. They also received a loan from their local credit union. Five-Year Plan: Growth and sustainability. Raleigh Denim began with husband and wife team Victor and Sarah Lytvinenko making jeans in their own apartment. Their idea: what if jeans were as locally sourced as the menu at a forward-thinking restaurant. Now, two years later, their jeans are being sold everywhere from New York City to Beverly Hills in about 25 stores, including Barney’s New York. “I think that people were really craving authenticity,” says Lytvinenko, who still personally signs every pair of denim that leaves the Raleigh, North Carolina factory with his wife. Raleigh Denim’s raw materials are all sourced from within 200 miles of Raleigh, which has led the company to build and strengthen alliances along every step of their supply chain. “Sustainability is one of the first questions that we ask ourselves in any project that we take on. I think that in five years we will be able to form alliances along every step of the supply chain, from the farmers to the retailers. We want to make smart, better goods,” says Lytvenenko. Just last week, Barney’s ran an ad in the New York Times featuring Raleigh Denim. “Its surreal”, says Lytvinenko. Going forward, the Lytvinenkos aim to remain thoughtful and sustainable, “We started Raleigh Denim on our own, so we can be idealistic about how and where we make the things we make. That’s a lot of what sets us apart." -- Hallie Seegal, Huffington Post Submitted by HuffPost User Jenny Hwa:"Raleigh Denim is an innovative brand based in Raleigh, NC founded and run by Sarah and Victor Lytvinenko (ages 29); they are a creative couple crafting artisanal and sustainable jeans. Raleigh Denim’s craft is an honest blend of traditional and modern."
Number of Employees: 111 Based In: Manhattan and Belgrade, Serbia Founded: 2004 Funded By: The founder and several investors contributed $10 million, another unnamed financial partner donated an additional $10 million. Five-Year Plan: Global expansion. Alex Mashinsky founded GroundLink as a dissatisfied customer. “I was constantly traveling all over the world meeting business partners. Booking hotels and airfare were easy, but ground transportation was always a nightmare. It was unpredictable, there were always extra charges, and I realized that if it was a huge problem for me, it was a huge problem for everybody else,” says Mashinsky. So Mashinsky created GroundLink as a “search engine for ground travel,” similar to what Expedia is for air travel. With a goal to aggregate every car service operator in the world (they currently work with over 45,000 providers), GroundLink makes it possible to book ground transportation at a price that's actually cheaper than a taxicab. Since taxicabs currently dominate the ground transportation industry, Mashinsky says many people aren't aware that car services even exist. In many cities, according to Mashinsky, it is actually 20-30 percent cheaper to travel from an airport to downtown by a town car or limo service than it is to hail a cab. For instance, it costs around $79 to hail a cab from Newark airport to downtown Manhattan, but it costs only $49 if you book a car with GroundLink. GroundLink just launched an iPhone app to help with booking on the go and recently announced a partnership with GoGo wireless. If you book any segment of a trip with GroundLink, you will receive complimentary WiFi on over 3000 different airlines, including Delta, United and American. The company has also grown 70 percent in the past year. -- Halllie Seegal, Huffington Post Submited by HuffPost User: groundlink:"Groundlink is revolutionizing the ground travel industry by providing a centralized marketplace where hotels, airlines, travel agents and other players can provide their customers with door-to-door rather than point-to-point service. Customers now have the ability to book any kind of ground transportation including sedans, taxis, SUVs, limos, shuttles and public transportation all from one account, anywhere in the world."
Number of Employees: 52 Based In: Rockton, Illinois Founded: December, 1999 Funded By: Self-funded Audacious Five-Year Plan: Go global and voyage off the Internet into other media avenues. FatWallet has long been one of the leading sources for collective bargain hunting on the web. The company’s massive library of online coupon codes is built by its more than one million users, who submit the online coupons they’ve received via email, as well as by over 1,000 merchants with which the company has a relationship. Users can browse through the coupons using forums and an advanced search function. Searching in FatWallet by merchant, product category or keyword returns what offers are available primarily based on the popularity of the offer itself. FatWallet’s model is based around a commission it gets from the merchants whose offers and products they promote on their site. They share this commission with users that make the purchases in the form of cash back. “Commissions from merchants also make up over 90 percent of our company’s revenue,” says CEO Tim Storm. But not all merchants are so friendly. Years ago, FatWallet was embroiled in a number of legal battles with major retailers, including Walmart and Best Buy, who tried to bar the site from posting their Black Friday deals. FatWallet stood up to the giants, even filed a suit of their own, and the retailing behemoths ultimately backed down. -- Nathaniel Cahners Hindman, Huffington Post