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How Twitter accounts are the new food truck

Feeling like opening a business? Start with a bunch of small bets and invest in the winners. Alex Tsamouras provides customers with a jumbo lump crab sandwich on the Feelin’ Crabby food truck. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Here’s a look at five ideas that could impact the way we live, work and play.

1. Twitter as the food truck.

It takes a brave soul to launch a restaurant as a majority fail within a few years. A less risky approach for the aspiring food entrepreneur is to open a food truck. The financial commitment is significantly smaller. If the food truck proves itself and builds a following, those customers are likely to follow it to an eventual restaurant, boosting its chances of success there.

We’re seeing how a similar script can play out with media companies. Given the limits of advertising and fierce competition online for consumers’ attention, starting a Web site from scratch is a herculean task.

A safer and smarter way to wade into the business is to launch a handful of Twitter accounts, see which one gathers a massive following and then take the “restaurant plunge” with the top account by launching a Web site. At the Atlantic, Alexis C. Madrigal has a good read on two teenagers who run the popular Twitter account @HistoryInPics:

My analysis of 100 tweets from the account this week found that, on average, a @HistoryInPics tweet gets retweeted more than 1,600 times and favorited 1,800 times.

For comparison, Vanity Fair‘s Twitter account — with 1.3 million followers — tends to get a dozen or two retweets and favorites on any given tweet.

The account has over 900,000 followers and the teens plan to launch a Web site once @HistoryInPics and its sister account @EarthPix hit a million followers. Because social networks drive so much Web traffic, it makes tremendous sense to stake a place on one of them before starting a Web site.

2. Google, the energy company.

For my money there’s no more interesting company on the planet than Google. Here’s a deep look at their interest in energy and what it means for utilities, via Utility Dive:

Google has invested over $1 billion in renewable power plants over the years and appears poised to be a major player in the energy sector for years to come. … In 2011, the company consumed 2.7 million megawatt-hours of electricity — roughly the equivalent consumption of Austin, Texas.

3. A cheap battery to store renewable energy on the grid.

Aquion has developed a sodium ion battery, a cheaper alternative than the lithium ions batteries that are the norm in smartphones and laptops. Wind and solar power can’t replace traditional power sources until we can efficiently store these renewable energies on batteries. From the MIT Technology Review:

By providing an affordable way to store solar power for use at night or during cloudy weather, the technology could allow isolated populations to get electricity from renewable energy, rather than from polluting diesel generators. Combining solar power and inexpensive batteries would also be cheaper than running diesel generators in places where delivering fuel is expensive.

4. Monsanto’s “supperveggies.” From Wired:

The company is introducing novel strains of familiar food crops, invented at Monsanto and endowed by their creators with powers and abilities far beyond what you usually see in the produce section. The lettuce is sweeter and crunchier than romaine and has the stay-fresh quality of iceberg. The peppers come in miniature, single-serving sizes to reduce leftovers. The broccoli has three times the usual amount of glucoraphanin, a compound that helps boost antioxidant levels. …
The lettuce, peppers, and broccoli — plus a melon and an onion, with a watermelon soon to follow — aren’t genetically modified at all. Monsanto created all these veggies using good old-fashioned crossbreeding, the same tech­nology that farmers have been using to optimize crops for millennia.

5. South Korea: The world’s most innovative country? Thursday I mentioned how the country is eyeing a 5G network that would be phenomenally fast. That kind of infrastructure is to be expected from a place known for innovation. Sweden took second and the United States third in Bloomberg’s rankings.

Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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