Twitter, Facebook and Google have shown that in Silicon Valley, a world-changing idea can start with just a few people in a garage.
Across the Valley, the next generation of Mark Zuckerbergs are hard at work, polishing their ideas before unleashing them on an unsuspecting public. We've tracked down some of the most interesting for you, and found they really could change everything - from the how you shop, to what you eat.
Lyft - Taxis with added facial hair
Visitors to San Francisco can’t help but have noticed an odd addition to the city traffic in recent months - cars sporting giant pink moustaches.
They are Lyfts, a kind of crowdsourced cab service that lets anyone (once they’ve been vetted) join up as a driver or use the firm’s brilliant app (available on iOS and Android) to find a ride. You can pay with a single click once you're done, and rank your driver (although you might want to be generous: drivers can also rank their passengers).
It’s the future of taxis, many believe - and it's certainly more fun. Lyft lets drivers customise their cars - if you're in San Francisco or Los Angeles, watch out for the Disco Lyft, complete with LEDs, TVs, surround sound and mirrorballs.
Lyft has also created its own culture: passengers and drivers have a sense of community and belonging you just don't get with a 'normal' cab.
However, there are some rather unusual customs to be aware of. For example, don't be scared when you get in for the first time and the driver fistbumps you, for instance - it's a Lyft tradition.
Lyft has aggressive expansion plans, so watch out for it in a city near you soon (assuming the obvious rules and regulations can be sorted out). Co-founder Logan Green told Stuff that he'd love to expand internationally, and launching in London is one of the firm's long term goals. [Lyft]
Hampton Creek Foods - The End For Chicken And Egg Jokes?
Silicon Valley is no longer restricted to just technology - and Hampton Creek Foods is revolutionising what we eat.
The firm has used a secret mix of plants to create an artificial egg that is far cheaper and easier to produce than the real thing.
Backed by Paypal billionaire Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund and Bill Gates, it is already selling its artificial mayo product in Whole Foods stores in the US - and says it will be coming to the UK next year. In typical San Francisco fashion, the firm has lofty goals. “Our food system is broken, and in the past, society has decided to abandon horse-drawn carriages for cars and land lines in Africa for mobile phones,” Josh Tetrick, Hampton Creek's Founder and CEO told us.
“It’s time that we harness the intersection of technology and culinary expertise to leap over the chicken cages and carbon pollution, and into a food system that is better for everyone. It starts with mayo, but it certainly won't end there." [Hampton Creek Foods]
Smart Shopping With Bluetooth Beacons
Get ready for going to the shops to get a lot more hi-tech.
Estimote, based in Mountain View in the heart of Silicon Valley, makes small, low-power bluetooth 'Beacons' that can be popped on the wall in any store.
Walk in with your smartphone, and they can send you an offer, message or (in one terrifying example) even tell you what shirt goes with the trousers you've just bought.
The firm is already beta testing the tech with large retailers around the world (although it won’t say who), so look out for their distinctive boxes popping up on a shop wall near you soon.
Step away from the shop: Level
While Estimote is about smart shopping, Level is more about making sure you don't go bankrupt in the process.
It's a simple idea - a tracker for your bank account, showing how much you have to spend each day.
"It’s like fitbit for personal finance," Level claims - but don’t let that put you off.
It’s actually a neat little app that links to your bank account and shows you an at-a-glance view of how much you’ve spent today, and how much you have left.
You can set up daily budgets, and it’ll take into account everything from your mortgage payments and credit card bills to give you an instant look at how much you’ve got to spend. It may sound relatively simple, but Level is surprisingly useful - and has also just announced a $5 million Series A funding round, so it seems investors also agree it has potential. [Level]
Nifti - Another Way To Shop...
Yes, there really are a lot of start-ups working on shopping - but trust us, Nifti is one you'll want to use.
Backed by Google Ventures, it's a simple idea, taking advantage of the online shopping boom. Decide what you want to buy, and how much you're willing to pay, and the Nifti app will keep checking online until the price drops - at which point you get an alert, and can go empty your wallet.
It's incredibly simple to set up, and really useful - especially in an age where every retailer seems to have a permanent sale (yes, we're looking at you, DFS).
“Patience pays in online shopping, but only if you’re willing to spend a ton of time checking back and forth on the things you want,” said Nifti co-founder Nathan Sharp.
“Online prices change so much more often than we first realised. We built Nifti so that it’s as easy for shoppers to know when prices change as it is for merchants to change prices.”
It's a great little product, and we've heard it being talked about more and more around San Francisco - so get in early and bag yourself a bargain [Nifti]