Don’t Start A Business, Disrupt An Industry (Yes You Can!)


Remarkable  and innovative entrepreneurs who are trying to build big companies focus on revolutionising their industries rather than create a startup they “flip” after a couple of years. Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. It’s got to be something that changes an industry, something remarkable that can go on to be a global phenomenon.

Think about the big picture but maintain consistent actionable steps that can get you there. The likes of Dropbox, Quora, Udemy, Airbnb and Square changed their industries with products and services that are being used by millions of users. These startups are now the standard to disrupt (but they used to be just new startups trying to do it).

According to 99designs Co-Founder, Matt Mickiewicz, disruption is not a process, it’s a way of thinking and seeing things. He explains that there are five essential questions you need to ask yourself in order to turn an industry on its head. He further states that disruptive innovation has two sides to it. On one hand, you’re making a whole bunch of people very happy, on the other hand, people who are very invested in the status quo lash out and fight back against you.

These are great questions that can spur you on to think about what you can possibly do to disrupt an industry and make a global impact.

1. What processes are inherently broken, overpriced, or frustrating?

2. What type of assets currently have no liquidity and need a marketplace to connect buyers and sellers?

3. How can you create an offering 10x or 100x better than the alternative?
(Make something so irresistible that people will advocate for it)

4. What could be provided 90% cheaper and apply to a much wider market?

5. What could you provide for free, or at a cheaper rate, through alternative monetization strategies?

It usually takes the same amount of work to run a the small company as it does a big company (except that if you sell the small company early, the work ends sooner).

Michael Hinshaw and Bruce Kasanoff argued in their book (Smart Customers, Stupid Companies: Why Only Intelligent Companies Thrive, And How To Be One Of Them) that if you can totally eliminate your industry’s persistent customer pain points, you will be on to something big.

They further stated, “Each industry has practices that drive customers crazy.Technology providers drive customers crazy with technical support that often requires long waits on hold and hopelessly complex interactions (“Just find the serial number on the back of your device and type that into the space provided along with your IP address and the exact wording of the error message you encountered”).” Unsurprisingly, this is the exact type of practice that causes customers to believe a company is behaving stupidly.

What practices exist in your industry that drive customers crazy? How do all companies in your industry behave stupidly? Identify these types of practices, wipe them out and you will attract new type of users who are frustrated with their current product or service.

Think: can we turn our process or perspective around, to look through the customer’s eyes as though they were the company and we were the customers?

“When I co-founded LinkedIn the tech industry was in a deep depression. I looked at all the opportunities created by the Internet and had the idea that eventually everyone would need a professional profile online. The disruption was that people were able to directly reach the best candidates rather than hoping for responses from a listing in the paper or an ad on a Web site.” –Reid Hoffman, founder @LinkedIn.

According to Reid here is how entrepreneurs can reinvent the future.

1. Build a network to amplify your company — That network includes investors, advisors, employees, customers, and others.

2. Plan for good luck — Sometimes entrepreneurs are surprised when something good happens, and they must take advantage of it by changing their plans.

3. Maintain flexible persistence — The art is knowing when to be persistent and when to be flexible and how to blend them.”

4. Pivot on key data! Know when to change!

5. Maintain your aspiration but always look for good perspective on how you are doing. It is very easy for creative innovators to get caught up in their own story.

6. The things a smart person learned a decade ago won’t help you now – you’re doing things that have never been done before, and the world and the competitive landscape are changing at hyper speeds.

7. Do not pay too much attention to rules set by other people. Entrepreneurs are inventors.

8. Entrepreneurs sometimes just make new rules.

9. Very often entrepreneurs are given conflicting advice: “Be persistent! Stay committed to your vision!” The challenge is to follow them both, but know which advice is most appropriate for which situation.

Only a big, crazy idea can shatter the status quo. The innovative and disruptive businesses do things in a way that no one has ever done before. Only the craziest and most original minds among us can fully disrupt and reinvent the future.