How to be an effective disruptive startup
Every technological era comes with its focal points and concepts that generate buzz. It is no secret that for the past few years, disruption has been at the heart of every startup-related discussion. It’s actually become such a widely popular topic that one might wonder if we should disrupt the topic itself…
But before diving further into disruption and how to be an effective disrupter, let’s focus on the word itself. Disruption is defined as “disturbance or problems that interrupt an event, activity, or process.” Disruption is a brutal stop or change that can have negative consequences on a company, market or society at large.
So why get excited about it? Probably because, by nature, entrepreneurs and startups see great opportunities in change. And disrupting something can indeed open a world of unprecedented excitement – that is, if the friction that traditionally accompanies any disruption is evaluated, understood and properly addressed.
Disrupting a market or a technology indeed consists of changing the way things have been done in the past. It’s not just about making something cheaper, faster or even better. It’s about creating new ways that the customers and markets will adopt. And to be adopted, an offering must be frictionless – today more than ever.
So how is a startup or even an established company a legit disrupter instead of just a wannabe?
Firstly, one must understand disruption. From a consumer point of view, a disruptive offering is one that will make them wonder how they could possibly have lived without it for so long. It’s the typical case of the first smartphones. It changed forever the way people connect, interact and consume technology, entertainment and communications. From an industry point of view, a disrupter creates something that incumbents cannot economically respond to either because it is too exceptional, too cheap, or is something else entirely. But it is something that makes the incumbents stall in what will later be perceived as a past era.
It’s important to notice that essentially, it is the business model supporting a product or technology that is disruptive. Take a look at AirBnB. The technology was quite advanced and scalable, but not anything new. The business model however, was incredibly new, and left on the side of the road all traditional accommodation that couldn’t compete with deregulated prices, premium locations and that irresistible promise of experiencing holidays ‘like a local’. And there was disruption. There was a before AirBnB and an after AirBnB.
Another website focuses on the same concept but for only a community of adrenaline-pumping sport fans. It may find a market, survive, grow and even be acquired by AirBnB. But they didn’t disrupt – they built upon already achieved disruption.
The next thing to do to be effectively disruptive is to be genuinely humble. Realistically, what are the chances our idea is truly disruptive? Are we so innovative that our idea, product, technology and business model will rock the World? Maybe – and believing this is what makes us entrepreneurs. But maybe not – and realising this is an essential component of being a good entrepreneur.
There are millions of startups globally; some more or less successful than others. Not all of them are disruptive, and it is completely fine because all of them contribute to this incredible wave of innovation and creation that we are now experiencing. We should simply not pretend to be what we are not. If you are not a disrupter, fine, chin up – you have your rightful place in the Startup World. And if you are, congratulations! Push harder to bring the disruption as far as you possibly can, because thanks to you, an entire new generation of startups will emerge and participate in the awesome adventure of innovation.
To be an effective disrupter, I recommend focusing on continuously improving the experience proposed to the customers. Start by doing something good, and do it really well, with patience, focus and diligence. Surround yourself with people who can understand what you are trying to achieve and share your vision – in your teams, advisory board, board of directors and shareholders group. Disruption is fundamentally linked to the founder’s vision. You will have to build it, carry it, support it, fight for it, and be its first evangelist. And you will need a great deal of help To combat all the people who fear change and will dislike you for trying, constantly fighting you and your idea. So, get your army in marching order. Do well. Then do better, because you can go further. Finally, do the best. Thrive for it. It doesn’t necessarily mean your startup will be a disrupter, but one thing is sure – you will not disrupt much without being at the top of the leader board.
Lastly, always re-invent one-self. If you have managed to be a disrupter, don’t forget that right now there is someone, somewhere who has just decided to disrupt your startup and they will fight as hard as you did to succeed. So always challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone, because only when you experience the pain points of a market, its frictions and its gaps will you see a new path forward to disrupt again. It’s not my place to say whether Maestrano is disrupting the market or not, our customers do it better than us. But it is my place and my role to ensure on a daily basis that we always look at where we can take our company to keep being on the very edge of what can be offered to the SME market we address. As the CEO of a now global ex-startup, I see this as my primary mission. At least, I am certainly disrupting myself..