Disruption is the business mot de jour, applied liberally to tech start ups whose innovations are shaking their markets up in an alarmingly effective way.
But disruptive business is not just a digital tech phenomenon. Nor is it that new. Entrepreneurs have been hatching disruptive business strategies for years, and in some of the unlikeliest places.
1. Virgin Galactic and cosmic disruption
Richard Branson advocates disruption as the business model of choice for all entrepreneurs. And although more philanthropic crusader than serial entrepreneur these days, his ambitions for Virgin Galactic are as audacious and potentially disruptive as ever.
He said: “While NASA have done, and continue to do, incredible things, governments are not experts at running businesses. To go into commercial space travel as a private company could change the face of travel for generations to come.”
Not only will the venture send thousands of people into space at a fraction of what it costs governments to go to space, it will also put satellites into orbit more efficiently, bringing down the costs of telephone and internet access, and disrupting another industry for good in the process.
“I’m looking forward to being able to fly people, through point-to-point travel, around the world in a quicker, environmentally-friendly way. That is as disruptive as it gets,” says Branson.
2. Zappos’ shipping strategy
Surprisingly, neither creating a business community in Las Vegas, the least community-focused city on Earth, nor implementing Holocracy in the workplace rank as the most disruptive business ideas of Zappos chief Tony Hsieh. For him, he says, it was becoming the first e-commerce company to offer free shipping both ways in order to help alleviate customers’ concerns if the shoes they ordered didn’t fit.
3. Going Dutch: Shapeways shares power with the people
Disruption with democracy in mind underpinned the strategy behind Shapeways, currently a global leader in the 3D printing marketplace, headquartered in The Netherlands. In 2007 founders Marleen Vogelaar and Peter Weijmarshausen took the best of mass manufacturing and handmade to help people circumvent the major investments in upfront capital they needed to create the products they want rather than buy what was available on the shelf.
“While it is really disruptive, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, as we expect 3D printing to supplement traditional manufacturing and create new businesses, new jobs, and new wealth,” says Weijmarshausen.
4. Taking a bite of the British dentistry business
The UK’s private dentistry market, a model of service consistency, tradition and clinical excellence has also come in for a shake up, or at least the way in which it is promoted. Five years ago, dentistry advertising in the UK comprised a modest quarter page in the Yellow Pages, a one page website, and if the clinician was feeling particularly edgy, a sign outside their dental practice.
The idea of dentists doing anything even remotely disruptive was unheard of. When Dr David Hickey bought his practice, Southport Road Dental, in 2010 it was with the aim of attracting the niche sector of nervous patients by advertising and promoting the concept of ‘pain-free dentistry’.
‘Guaranteed pain-free dentistry or your money back guaranteed,’ yelled the practice website and marketing literature, shattering the complacency of many other dental practitioners in the area, who yelled back ‘false advertising’ and lodged complaints with the profession’s governing body; all in vain.
“We’ve always backed up our ‘disruption’ of the local dental market with video and testimonial proof from our growing list of patients,” says Hickey.
5. Irish eyes are smiling with CleverCards
Dominated by large publishers and with a century old business model, the greeting card industry was ripe for targeting by disruptive Irish entrepreneur Kealan Lennon whose tech start up Cleverbug is behind the mobile greeting card app CleverCards.
The app interfaces with the Facebook social media experience, allowing users to spot impending birthdays and other life events, customise pre-personalised cards using a number of advanced features, including face recognition, and send them from their smartphone or tablet.
“No more shopping for expensive, boring greeting cards with standard sentiments. In the last nine months, users have added 50 million friends and family members to CleverCards. That is disruptive,” says Lennon, who now has his sights set on the US greeting card market.
6. Digitaleo’s new age ‘nuage’
In 2004 Jocelyn Denis was the first entrepreneur in France to bet on mobile marketing, when he set up mobile marketing firm Digitaleo from his attic in Brittany, well ahead of the smartphone revolution.
The development of the Digitaleo platform was particularly visionary as the plan was to use the cloud to host the marketing solution, a system pretty much unknown in Europe at that time, while monetisation provided further scope for disruption.
“To stand out from the market leaders of the day, who were using online packaging models, we focused our strategy on a telephone subscription system, with subscriptions paid by phone service costs,” says Denis.
7. Accountants: creating history, not reporting it.
Even the accountancy profession hasn’t escaped disruptive intervention. Although TedX speaker and serial entrepreneur Paul Dunn spends his time nowadays globetrotting on behalf Singapore-based social enterprise Buy1Give1, back in the 90s, one of his earliest business successes shook up the well-ordered world of accountancy training.
Back then, accountancy training was dull, predictable, and directed at maintaining the status-quo, which Dunn, as a non-accountant, had a better view of than those who were embroiled in the process. So he created a single four-day training event in one place in Australia, The Accountants’ Boot Camp.
He charged three times more for it than a normal training program, staged it at a prestigious venue, and marketed it with a four-page mailing piece. He used the bootcamp to change the focus from accountants reporting on what happened, to accountants helping their clients create history. Within 24 hours, 170 of them had booked.
Within six months both the American Societies of CPAs and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) in the UK were marketing the program nationwide. When Dunn sold the company in 2000, there were 3,500 accounting firms in the network and 17,700 had been through the program.
“Even today, 20 years on when I meet them, they still say ‘It changed my life’. It changed mine too; disrupting always does,” adds Dunn.
(You can find the original article here)