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Disruption and the 'Uber of x’: what do we really mean?

Disruption and the 'Uber of x’: what do we really mean? inploi Team | 30.08.2016

Many founders in recent years have set out to become the 'Uber of x' - an industry disruptor; to "change the world". But what do all these phrases really mean? And how many people have actually achieved it?

Everyone who's ever taken a shower has an idea. It's the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference.” Nolan Bushnell, Founder of Atari.

Taking the leap into entrepreneurship is risky, with many company founders stepping away from more ‘conventional’ career avenues to pursue an idea. Ultimately, businesses nowadays no longer seek to re-invent the wheel, but more so to innovate and take an idea beyond its current horizon. After all, Bebo and MySpace were popular before the rise of facebook (and there are many other such comparisons). The idea need not be new, but more innovative than the one before.

Technological innovation has accelerated in the last few decades, from big data, through to apps, robotics and driverless cars; and along with these technological developments comes a snowball of buzzwords used by press to describe these products and the corporations that have created them.

When negotiating press relations as a tech startup, it can be challenging to tell whether describing yourself as “disruptive”, “the Uber of –“, or “innovative” will either capture a journalists’ attention, or send your email straight to the trash folder. More often than not, the use of the phrase ‘Uber of x’ seems like a poorly-used hashtag. Drawing an analogy to a non-synonymous product and depicting it in a different light to what it truly represents – in other words, ‘the Uber of x’ is poor branding. Or is it? With lists like this on Quora, perhaps we are missing an easy advertising opportunity.

And what about ‘disruption’? Are all these so-called disruptive technologies really challenging the status quo of their fields – changing the way that people interact with a product – manipulating human action or sentiment? Facebook and Apple are both prime examples that we would argue justify the title. For many, these products have re-shaped their daily lives and interactions. As Steve Jobs explains, sometimes people don’t know what they are looking for, before you put it right in front of them.

Increasingly in tech, it seems that “if you’re not trying to be disruptive, you’re not trying at all”. It is in order to remain competitive that companies like inploi must find a niche or an entire sector to disrupt – to find a gap in their consumer field, and create a product that truly changes the way people interact, communicate and transact. And beyond this, perhaps we are entering a new era of innovation, where the end game is not only disruption, but a form of innovation where disruption meets collaboration for the empowerment of people beyond the social.

The question we continue to ask ourselves at inploi is: Does the process of disruption make you a disruptive product? Or is it the outcome of your work that makes you a disruptor? It seems like we will have to wait to find out.

Want to read more about founding a startup? Check out this article by inploi's CEO and co-founder, Matthew de la Hey: Execution is more important than innovation.

About the author: Victoria Bushnell is Head of Marketing/PR at inploi.

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