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Start-Up Disruption: Are You Just Disrupting Yourself?

CFSG's Eden Rose discusses the ongoing fascination with disruption amongst start-ups and why true disruption is so difficult to achieve.

As human beings we are subconsciously wired to value consistency, longevity and reliability. For all our smartphones and Google, experience tells us that as a species we are actually not very good with change - how is that new diet going?

Personally, I find this ongoing fascination with disruption and innovation strange when to a large degree they are counter-intuitive.

Haven't We Always Loved Consistency?

Regardless of how progressive you might think you are, people in general value products and services that display longevity. It tells us that something works and can be trusted – think Alka Seltzer. Somehow we gravitate towards these products and services even when there might be an alternative.

However, the rise of the digital age has seen a fundamental move towards embracing change.

In the business world this was most evident in the 1990s when VC firms surged into fledgling Internet companies. Since then there has been an insatiable hunt for game changers and for good reason. KA-CHING!

On a broader societal level we are also seeing this happen. I know it is a slight example, but just look at how teenagers quickly adopt new social media platforms over “old behemoths” like Facebook.

Think back to the 80s, did you (or your parents) even consider swapping your VHS to laser disc?

Hell, it took me 16 years to go from a Discman to an Ipod, then to my Iphone.

Real Change Is Hard

Consider the poster boys of disruption, Apple and Google. They came in and smashed the old guard. Importantly, both companies were able to successfully quash those feelings of uncertainty and lessening control that disruption can trigger.

So why have so many start-ups and early-stage companies failed in this regard?

I believe there are two broad reasons:

  1. The change they are championing is not in fact a meaningful change to the way things are currently done (i.e. not genuinely better).
  2. The change they are championing is just too great and/or too soon.

Given all the buzz, a lot of today's entrepreneurs end up pursuing disruption for disruption’s sake. However, they soon discover what they already know.

Change is hard

Given the abundance of apps and IT ideas trying to disrupt, entrepreneurs should stop to ponder the following questions:

  • Am I genuinely disrupting anything?
  • Is my disruption better, cheaper or easier than what exists?
  • Am I trying to disrupt too much?
  • Is my target audience ready for my disruption?

Not easy questions to answer.

It takes more than a great idea to create genuine change in any field. It is more than hard work as often the stars need to align (i.e. a bit of luck).

Of course this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive for change. The rewards are there. It just means that we need to recognise that genuine change is hard.

If you would like to discuss how CFSG Ventures can help rapidly accelerate the growth, of your start-up or early-stage business we invite you to contact us.

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