Disruption: disturbance or problems which interrupt an event, activity, or process.
Disruption has historically been a negative word. A naughty child might be accused of causing a classroom disruption and be sent to the headmaster’s office for punishment. But in the 2010s disruption became the height of cool. Hundreds of billions would be made by marauding bands of business disruptors. Groups of tech geeks would form a company with the sole intention of disrupting a particular sector. They would attract venture capital from some smart investors and become paper billionaires almost overnight.
Airbnb would spectacularly disrupt the accommodation industry, making hoteliers of everyone with a spare bedroom. The idea would take hold with the company growing to enjoy a US$30 billion dollar market capitalisation. Uber would make taxi drivers out of millions of car owners with similar success. Every prospectus would soon be built around this burning buzzword.
Amazon would aim the highest, looking to disrupt the entire consumer retail landscape, reaping founder Jeff Bezos a US$110 billion fortune while making only occasional and modest profits. Traditional retailers across the globe found themselves in a life and death struggle with this ubiquitous package delivery system. Many would succumb, unable to compete with this unstoppable force.
Facebook would disrupt the advertising market, ripping billions from the traditional media’s grasp by developing algorithms that would scan a user’s every post, every interaction with its insidious platform, searching for personally tailored marketing tie-in opportunities. If your eye lingered over a travel pic, expect to be hounded by ads for budget holidays for weeks to come. If the mainstream media is to be believed, Facebook now cultivates right-wing hate groups and is even responsible for the improbable election of Donald Trump. You’re welcome.
Netflix would disrupt the entertainment industry, gunning for television stations and ultimately the entire film industry. It would produce world-class content and release movie blockbusters for immediate consumption via its subscription service, cutting out several tiers of middlemen including cinemas and their popcorn suppliers.
Virtually all business success would become contingent on Google ratings and reviews. If your enterprise clambered to the top of related Google searches, fortunes inevitably awaited. Ma and Pa owned businesses that resisted the changes would be driven into the dust. Remember the Yellow Pages, with their quaint little descriptions and contact phone numbers? Gone. Disrupted into oblivion.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies would disrupt the very notion of money, threatening to wrest financial control from the hands of the central bankers with their printing presses and stated 2% inflationary targets that would inevitably drive the value of their fiat currencies to zero. Bitcoin market cap would peak at around US$815 billion in December 2018, only to endure wild fluctuations as traditional financial market experts grappled with the concept of privately owned wealth that was mined by thousands of computers and did not appear on a banking ledger.
Atlassian, a sort of facilitator of other disruptors, was the Australian start-up of the decade. They made software solutions to help other software and app makers find bugs, or something, going from a $10,000 credit card financed dream in 2002 to a multi-billion dollar enterprise within a few short years. In 2018 co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes slapped down a cool $100 million for a house in Sydney’s Point Piper in the nation’s most expensive ever residential property transaction.
What were you disrupting through the 2010s, other than your sleeping schedule? Is it too late to start disrupting now? Are there still slowing moving business dinosaurs roaming the earth just waiting to be herded toward extinction by a great idea? Let’s put an AMG sponsored Disruptor’s Convention together and explore these possibilities.
Jackson Byrne – Business Correspondent