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5 Lessons Learned From Industry Disruptors

Greg Shuey
Greg Shuey

How will your business disrupt your industry?

Innovation leads directly to the disruption of an existing industry. Just look at what Amazon did to the bookselling industry -- and what it continues to do to cloud-based services. Amazon disrupted a previously locked-up industry, allowing anyone and everyone to publish books and ultimately make more content available to a rabid consumer base.

Since disruption follows innovation, setting disruption as a goal can be a useful strategy. However, it’s often hard to know where to start. So let’s look instead at five examples of companies currently causing industry disruption.


George Costanza’s skills at hailing a taxi aren’t much use anymore. Uber came on the scene not too long ago and blew a hole in the taxi industry - one that consumers are eager to take advantage of. Uber has forced taxi companies to attempt to be more competitive, though it remains to be seen how much disruption Uber will ultimately cause.

Uber is interesting because it managed to disrupt transportation by coming to the market “sideways” rather than bootstrapping its way to the top of the taxi industry. This is almost a semantic argument, but it’s important to understand to fully grasp how Uber disrupted in the manner they did.

It actually started as a black car service, then expanded to a taxi service. This is a good lesson for any company to learn - disruption doesn’t always have to come out of nowhere. Uber succeeded because they first provided a disruptive offering to a niche market - black car services - then saw the potential for expansion.

Where is your potential for expansion? That’s the first question to ask of your product when determining whether or not you’ll be able to disrupt your industry.


YouTube disrupts an industry most of us overlook - ad-supported video content.

With the launch of YouTube TV, the company is poised to join Sling TV and other on-demand video providers as an option for cutting the cord. What’s notable about YouTube TV it is the only streaming service to date to bring CBS live streams out of CBS’ owned distribution channels.

YouTube TV may not seem like disruption at first glance - an a la carte service allowing users to pick and choose their own channels would be the ultimate disruption - but the service features unique offers that give cord-cutters another solid option.

The YouTube TV DVR will store your shows for up to nine months, according to the Denver Post. It also features a more robust offering of on-demand content than Sling or Playstation Vue. What YouTube TV has done that’s making it a game-changer in online media streaming is take the best of the current products and put their own unique spin on it.

That’s where a good deal of disruption in any industry comes from - entrepreneurs putting their personal touch on existing services.


Landlords and renters alike have used myriad solutions to make the renting relationship easier. Now, though, that relationship can exist in one simple platform - Rentler.

Rentler allows landlords to post listings, screen tenants, and collect payments all from a single touchpoint. Renters have the ability to send maintenance requests and payment through the platform as well. Established services like Quicken Rental Property Manager are suddenly facing stiff competition.

This is an example of true disruption, as defined by The Christensen Institute. Rentler came out of nowhere and is creating enough noise in the property management industry that they’re toppling the stalwart relationships renters and landlords have had with banks, repairmen, and other industry services.


Headed on a quick weekend getaway but don’t want to spring for a traditional hotel? Or are you headed to a rural area that likely doesn’t have much in the way of lodging? Airbnb is your solution. By allowing people to rent out portions of their home, Airbnb is disrupting the hotel industry that’s seemed so stable for so long.

Airbnb is far from completely toppling the hotel industry, but they’re causing enough disruption that it’s forcing lodging companies to revisit their strategies. Airbnb offers a quiet room, right in town, with locals who know the area. How can hotels compete with that level of personalization?

That personal touch may very well be what’s made Airbnb successful - and it can make your company successful as well. How can you add a human element to your company and its services? Answering that question may reveal the path to disruption in your niche.


Facebook's Messenger app (which has driven a supposed 38% decline in telecom SMS revenue in North America, according to industry sources) and its robust advertising platform has allowed Facebook to disrupt multiple industries. The platform’s ability to spread your messages to so many people at a relatively low cost is likely their biggest feather in the cap of disruption they wear.

Online advertising certainly existed before Facebook, and so did marketing campaigns - but Facebook fundamentally changed how we look at online advertising. Alongside Google, marketers have hoards of information on demographics, behavior, and interests to help them tailor online campaigns for the most success. While Google and Facebook compete in the same areas at times, “They are present across every part of the food chain,” according to an article from Financial Times.

The sheer magnitude of power is what’s made Facebook a go-to advertising platform, which begs the question: what kind of power can your company offer to customers? Is there something about what you do that’s just overwhelmingly in-depth, like Facebook’s advertising?

If not, it may be time to develop that side of your company if disruption is your ultimate goal.

Industry disruption is almost always a good thing. While you need to focus on company goals, take a moment to consider how your business can disrupt your industry. You may be surprised at what happens next.

Image Credit: Prathan Chorruangsak
Greg Shuey
Greg Shuey Member
Greg Shuey is a Co-Founder & Chief Evangelist for Stryde, a content marketing lead generation firm located in Utah. Stryde is driven by a belief that there is a better way to connect businesses and consumers. Through targeted content, they help business create more brand awareness, drive more traffic, educate prospects, generate qualified leads, shorten sales cycles, and increase customer/client retention.