By Dr Nikhil Agarwal, Founder Entrepreneur Cafe
The biggest startup lesson I’ve learned is that you can’t succeed without embracing disruptive technology. It might seem like a buzzword, but it's true: Disruptive technology is what makes or breaks a business.
Specifically, I mean technologies that make your product obsolete overnight—and there are plenty of examples to prove this point.
Disruptive technology refers to an innovation that fundamentally changes the way a particular industry or market operates. It can create new markets, disrupt existing ones, and displace established market leaders. Disruptive technologies often start as simple, low-cost alternatives to existing technologies, but as they improve and become more widely adopted, they can have a significant impact on the industry. Examples of disruptive technologies include the personal computer, streaming services, and ride-sharing apps.
Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave
Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen is credited with coining the term "disruptive technology" and introducing it in his 1995 article "Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave," which he co-wrote with Joseph Bower. "Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave" is a seminal article published by Clayton Christensen and Joseph Bower in the Harvard Business Review in 1995. The article introduced the concept of "disruptive technology," which refers to a new technology that disrupts an existing market or creates a new one.
Christensen and Bower identified two types of technologies: sustaining and disruptive. Sustaining technologies are incremental improvements to existing technologies, while disruptive technologies are fundamentally different and can create new markets or disrupt existing ones.
The authors argued that established companies often struggle to adopt disruptive technologies because they are focused on improving their existing products or services, and are not willing to take risks on unproven technologies. In contrast, startups and new entrants are more likely to adopt disruptive technologies because they have less to lose and are more willing to take risks.
The article provided several examples of disruptive technologies, including the personal computer, mini steel mills, and discount retailers. It also discussed strategies for established companies to respond to disruptive technologies, including creating a separate division or entity to focus on the new technology, acquiring a startup that has developed the technology, or partnering with a startup to bring the technology to market.
"Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave" has become a classic in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship and has influenced many business leaders and academics.
Disruptive Technology and Startups
Disruptive technology is often viewed as a double-edged sword. While it can create enormous opportunities for those who embrace it, it can also pose significant challenges for those who are slow to adapt. Businesses and industries that fail to keep up with disruptive technology risk becoming obsolete, while those that embrace it can gain a competitive advantage and thrive in the new market landscape.
Whether a startup should focus on disruptive technology depends on several factors, including the market they are targeting, the competition, and the resources available.
On one hand, developing a disruptive technology can give a startup a significant advantage over its competitors, as it can create a new market or disrupt an existing one. It can also attract investment and media attention, which can help the startup grow and succeed.
On the other hand, developing a disruptive technology can be risky and expensive. It may require significant resources, including research and development, as well as marketing and sales efforts to educate potential customers on the benefits of the new technology. Additionally, the market may not be ready for the technology, and the startup may struggle to gain traction.
Ultimately, it is up to the startup to weigh the potential benefits and risks of developing a disruptive technology and determine if it aligns with their goals and resources. Some startups may choose to focus on incremental improvements to existing technologies or business models, while others may pursue more radical innovation.