Startups disrupting big business is nothing new. It’s nearly 40 years since Apple set about changing how technology companies operated yet the difference today is the “unique” way in which Steve Jobs disrupted the status quo is now seen as normal behaviour. There are numerous examples of how Jobs ignored the rules of business and went about doing what he wanted to do, how he wanted to do it. For example the story of Jobs changing the colours of a global behemoth’s corporate logo because it didn’t fit the colour scheme of his own presentation. If you told that story to the entrepreneurs in one of the many startup workspaces today you’d likely be greeted with lots of blinking, unimpressed faces.
The characteristics of the entrepreneur haven’t necessarily changed – its the environment that has. Barriers to getting your idea to market aren’t what they were. You can take your great idea, using cloud tech or a mobile platform and go to market with it quicker, easier and more cheaply than ever before. As existing businesses open up their API’s, the future of the startup becomes even more of a challenge to the status quo.
Today’s entrepreneur can share a ride in an Uber car, to their office for the day that they found on Workspace, find a sofa to surf for the evening on AirBNB – after they’ve been fed and watered at a collaboration workshop from MeetUp of course. The very way in which Apple began 40 years ago is now a commoditised digital industry that enables more startups to launch more ideas to disrupt more of the status quo more easily.
How existing corporates respond to the changing (changed) landscape in the world of the startup will be key to their own futures. Having your own offices, infrastructure, employees and everything else that comes with being a corporate needs money – and that becomes more of a liability and less of an asset in competing with the startups. Not having a brand reputation for a start-up becomes a positive because they have nothing to lose. A thousand startups can come and go before one lands that disrupts the landscape – yet as the startup itself becomes a disposable commodity, the higher the rate of turnover and the more frequent the disruption.
Corporates who “want to foster the startup culture” often miss the point that they have a brand reputation to look after, that they have enough money to make it worth being sued and that their staff expect to sleep in their own bed not on someone else’s sofa. Its not enough just to let someone wear a pair of shorts and a vaguely offensive t-shirt and think that you’re acting like a start up.
To stay relevant in 10 years time, big business does need to change. How they embrace the startup culture will vary from organisation to organisation. Some will fund the start-ups, setting up innovation hubs – buying out the good ideas that fit their needs and wishing well those that don’t. Some will lessen the bureaucracy that they’ve constrained themselves with and allow more innovation to thrive from within. Some will radically restructure themselves, becoming lean management, brand and policy units with subsidiaries that are there to make or break.
There will of course be those organisation that batten down the hatches and adopt a protective litigation stance. Though the chances are that those who look to embrace it will stand more chance of being relevant in 10 years time.
The upstart from the startup could also be your boss in 10 years time – so chose wisely who you have sleeping on your sofa!
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Bryn Robinson-Morgan is an independent Business Consultant with interests in Identity Assurance, Agile Organisational Design and Customer Centric Architecture. Bryn has near 20 years experience working with some of the United Kingdom’s leading brands and largest organisations.
Follow Bryn on Twitter: @No1_BA