Throughout history, humans have been curious. We have had a desire to push the limits and explore new frontiers. When we create new business ideas today, we can thank those pioneering cavemen for being brave enough to step outside and explore. We can thank the creators who invented the telephone, lights, cars, and planes. Without any of these people causing trouble and disrupting the norm, we would likely still be living in caves with poor personal hygiene and the Paleo Diet would be called food.
When people have new business ideas or create start-up companies, they take the first steps on their disruptive mission. For those who are truly passionate about their idea and are prepared to do whatever it takes to turn their dream into a reality, they disrupt industries.
Disruptive Troublemakers Throughout History
The term entrepreneur was adopted from France in 1723 and translates to having the qualities of leadership, initiative, and innovation in new ventures. Interestingly, in medieval Germany, a craftsperson needed special permission to work as an entrepreneur after proving competence in their field!
Today some of the most disruptive troublemakers are ones who were more than competent. They excelled in their field and developed their leadership and initiative to extraordinary levels. Let’s meet some now…
Sir Richard Branson
Sir Richard Branson is best known for his Virgin brand. At just 16 years old, Branson started Student magazine, which was a mail-order record business. Two years later he opened a chain of record stores called Virgin Records. This grew to become Virgin Megastore, and from there Branson’s brand grew rapidly. In the 1980’s he launched the airline Virgin Atlantic, and his net worth now is reported as $5.2 billion!
Diagnosed with dyslexia, Branson had difficulty at school and didn’t achieve very good results. On his last day of school, Branson’s headmaster told him he would either end up in prison or be a millionaire. Now isn’t that interesting! We can choose to get stuck with a label and create a story for why we’re not successful, or we can choose to follow our passion no matter what. One of my favourite Branson quotes is ‘You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.’ Troublemakers don’t follow the rules!!
In 2000 Elon Musk got in on the ground floor when PayPal how we know it was born. In the early days they disrupted traditional customer acquisition models by a viral marketing campaign that recruited new customers who received money through the service. In 2002, eBay purchased PayPal for US$1.5 billion.
Elon Musk is also the founder and CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors. When you hear some of his ideas, such as Hyperloop that can transport people in tubes at 1200km/h, electronic supersonic jets, and colonising Mars, it might sound like something out of a science fiction movie. However, Musk has a vision to change the world, and that vision includes reducing global warming through sustainable energy and reducing the risk of human extinction. Powerful stuff!
Tesla Motors is one of Elon Musk’s greatest achievements. He became an investor in 2004, joining the board of directors as its chairman. Musk is closely involved in the design of the cars, and was very hands-on when the Tesla Roadster was designed. Musk even allows rival car manufacturers to use Tesla’s technology patents to speed up development of electric cars.
Musk also founded Space Exploration Technologies, known as Space X, and hopes to send humans to Mars in the next 5-15 years. His vision is to have a colony of 80,000 humans on Mars by 2040!
Gary Vaynerchuk, or Gary Vee as he is known, is an entrepreneur who emigrated from the Soviet Union as a child in the 1970’s. After graduating from college Gary Vee took over his families’ liquor store, transforming it into a wine store known as Wine Library. Through e-commerce and email marketing Gary Vee disrupted the wine industry, just as Julian Moss disrupted the alcohol industry in Australia, and grew the business from a turnover of $3 million a year in 1998 to $60 million a year in five years!
In 2006 he created Wine Library TV, which was a daily 20-minute show about wine on YouTube. The show achieved cult status, and Gary Vee was contacted to be interviewed by people like Conan O’Brien. After 1000 episodes Gary Vee ended the show to transition across to VaynerMedia.
Gary and his brother AJ now run VaynerMedia representing Fortune 500 companies to tell their story on social media. With a determination to be at the cutting edge of social media trends, Gary does what his competitors fear. He out works and out hustles everyone to get him to his vision of one day owning the New York Jets. He has even been known to ‘favourite’ the tweets of members of the public who doubt his statements or predictions, then go back and rub their noses in it when he’s proven to be right. Such a troublemaker!
Troublemakers: Disruptive Brands
Many of the products and services we take for granted today were created after disruptive brands took the bold decision to disrupt their competitors.
In 1954, after visiting their restaurant in San Bernardino, Ray Kroc signed a contract to be McDonald’s first franchising agent. This moment launched the world’s biggest fast-food empire, and the restaurant industry was disrupted forever!
In 1994, Jeff Bezos founded an online bookstore in his Seattle garage called Amazon, and buying a book has never been the same.
Let’s take a close look at some disruptive brands.
On a snowy evening in Paris in 2008, Uber founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp had trouble hailing a cab. From there, they had an idea to tap a button and get a car to come to you. Initially, this was going to be an app to request premium cars, however, it has grown to be a $60 billion transport company that operates in 495 cities across the world without owning a single vehicle.
Uber has disrupted the entire transportation industry on a global scale. In cities such as Sydney, New York, Paris, and Rome we regularly see protests from the taxi industry, with people in these industries fearing for their jobs. People are now choosing Uber because of the cheaper prices, lower wait times, cleanliness of the cars, and an all-around better experience.
You see, the market doesn’t care how long you have been doing something! When a new competitor who is more agile comes in and disrupts traditional ways of operating, the game changes. It is then a case of stepping up, or stepping aside. Leadership is taken, not given, and Uber are now leading the transport industry globally.
In 2007, when roommates Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia couldn’t afford to pay the rent on their San Francisco loft, they turned their lounge room into a bed and breakfast, accommodating three guests on air mattresses and providing them with breakfast. From there, they caused arguably the biggest disruption on the planet.
By 2009 the concept had expanded from air beds to private rooms, entire homes, castles, boats, tree houses, even igloos! Their business model disrupts industry as it creates a new source of supply. Unlike traditional hotels that scale by buying more bricks and mortar properties, AirBnB scales by attracting more people who want to open up their house as well as travellers who want alternatives to normal hotels.
A study found that in a 12 month period during 2011 & 2012, Air B’n’B users injected $56 million into the San Francisco economy, $43 million of which was spent in local businesses. When you create a disruption, an eruption of opportunities are created.
Netflix was founded in 1997 by Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings when Hastings had to pay a $40 fine to his local video store after returning a copy of Apollo 13 well past the deadline. Starting out as a DVD rental company who mailed out movies, Netflix disrupted the traditional movie hire business by offering a flat rate monthly fee with unlimited borrowing limits, no due dates, and no late fees.
Fast forward to 2016, and Netflix is available in over 190 countries, has 83 million subscribers worldwide, and has changed how we watch television and movies forever. No longer forced to wait a week to watch their favourite TV show, then sit through ads, consumers can now ‘binge-watch’ a whole season of episodes back to back. This also causes a disruption to network television, as Netflix has greater flexibility in the length of an episode, the number of shows in a season, and the devices that programmes can be viewed on.
This medium has spawned the pop-culture term ‘Netflix and chill’, but that’s a whole other discussion…
Be a Troublemaker
The people above and the founders of the companies we have looked at are all normal people who had an idea. They committed to their idea, they had the passion to work hard to achieve their vision, and above all, they were prepared to take on established industries and create a disruption.
If you would like to party with a room full of troublemakers, including many of Sydney’s millionaire business owners, join us on Friday 23 September for The Troublemakers Disruption Tour Launch Party.