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How 4 companies disrupted the market – and made millions

Small businesses are best placed to ‘disrupt’, making an impact far disproportionate to their size. We look some of the success stories and how you can tap into the power of disruptive innovation.

Many start-up ‘new generation’ brands are causing revolutionary innovation-driven growth. AirBnB –out-booking global hotel chains with in excess of 1 million rooms on its books– is a prime example. Business analysts have attributed its success to its disruptive, hands-off tactics.


AirBnB used social technology to connect property owners with short-term renters. It shifted the balance of power in the hotel industry, creating a peer-driven business model.

  • Challenge traditional supply sources: AirBnB didn’t try to reach customers through traditional routes. Can you find a way of tapping into new and potentially mass global markets?
  • Re-think traditional marketing models: How can you use social technology to generate value and create new consumption habits?


Technology company UBER matches consumers to car services via an app and has transformed the taxi industry (amid much controversy). Users can request rides from approved local drivers.

  • Spot the demand: UBER answered two problems. Firstly, consumers being underserved by taxis and secondly, drivers earning low wages (they now earn 80% of a fare instead of 10%). Can you identify an inherent market problem and solve it?
  • Don’t be blindsided: Are there any vulnerabilities in your current supply? How might a new business capitalise on this? Can you change your model to beat them to it?


The mobile greeting app by Cleverbug interfaces with Facebook to create personalised cards for birthdays and life events sent from your smartphone.

  • Can you evolve a past disruption? MoonPig transformed the greetings card industry and while others have tried to replicate the model, CleverCards evolved it. Don’t follow the crowd – attract customers by continuing to innovate to provide products and services that best meet their needs.
  • Don’t resist: Ask what will happen if you don’t change – and look at Kodak for an example. It was one of the biggest names in photography but didn’t adapt quick enough to the digital revolution.


EE spotted the potential of the Internet of Things and created products that enabled other businesses to be disruptive and more efficient. This includes Connected Business products such as a 4GEE Capture Cam.

Maria Armishaw, EE’s head of small business product marketing, said: “The 4GEE Capture Cam is a wearable camera which enables small businesses to livestream HD video. Early adopters include Swinley Bike Hub, which is live streaming coaching and training sessions, and online estate agent eMoov, which is live streaming property viewings to potential buyers. Meanwhile, sailing holiday provider Sunsail reduced costs by over £10,000 annually using a combination of Smart Forms on 4G tablets, while increasing customer engagement by 60%.”

If you have the right tools in place, disruptiveness will follow:

  • Is your business efficient? If you’re constantly playing catch up thanks to inefficient, or sluggish technology, there’s no room for positive disruption. Audit your processes, question every routine and make changes to benefit you and your employees.
  • Is your business disruptive? Or, with the right support, could you be? With the accelerated development of new technology, such as EE’s 4GEE Capture Cam, the internet of things, and even cloud software, SMEs have an unrivalled opportunity to push the boundaries of their industry.

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