I was at two events yesterday evening in which startups, investors, CEO-wannabes and nerds get together to have a few drinks, some finger food and share in some good vibes about the tech industry.
Occasionally, myself or someone in my group would chirp loudly about something that others disagree’d with. There ensued heated debates about Android, Windows, Outlook.com, Apple or “the cloud”. You might say that these discussions, however heated they may be, were disruptive to the conversation flow. People stopped waxing lyrical about how great they were, and immediately took sides. In fact, on discussing outlook.com, a bystander was compelled to join in and take Microsoft’s side.
In business, people are all too quick to announce a new business, partnership or idea as disruptive to an industry. Square jumping into Starbucks isn’t disruptive. It’s a natural business move. Starbucks is the Apple retail of coffee. Square is the Apple of mobile payments. Perfect fit for everyone in that little bubble. It’s not disruptive. Visa, Mastercard and whatever merchant banks are still, in some way, getting a cut of that pie. Nothing disruptive has happened.
Kickstarter seems to be the big white whale of disruption these days. It’s the shining example of how you change an economy. And it is disruptive, in some sense. Now companies are being funded directly by users, but this doesn’t negate the need for VC’s, banks or anything else. It’s less disruptive than advertised. It’s just a new, interesting way to get products to market. I’ve bought a few things from Kickstarter this year, but any advice I might have had for the company is lost, as is any input I might have for the founders/developers. This is a different route to securing money, but it’s certainly not a route to getting sage advice and wisdom from a seasoned VC along with his/her money.
Disruption is an odd term to use for these things. It’s obvious to me that the word “disruption” is being misused to drag people into blog posts rather than incite real debate, discussion or actual disruptiveness. What people call disruption is actually just a meandering path towards the exact same goal as before.