How To Build Disruptive Technology

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What is disruptive technology?

Disruptive technology is any new technology that essentially changes the way that the current societal model functions. And it is only disruptive in the initial stage, as when it becomes the normal standard it no longer disrupts but has changed the way that it is perceived. For example, Uber has changed the way that we get from point A to point B and has done so at the expense of the more inefficient taxi systems that were in place for decades. So while disruptive in its initial phase, it is now very well incorporated into our day to day lives.

Another example is Airbnb, which has changed the way that we travel and plan our vacations. Essentially, these applications have found pain points in certain things that we do in life, and they have done their best to alleviate said pain points. With our current startups Renly, we are looking to change the way that space is managed and rented in this country. We want to make it as seamless as possible for you as a business owner to be able to rent out your space on the fly as currently many of these brick and mortar shops still rely on older methodologies such as classified ads and giant signs on their window sills.

Tackle societal issues at a lower level

Usually, the big attention draw of any disruptive technology is that they do something that people find useful and convenient, but that doesn't quite exist yet. Whether it be in our traffic congestion or in the way that we eat even, they think outside of the box and are willing to go the extra mile to fix the unknown problems. And believe me, we have a fair amount of unknown problems. But for every unknown problem that we face, we have an endless amount of unknown solutions as well.

Taking a look at the underlying causes it's what's key because few people are actually willing to look below the surface. Let's take health for example. It's no secret that global health has been taking a hit for the past few decades. And our technical solutions seem to be revolving more around tracking said issues. We sell monitors to track every single health issue you have from sleep to steps. Steps do not equate to health really. Steps are required for humans. Otherwise, we would have evolved differently. But the underlying health issues aren't the lack of tracking. That's actually the highest level of the problem. That's almost like an entrepreneur teaching you that "the reason you can't buy a mansion, is because of lack of money" and then going home. Yes, that is true, thank you for tracking down the issue, now how can we resolve it.

At the very lowest level of health is the person themselves and that's it. You can't really get more granular than that. So why is the person so unhealthy? There could be a plethora of reasons these days:

  • unhealthy eating habits
  • lack of nutrition education
  • lack of mobility due to job requirements
  • depression, mental anxiety issues

So these are just some of the low-level issues that you could help to tackle in order to alleviate the problem of health as a whole. And they are indeed more difficult to find solutions for than just counting the number of steps that you take. But this is why it requires a "disruptive" technology. Because we need to find ways to break people out of their current habits and to show them that there is indeed a better way to go about living in order to improve your quality of life.

Usually they border on legal and illegal

For the most part, current systems that are in place in our society have been in place for some time and have a built a legal framework on which they run on. And that many a time comes at the cost benefit to someone. It's how laws are written usually and it's no secret. The car industry, for example, has made it almost impossible for manufacturers to sell directly to consumers and instead work on a distribution model which again many car companies lobby for. Usually, any technology that is disruptive will ruffle many feathers. Airbnb ruffles the feathers of property owners due to leasing laws.

But even companies like Tesla still face such long and drawn out legal battles these days. So it is important to stay within legal guidelines as closely as possible during the early stages. Build and plan the future, but do so at a pace that you can handle. There's very little point in building a cool product that doesn't exist, only to have it shut down 48 hours later. If you get to the point in your business where you do begin to ruffle some feathers and get unwanted attention, then that is a good sign that you are on a good path.

You have to keep reinventing yourself

One of the hardest lessons to learn in building disruptive tech is that you are going to get it wrong many times for many reasons. Some could be legal, some could just be based on user feedback and sometimes you forgot to carry the 1 and so you're entire product doesn't quite work. So you are constantly tearing down and building back up and that can become tiring to many. This is a big reason why many startups don't make it too far on their journey. Reinvention is no cheap task. Time and financial stressors are present and knowing 6 months in that you have to stop your current workflow and start again isn't easy to handle.

So validation and proof of concepts are important and they must constantly be coming in. Test your ideas every moment that you can. Continue to reach out and increase your user base, even if your idea isn't fully usable. This will help speed things along as you begin to see what your user base find the most important.

You have to be psychologically strong

Most people you encounter are not thinking about how they can change the way we do something in our daily lives. And so they just won't get it when you try and explain it to them. They don't want to know about your "idea", just yet. It might even be boring to them. And this goes for close friends, family, co-workers, etc. And rightfully so, hearing the same idea from the same person for years and never seeing anything manifest is enough to bore anyone. So you must learn how to keep your ideas to yourself and how to express them in a non-verbal way.

Don't so much talk about your idea as begin to build your idea. Even a splash page is enough to get people to notice that you are serious. But don't say too much about how far you are in the process. Having people question your work is a huge distraction and might even talk you out of it at some point. I'll say this, in the beginning, people will give you plenty of moral support. However, soon after those people go to their jobs and make their paychecks they will begin to forget. So the moral support will eventually decrease and it's up to you and your team to build it up yourselves.

Staying away from the online media is equally important. With so much content flooding our eyes online, it's hard to tell what's true or false. Or what's true today, that will be false next week. And the last thing you need is to sway too much from your goals. If Elon Musk listened to every single critic that writes an article about how poorly he's doing, he'd wouldn't have the time to prove them wrong time and time and time again.

You're in it for the long haul

Most people think that new disruptive tech startups are all living in Silicon Valley with VR headsets and microchips everywhere. Fair to say, some probably are. But not the ones that we've met on our startup journey. Most are low on manpower, financial support and moral support from friends and family, but they are still going strong. It takes years upon years in order to carve out your niche in the tech world. Particularly so if you're tackling a societal issue such as transportation, health, education and the environment.

If you're truly serious about your idea, you will definitely need to think differently than with your traditional 9 to 5 lifestyle. You will need to be more outgoing and more outspoken. You will need to learn to make connections and to take ownership of things. All good things of course, but for the most part, not things which are taught in school or at work. So by the long haul, I essentially mean you will need to take your life to the next step and be prepared for the disruptive journey ahead.

Walter Guevara is a software engineer, startup founder and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He is currently building things that don't yet exist.


4/6/2018 7:09:13 AM
These are some amazing observations and habits that founders need to keep in mind. I came across an article by TapChief co-founder on a habit that could've changed his life. Do give it a read and let me know your thoughts on it-
11/4/2018 9:11:07 PM
Thanks for the kind words Komal!

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