No, and you shouldn’t.
Companies like Uber, Airbnb, Tesla and others are seen as ‘state of the art’ examples of companies that thrive in this digital age, disrupting one industry after another. Although we can and should learn what makes these disruptors great, it’s naive to think that we can or should mimic their way of working. These companies play by a totally different set of rules.
Here are 3 major differences:
1. Funded by VC’s
Most of disruptors (either big ones or smaller startups) are funded by venture capital. They don’t strive for short-term income, they all play the long game (mostly IPO exits). Amazon made its first profits in 2014, after being in business for 20 years. Most traditional businesses have to deliver quarterly results, they don’t have the luxury to burn cash.
2. Global scale
The end goal for most of the new players is global coverage and world domination. In the end there can only be one Netflix, Spotify, Amazon, Airbnb,… Disruptors are not focused on a few key markets, they want to scale their platforms and products worldwide. This means they are not limited to small target groups, they are investing & making money on a global scale. Most traditional businesses think and operate at a much smaller scale, making it harder to find the dollars to innovate.
3. Digital by default
For disruptors, digital is the default, not the byproduct. They don’t get numbed by legacy or old infrastructure, they start from tabula rasa. Traditional companies have to operate their daily business with existing procedures, people and platforms while at same time transforming themselves. Disruptors don’t have to transform, they are already in acceleration modus.
So there is clearly no point in comparing your business to the disruptors. The ambition therefore should not be to become the next Uber, your ambition should be to find back your core strengths while going all-in on digital transformation.
Most companies have lost themselves along the way. Your business was once a startup, driven by a handful of passionate entrepreneurs who had a great mission in mind. Your business probably was also once a disruptor, bringing products or services in a new way. Fast forwarding to today, most of us got stuck in internal processes and politics, while the drive and purpose of the early days has disappeared. When I attended The Next Web conference 2011 in Amsterdam, Steve Keil talked about ‘the zombification of companies‘, stating that the longer companies are in business the more they seem to lose their passion and drive. I fully agree on that.
If there is one thing you should learn from Uber, it’s their ultimate eagerness to win and succeed with bold goals. They are basically in an earlier, younger ‘state of being’ a company, full of bravado and guts. We all need to get back to that phase. So let’s stop looking at the Silicon Valley and the disruptors, and let’s start looking at ourselves.
You need to be you: find back the passion and eagerness to put a dent in the universe (like Steve Jobs used to put it) and start your transformation engines.
Let’s get to work, today.