We hear the word “disrupt” in reference to startups all the time.
What it means to disrupt an industry:
When Uber first launched, taxi companies in various cities bombarded the up-and-coming startup with lawsuits.
Industry stalwarts could sense that Uber had hit upon a good idea, and had found a way around major restrictions that had stymied the taxi industry in the past.
Uber drivers didn’t have to pass stringent background checks, they didn’t have to buy or rent expensive medallions (licenses to drive a NYC cab), and their auto-pay feature eliminated the risk of riders hopping out without paying the fare.
As the word “uber” transitioned from an adjective to a verb, many wondered if the classic image of NYC: a yellow cab speeding through Times Square, would shift to an image of a crowd of people tapping away on their phones while hailing a ride.
Now, 3% of all Americans – about 9.75 million people – use on-demand ride-hailing apps like Uber on a daily basis (and the yellow cabs continue to zip through New York City traffic).
Disrupting an industry involves developing a product that challenges people's every-day assumptions about how the world works.
Successful tech disruptors such as Airbnb and Uber have become so widely used and so ingrained into our daily lives that it’s already difficult to picture a world before they existed. When was the last time you called a cab without your phone?
A tech startup is a company created to develop new technology-based products/services, or to deliver existing tech-based products/services in new and interesting ways.
For example, Uber merged an existing service (ride-hailing) with a new technology (their online app), to create the brand-new experience of on-demand ride-hailing.
Until recently, startups were thought of as newly established tech companies. However, as technology is becoming an increasingly common factor throughout most industries, startups are largely defined by innovativeness, scalability, and growth.
What does tech-enabled mean?
“Tech” refers to software and hardware products. Your most-visited apps (think: Facebook, Google Maps, Slack) are software products; the physical devices that you access the software on (smartphones, laptops, tablets) are hardware products.
“Tech” also extends to hard science startups – companies using technology to spearhead advancements in the life sciences, material science, physics, etc.. For example, Tesla (designs and sells electric cars) and Genentech (develops drugs to address significant medical needs).
Technology is the backbone of every tech-enabled startup’s solution, and the primary factor that sets a startup apart from its competitors, even if the company is solving a non-technical problem.
At first glance, Instacart helps you stock your pantry with groceries without leaving your house. However, their service hinges on much more than just their consumer mobile app.
Instacart has built complex technological systems that, amongst other capabilities, help update inventory and stock information directly from thousands of retailers, and communicate item availability and location in real-time to shoppers ordering groceries on their app.