Successful disruptors = profitable customers

11 November 2014 | Dr Judy Reed Smith

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Dr Judy Reed Smith

Blog Author | ATLANTIC-ACM; CEO


Stateside, we are told that our economy, with sluggish growth and unemployment hovering near 7%, may be the “new normal”. Underpinning this unnerving trend is a population with increasing numbers of workers whose outdated skillsets don’t match the digital economy.

Stateside, we are told that our economy, with sluggish growth and unemployment hovering near 7%, may be the “new normal”. Underpinning this unnerving trend is a population with increasing numbers of workers whose outdated skillsets don’t match the digital economy.

At the same time, it’s perhaps easier than ever to create your own opportunity. Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist with a hat trick of Pulitzer Prizes for his writing, puts it best: “This is the worst time in history to get a job and the best time in history to create a job.”

A slew of new technologies, and the ability to reach potential customers around the globe for the cost of a web site, has enabled business models that expand like bacteria and evolve just as quickly. And for all the virtues and vices of the permanently new competitive landscape, all of the world’s new business models require connections to carrier offerings.

Still, the disruptive nomenclature indicates what new models do to many traditional business models, and even though they operate on the enabling side of the equation, there are no vaccines for Darwinism, even for global carriers. Many older models enjoyed long tails with steady streams of revenues from loyal customers. Today, carriers need to be able to capitalise their offerings for the emerging business models. New entrants may give forward-thinking carriers a jump on coming changes.

Keeping track of these rising companies is challenging but absolutely necessary for keeping fingers on the pulse of the directions networks – and network customers – are trending. Online, there are several “50 disruptive companies” sites, such as Forbes Magazine and CNBC.

My favorite is the MIT Technology Review’s annual article. They sort the companies by category, public vs private, and whether or not they are new this year.

The disruptors include “sustainers”, such as Xerox and Microsoft still innovating for customers, as well as the game-changers of recent decades – including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and others – plus new players. Here are a few new players that may become great customers or strong competitors:

1. Kumu Networks offers technology that cancels wireless self-interference, thereby delivering a boost to all wireless signals, from cellular to Wifi. Founder Sachin Katti says the biggest impact should be eliminating time used by the FCC to work on the subject.
2. Kymeta uses artificial materials that manipulate electromagnetic radiation (MSA-T) to produce an antenna that can be used on ships, speeding cars and other currently less well-served areas.
3. Vidyo delivers compression for high-definition video conferencing on smartphones.
4. Motif Investing builds theme-based investment portfolios online.
5. Peter Thiel, early Facebook investor and co-founder of PayPal, founded Palantir Technologies. This Big Data consultancy serves, among others, the CIA with his analytical wares.
6. Uber delivers taxi and black-car services via your cellphone using disruptor Twillio’s APIs.
7. Pure Storage’s flash-memory enterprise storage includes a product called FlashArray, which accelerates applications that require high rates of random operations per second, including server virtualisation, desktop virtualisation, database systems and cloud computing.
8. Wealthfront is aimed at millennial investors (under 35 years old), with 24/7 online, passive investment at low cost.
9. Coursera puts college courses online for free and develops methods of adjusting to student needs.
10. InMobi makes, sells and distributes mobile advertisements, challenging market leaders Google and Apple.
11. Factual is another Big Data play. The Los Angeles-based company collects and analyses sets of Big Data and creates stores of knowledge to feed to many kinds of software.
12. MLB Advanced Media is an NYC-based company that expands delivery of sports video to mobile devices.
13. Diagnostics for All, just one in a multitude of healthcare-oriented companies, puts many diagnostic tests on paper to keep costs low.

The real money of the industrial revolution was not necessarily made by the brilliant inventors, but by those who laid out models with the ongoing innovations that allowed them to collect money for decades after the invention. This will again be true in today’s digital revolution and carriers serving these innovators would be well-advised to watch for the new models they expect to grow and flourish, and aim to serve them with the connections today that may dominate the landscape in coming decades.