times of disruption

Yes, “acceloration”. That is not a typo. Read on, I’ll explain what it means and why.

‘Disruption’ is a word that many people associate with startups, especially technology startups. Often, people or companies will label themselves as disruptors to give the impression that they are game-changers or trail-blazers within their industries. However, as we will explore and examine, the disruptors are usually not the ones that actually change the game.

To do that, we will take a short walk down history to …

The industrial revolution

The first industrial revolution started sometime in about 1760 and what we saw then was the transition to adopting new technology to existing hand production methods. New technology at that time meaning machine tools or mechanised systems to be used in factories.

This was pretty much the modern-day equivalent of disruption – the adoption of new, more advanced technologies to supplement and improve existing processes.

That, in essence, is what disruption is. One can succinctly say disruption is actually technological progress and advancement, just shortened to a single and catchier word. But I digress.

Back to the Industrial Revolution. The disruption, or adoption of new technology, gave rise to a whole suite of other trickle-down effects which spawned the creation of many new companies, business practices, and social norms and standards. As industries and people adapt to and embrace the disruption, we see the accelerated collaboration between the users of technology and the technology itself.

Also Read: A survivor’s guide for businesses dealing with COVID-19-led supply chain disruption

In fact, although the term is used in a more modern context, disruption has always been how the human race has advanced forward. The discovery and control of fire by men during the Early Stone Age was a significant technological disruption.

As more people adopt and use a particular technology or innovation, it brings about more advancement of that technology, which snowballs into more people using it, and so on. As mentioned earlier, I see this as an accelerated collaboration process and this brings us back to my very first paragraph – acceloration.

Why I think we need this

Acceloration is the accelerated collaboration phase that occurs after the initial disruption phase.

It is the phase where the growing adoption of a technology or innovation causes that same technology to accelerate in its growth, thereby finding even more useful benefits and uses of the technology or innovation.

The initial disruption phase is typically a lot shorter than the acceloration phase, which can last for many, many years after the disruption phase. And, as we will see, the disruptors do not usually end up as the key leaders in the industry. It is the accelorators that take the lead because of their adoption of the technology or innovation when it is accelorating.

If we peel the layers of the onion deeper, we find many examples of leading companies that, although looking like disruptors in the first instance, are actually not. Instead, they are accelorators.

Let’s bring ourselves back to the modern era for this.

Also Read: Indonesia is ripe for further disruption by tech-enabled firms: Adrian Li of AC Ventures

Search engines

When we think of an online search engine, chances are, Google will be the name that immediately pops to mind. However, they were not the first one that entered that space. They were not disruptors in that sense. Far from it.

The very first search engine was the Archie Query Form, which was created in 1990. That lead to the Veronica and Jughead search programmes in 1992 and 1993.

In 1993, the first web bot, the World Wide Web Wanderer, was created. Followed by, also in 1993, the first web search engine to use a crawler and indexer, JumpStation.

As you can see, the technology was already starting to accelorate with more users adopting it.

Yahoo! and Lycos were founded in 1994, and then Excite and Altavista in 1995.

Finally, in 1996, Larry Page and Sergey Brin started BackRub, which would eventually become Google in 1998, a good eight whole years after the very first search engine was created.

Social media

Facebook could be easily be considered the largest social media company in the world currently. Again, however, they were definitely not the disruptors, or the first, in this space. Even Friendster and MySpace were not firsts.

The very first social media website was Six Degrees and it was officially launched in 1997.

Also Read: Why disruption is no longer a buzzword in the Philippines

Friendster came on board about five years later in 2002, which was the same year that LinkedIn was founded. MySpace was launched a year later in 2003.

Facebook was then launched in 2004, seven years after the very first social media website.

Many other social media businesses came after Facebook too. Twitter in 2006, Instagram in 2010, Snapchat in 2011, and, most recently, TikTok in 2018 globally (2016 for China).

Ride hailing

You would probably be thinking of Uber or Lyft in this space. However, again, ride-sharing has a very long history which began in the United States in 1942 during World War II, when the US government began requiring ride-sharing arrangements to save rubber during the war.

Even in the early 1990s, there were researchers who envisioned the future of ride-sharing similar to what exists in modern-day.

What Uber and Lyft did was to accelorate the innovation and apply modern technology to what was already in motion. Technology such as the development of the GPS, the smartphone, and electronic payments contributed to the ride-hailing apps we know of today.

We have been focused on the technology space thus far. Let’s take the example of a brick-and-mortar business to see how the accelorators are also the ones which typically become the market leaders.

Co-anything spaces

Let’s start with the concept of coworking. WeWork was definitely not a first nor a disruptor in this space.

The very first equivalent of a coworking space was c-base, although it was called a hacker space at that time, which started in 1995. But it was basically the same thing. c-base provided free access to the internet and had a focus on its community.

Also Read: Startup disruption: the good, the bad and the ugly

The first official coworking space was not launched till 2005 when Brad Neuberg opened the San Francisco Coworking Space.

Greendesk, a shared workspace business and precursor to WeWork, was founded by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey in 2008. This would eventually lead to the actual founding of WeWork in 2010, fifteen years after the first coworking space started.

Next, let’s examine coliving spaces.

The concept of co-living has been around for a long time. The term in the modern context is basically a marketing spin to appeal to a different or specific demographic.

Student accommodations have been around for quite some time and are an example of co-living spaces targeted at, well, students. Again, each individual has their own room, and there are community aspects for cohesion and networking too.

These thoughts would especially be useful for entrepreneurs or venture capital investors. Many a time, I find too much focus only on the disruptors. But, as we have explored, more attention should be paid to be accelorators because they typically are the ones that eventually become the leaders in their industries.

Disruption happened around the year 2000 for real estate when the first online property platforms emerged. Over time, disruption leads to acceloration as the industry accepted and embraced technology, and this, in turn, leads to the rise of smart building, smart leasing, and tenant engagement platforms which we see today.

Entrepreneurs should not be focussed only on finding disruptive technology or innovation but should also look at accelorative ones, the ones that have already been disrupted and are now ripe for acceloration.

Similarly, investors should look at, and look for, accelorators in a similar light.

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