People always confuse disruption with innovation. Innovation is evolution, whereas disruption is revolution. Innovation makes the old ways better, whereas disruption makes the old ways obsolete! But most importantly in business, innovation allows you a 10% growth while disruption allows you a 10X growth.
We’ve already seen two technological revolutions in our lifetime that have caused major disruption – the internet and the smartphone. And thanks to the digital revolution, disruption is now happening more frequently and at a faster pace than ever before. So we’re going to experience more disruption than previous generations ever did – disruption that will revolutionise business models and industries in ways that we can’t yet imagine. So who will disrupt the automotive/tyre industry?
In our industry, the last major disruption was the introduction of the motor car in the early 1900s. How many horse and carts do we see on the streets today? Clearly, the car disrupted the horse and cart out of commercial existence. So now our old school, white, male-dominated industry is ripe for disruption and trust me (from the startups that I see as a venture capitalist), it is coming sooner than we think! And moreover, I can tell you that it will not happen as a result of the legacy manufacturers making better tyres, improving distribution systems or selling tyres on the internet. Like in every other industry, disruption in our industry will come from the outside.
Look at the mobile phone industry – Nokia were undoubtedly one of the most innovative companies and arguably the industry leaders in this technology, yet in the space of just a few years, Nokia’s reign was well and truly ended. And this happened because of one reason – disruption, which Nokia just didn’t see coming. Because while Nokia had their eyes on their competitors, Apple came and ate their lunch! Let’s look at the medical industry for another example – CRISPR/CAS9 – (the genome editing tool that will enable scientists to weaponise human cells against cancer) could potentially be a cure for cancer and would ultimately disrupt the medical field. Where did this come from? You guessed it – from outside the medical field. Every industry has such examples!
So who will disrupt our industry? Some industry observers say that Zenises (along with Alzura) is well on its way to disrupting the industry, being the first company in the world to offer tyres as a service across the internet. To those people I argue that what Zenises has done is definitely innovative but not disruptive. To understand disruption in our industry, we really need to understand not just what we do but why we do it. What we do is sell tyres and if we see our industry from that narrow perspective then Zenises is disrupting it. But if we understand the reason why we do what we do, which is to provide mobility, then we can see that we are merely a small fragment of a much larger industry. From this position, we can see that there are many more companies and individuals that have the potential to disrupt our industry. So disruption in the industry could come from the company making flying cars – if that ‘takes off’ and we end up living in a world like ‘The Jetsons’, tyres would become obsolete. Or disruption could happen as a result of tech companies taking virtual reality technology to a level that it negates the need for travel. Perhaps the companies creating personalised drone transport could disrupt the industry, or maybe it will be a company that works with a combination of these technologies or different technologies altogether. Such companies may sound futuristic but they already exist, and two of them have even received investments from our venture capital fund.
My idea here is simply to get my colleagues to start ‘thinking outside the box’ and seeing beyond our industry, as this would perhaps enable them to come up with their own ideas for disrupting it. So what will the Apple or CRISPR for the tyre industry be and how will it work? I don’t know, but you can count on it that there’s a 14 year old kid somewhere outside the industry figuring it out (hopefully one whose company I have already invested in)!