I like to say that every business today will compete with technology but win with people. In order to win you need to be able to attract and retain fresh new talent to your business. To keep your business viable into the future you must evolve your value proposition to defend against, and take advantage of, the macro forces that shape your competitive landscape in the future.
Many business owners in the four small business verticals below face a true threat to their very existence (let alone continued growth) as artificial intelligence (A.I.) and blockchain technology solutions remove the need for third-party intermediaries to establish or maintain trust in transactions.
If you are an owner in one of these business categories it is time to disrupt your core offering before you are left behind.
1. Third Party Payment Processors
One of the more successful initial coin offerings (ICOs) this year (by speed and volume of capital raised) was KICKICO -- a blockchain-based, peer-to-peer platform where people can create crowdfunding campaigns quickly and easily to fund anything from donations, personal causes and creative projects, to new startups. Its founder Anti Danilevski and team recently raised an incredible $15 million USD in just the first two hours of their public ICO.
KICKICO represents one of many startups along with Bitt, that are aggressively attacking and disrupting the third party payment provider market and this means that businesses from Western Union, pay-day loan operators, payment gateway providers, and resellers of merchant banking services are all running out of growth opportunities.
2. Guarantors, Notaries, Public Registrars, Title Companies, etc.
Trust is a critical element to facilitate successful transactions between parties. For centuries this has been true and in the absence of trusting one another, parties to any transaction have often relied on a third-party mechanism to provide the trust they lacked to allow for an efficient transaction to take place.
Blockchain's distributor ledger technology is the latest and greatest form of this solution and as such is removing layers of "red tape" and friction. It also removes the need for the businesses that have provided services related to verification and certification of goods, guarantees, and registration/recording of the transaction into a public record.
This means that all of the associated jobs (accountants, title representatives, lawyers, and other office administration workers) and businesses that have traditionally serviced these needs are going the way of the horse and buggy.
Startups like Emercoin which provides distributed blockchain services for things like digital proof of ownership (DPO) and others like Antifake which certify that goods are not counterfeit, are carving out the most profitable corners of these third-party services opportunities. SilentNotary calls itself the first blockchain notary in the world.
Moreover, entire countries are moving identity and land and title registries to the blockchain. This trend will eat into some of the profit centers for owners of UPS Stores, MailBoxes Etc., franchises and similar businesses in the years to come.
Blockchain solutions to title records are proliferating as well around the world. BitFury and the government of Georgia have already registered over 100,000 properties and the company agreed with the Ukrainian government recently to gradually switch all public registers to the blockchain.
3. Real Estate Agents, Insurance Agents, Travel Agents, etc.
Who really wants to call a number or visit a website, on a house for sale, just to find out the price? Who wants to wait to walk through it? And who wants to pay up to 6 percent of the sale price to two facilitators who push paper back and forth?
You and I will buy houses direct from the seller on platforms like Propy using our smartphone in the near future, and can already buy insurance from a Bot on sites like Hiscox. We can do the same with travel.
4. Information Search, Storage, and Sharing
Centralized models are under attack including giants like Google, Yandex, and the ecosystem of businesses that support them.
For example, cloud storage is currently based on the centralized model. The blockchain is all about decentralized data storage. Filecoin raised over $200m in a matter of days in their ICO to decentralize cloud storage and disrupt companies like Box, Dropbox, and iCloud.
Millions of people work for thousands of small, medium, and large digital agencies that manage advertising spend on search engines and social networks for clients. Ad fraud (robots clicking on links that aren't actually humans) is estimated as high as 50 percent of all media bought, and blockchain solutions in adtech will remove this fraud and also the need for many of the agencies that manage these accounts.
Blockchain based marketplace solutions like OpenBazaar will give sellers much lower fees than Amazon and the take home message is clear. Blockchain is ruthlessly efficient and transparent and any business that makes its money off of providing third-party intermediary services is in trouble.