"Disruption" is a buzz-word often thrown around loosely in the tech startup world. That's according to Joel Holland, founder and CEO of VideoBlocks, a company that shook up the stock footage industry when it introduced a Netflix-like subscription model that gives amateur and professional filmmakers unlimited access to video clips and digital effects for $99 a year. This was a disruptive concept, indeed, considering stock video footage has traditionally been mired in licensing restrictions and expensive. A single clip on Shutterstock, for example, can run $79.

Holland's mission: To provide premium video content everyone can afford. It's a compelling prospect and one embraced by more than 100,000 customers who have collectively gobbled up more than 26 million downloads since the company launched in 2009.

His latest play for the D word: VideoBlocks recently announced its contributors will keep 100 percent of a video clip's commission. In comparison, Shutterstock pays contributors 30 percent of a video clip's sale price.

Here's Holland's advice for disrupting any industry.

1. Define disruption.

To Holland, it means doing something 10 times better than the status quo. "I think anything less than that is just marginal improvement but a lot of people confuse marginal improvement with disruption," he says.

2. Understand who you're disrupting for.

Disruption for its own sake doesn't make any sense. Who will benefit from the massive improvement you're bringing to your space? "When we were looking to disrupt the industry we weren't just trying to find a way to save our customers more money because that could be at the expense of contributors. Nor were we just trying to find a way to make more money as a company," he says. "We were trying to find a way to basically benefit all three groups, the customers, the suppliers and the company."

3. Make sure you have 100-percent buy-in within your organization.

People generally dislike change, so whether it's your employees or investors make sure these people are on board with your plan to implement radical, disruptive changes. If they're not, get them off the ship.

4. Think big, then think bigger.

The concept of BFC--better, faster, cheaper--is widely understood but in reality sometimes marginal improvements aren't enough. "Sometimes the market doesn't need a faster horse, it needs a Tesla," he says. "And that can mean looking way beyond simply making a product that's cheaper or a little bit faster or a little bit prettier. Sometimes it's a radical shift to the way things are done."

5. Think like an outsider (or ask your mom).

When you've been entrenched in your work for a while it's important to push aside your knowledge, biases and preconceived notions of how things are or should be and try to look at your space with a fresh perspective. Even better, ask for input from someone with little knowledge about your industry--someone like your mom. "Sometimes because she's so far from the fire she's actually got a couple things here and there where you're like 'Oh, that's interesting. I never would have thought about doing that,'" he says.

6. Don't be afraid to redefine an addressable market size.

Holland points to the advertising space, which used to squeeze as much money as possible out of corporate clients who needed ad space. Then Google came along with micropayments, making affordable advertising accessible to little guys, as well. Is there a way you can adjust your pricing to attract more customers, similar to how the subscription model VideoBlocks introduced opened the company up to a much larger market?

7. Delineate how you will measure disruption.

Revenue and profit are obvious key performance indicators, but VideoBlocks specifically looks at net promoter score. "So when we released this marketplace... we said we're going to know this is successful in three months when we release an NPS survey to our customers and our contributors and we've moved the scores by X percentage compared to the baseline right now," he says.

8. Listen to customers regarding what problems to solve.

That said, they're not going to give you solutions. For example, when Apple listened to consumers about everything they hated about clunky technology and downloading music it was on the company to dream up the iPod. As for VideoBlocks, the company heard customers complaining about needing video footage faster and in the middle of the night. "They didn't tell us to create a subscription-based site like Netflix, that was never what we were told but we listened to the things they weren't liking and decided we had a solution that could fit those parameters," he says.

9. Watch Robin Hood, then play the role.

Identify who you are fighting and who you are fighting for. It's OK to put the bulls-eye on a competitor, similar to how Apple went after Microsoft. "I think a good strong rallying cry is a great way to unite your employees and excite your customers," he says.

Published on: Dec 10, 2014