In our modern world, nothing stays the same for long -- particularly when innovation-thirsty entrepreneurs are behind the wheel. According to Thomson Reuters' 2016 State of Innovation report, innovation underwent double-digit growth in 2015.
Epic breakthroughs in autonomous vehicles, genetically engineered immune cells, and reusable rockets may have the sex appeal to dominate the airwaves, but that doesn't mean entrepreneurs in so-called boring industries can't disrupt the status quo. To be sure, some of the most beautiful innovations are spun from the dullest of industries. Here are five companies shaking up old-school industries and the lessons we can learn from them:
1. Selequity: Bringing crowdfunding to commercial real estate investing
Opportunities sometimes arise unexpectedly -- like through updates in legislation. After the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act went into effect in 2012 and allowed companies to start issuing private securities online, the crowdfunding platform Selequity used the provision as a springboard to directly link investors to commercial real estate owners.
The platform demystifies commercial real estate investment by allowing prospective investors to compare investment opportunities side by side and by highlighting the background information necessary for making informed decisions. And it lets investors track their investments so they can both streamline how they manage current investments and seek new opportunities.
By staying attuned to macro-level changes and remaining open to leading industry adaptations to those changes, Selequity has been actively transforming the property investment industry into something more scalable and transparent.
2. EquipmentShare: Bringing the sharing economy to construction companies
EquipmentShare does exactly what its name implies -- but don't confuse the straightforward name for a snooze-inducing service. It has adapted successful sharing-economy models to satisfy unmet demands in the construction industry, letting contractors lend out their underutilized equipment or borrow what they need.
Known as the Airbnb of the construction industry, EquipmentShare features a marketplace that makes it easier and less expensive to lend or rent contracting equipment. By combining insurance verification, background checks, and payment processing into one interface, EquipmentShare has moved contractor-to-contractor rental into the digital age. And last year, the company launched its ES Track telematics platform for mixed fleet management, which pulls data from equipment and helps customers predict when their equipment will be due for maintenance or when equipment is headed for a breakdown.
To take a page from EquipmentShare's book, think about the problems or inefficiencies in your industry, and consider whether you can borrow solutions for similar problems that have been successfully implemented in other industries.
3. Bristlecone Holdings: Giving overlooked demographics access to financing
Bristlecone Holdings saw a demographic of consumers underserved by traditional financial models -- 138 million Americans, in fact -- and aimed to create a product that would meet the segment's demand and broaden services to all consumers.
Bristlecone's founders believe consumers of credit products -- particularly those in niche markets and those ignored by traditional lending providers -- deserve more intuitive functionality, friendlier user experiences, and lower costs, so it uses financial technology to help propel customers toward their dreams.
To emulate Bristlecone's path, consider whether your industry's traditional models are excluding -- intentionally or not -- any customer segments that would benefit from increased access, whether you can help this demographic gain access to the right services, or whether you can help other businesses reach that demographic.
4. Planorama: Enabling efficiency for manufacturers and retailers of consumer goods
Technological advances and our abilities to gather and analyze data can help industries streamline manual processes in ways they never imagined. Planorama recognized this and has set about transforming the retail space through its image recognition technology.
The technology helps manufacturers and retailers in the industry of consumer packaged goods collect and analyze data by examining in-store pictures, allowing them to better position products and boost sales. Planorama's not one to rest on its laurels, either. It's currently funneling more resources into its research and development facilities worldwide to keep helping partners grow through in-store image recognition and real-time reporting.
To shake up an industry like Planorama has, consider which manual processes you regularly repeat. Further, consider whether you're tracking these processes to identify opportunities for improvement and whether technology could increase your efficiency and free up time for other tasks.
5. Method: Taking "green cleaning" to the next level with a zero-waste facility
Soap is an ancient product, so it's likely the last thing that comes to mind as innovative. Yet Method is one sudsy disruptor that realizes environmentally friendly practices help more than Mother Earth -- they also can help companies' bottom lines.
Method's "green cleaning" origins set it apart by offering cleaning products that lack harsh chemicals that harm people, pets, or the planet -- and this way of thinking is infused throughout every facet of the company.
What's more, Method is committed to proving that sustainable business is better business. Its zero-waste manufacturing plant in Chicago, the South Side Soapbox, is powered by the wind and the sun and doesn't take a drop of water out of the Great Lakes -- all of which bring significant cost savings. By producing its own on-site energy and eliminating waste and water consumption, Method isn't just doing the right thing; it's doing the more profitable thing.
To mimic Method's success, consider whether your industry produces unnecessary waste and misses any chances to cut costs by embracing more sustainable business practices.
Fortune may favor the bold, but history favors the entrepreneur who's armed with a plan for the future and the will to disrupt -- no matter how boring the industry may appear on the surface. These five companies are doing amazing things within their seemingly uninspiring sectors. What can you do to shake up your industry? Let me know in the comments below.