In Scripture, bricks represent standard material that are replaceable and interchangeable, whereas stones come in infinite shapes and sizes. The Old Testament forbids altars constructed out of bricks, implying that what’s advantageous are variety, individuality , and distinction.

Conformity is no good, in biblical as well as modern times.

In today’s marketplace , you either stand out from the crowd, or risk going under. One option is to make compelling offers via quality, price, customer service, or convenience. Another way is to create an amazing user experience, which is what Disney and Apple do. And BMW and Amazon.

You can also invent solutions that don’t yet exist. Something, anything, to make your company’s uniqueness shine.

Let’s see what these startups are doing.

1. Monetize untapped assets.

A survey by Bain & Company a while back found that 80% of businesses considered themselves differentiated but only 8% of customers agreed.

Companies like Uber and Airbnb have succeeded by empowering people to monetize unused assets in the transportation and lodging sectors. DeepCloud AI is doing so in computing: by enabling businesses and individuals to create revenue streams from idle tech equipment.

It’s a concept called decentralized cloud computing (DCC). Unused storage, computing, and network solutions -- that would otherwise collect dust in a basement -- can be pooled to give enterprises cheaper computing resources. They won’t have to invest in expensive IT infrastructure.

Customers of DCC include smaller-budget entities such as schools, researchers, non-profits, and startups.

In the $28 billion U.S. taxi and limo industry, Uber is the ultimate, differentiated venture. So much so that it created a new category: decentralized ride-hailing. Globally, ride-hailing will rise to $285 billion by 2030, according to Goldman Sachs.

2. Decentralize decision making.

According to Bloomberg, 80% of businesses fail within the first 18 months. One reason is they’re not differentiated in the marketplace. If your product or service is interchangeable with competitors, then your business is noise amid the chaos.

Conformed, replaceable.

The $19 billion music industry illustrates how to showcase value through individuality and creative expression. Isina differentiates itself by partnering promising artists with famous mentor-coaches who have worked with Celine Dion, Usher, Ariane Grande, and other chart-toppers.

There aren’t one or two music execs rolling the dice on rock bands or lounge singers who walk through the door. There’s a decentralized feedback loop with people who actually make purchase decisions.

Fans participate in the talent-scouting process by upvoting musicians who deserve more recognition and preparation. And the best are flown to Hollywood for six weeks of mentorship and auditions, after which they can be signed to life-changing record deals.

Another example is  nextmarkets, which uses decentralization in its research and recommendations. 

Manuel Heyden, CEO of nextmarkets says, "Almost every bank has its own research department, which provides the client advisors with macro and microeconomic information. The aspect of independence is often questioned. That's why nextmarkets decentralized its advising services to 14 independent analysts, which excludes any conflict of interest. Even better, the nextmarkets analysts will guide our customers in real time from the beginning to the end of an investment idea."

3. Be a different kind of network: Anticipate regulatory concerns.

Sell the results. The mechanics is for demonstration.

One way to distinguish your business is to quantify benefits to prospects. Tell consumers your product or service saves 30% less time and effort, or cuts cost by 25%, or improves retention by 10%.

Maxonrow isn’t just any blockchain network. (There are hundreds.) But all offerings come integrated with know-your-customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) rules.

RegTech (regulation technology) is a big trend in an industry that’s attracting government scrutiny. That’s because blockchain and cryptocurrency companies are anticipating higher expenses from more regulations.

Maxonrow anticipates this regulatory burden, and minimizes it for customers and users. Thus, if you’re going to choose the security and immutability of blockchain, less red tape is a compelling value proposition.

BitWallet out of Houston, Texas makes it easy to send and receive cryptocurrencies with blockchain technology. BitWallet transactions are peer-to-peer which means there is no middleman unlike Venmo and PayPal. Digital funds can be intimidating for the non-tech crowd. Thus, developers simplified the design for storing and transferring cryptocurrencies.

When innovation and creativity are everywhere, conformity isn’t an option. Being a stone means embracing what makes your business unique, and to communicate that proposition to the marketplace. Make your business stand out.

Published on: Sep 4, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.