Entrepreneurs are like a superfood for the economy: By creating competition, they keep an industry fresh and flourishing.
Clunky, lumbering industry giants are forced to innovate, ultimately benefiting the consumer in the form of a shiny new product. And if lots of people buy the shiny new product, more workers need to be hired to make that product, reducing unemployment.
Alright. That's enough of my high school economics for now.
Most entrepreneurs are disruptive. Normally these entrepreneurs have entered an industry they're frustrated with and are hell-bent on changing. So what are their biggest challenges? And how do they overcome these?
Let's look at Feast It, a company tearing up the catering scene in the U.K, and planning to expand to the US in the near future. Founders Hugo Campbell and Digby Vollrath have connected over 250 local street food stalls with big companies like Deloitte, the RA, and the BBC.
Instead of getting the sad, mass produced canapes, they select the most vibrant, tasty dishes from the food markets of the U.K. Vollrath says Feast It's biggest challenge is trust. "The event catering service we offer is the linchpin of some of the most important events of people's lives," he says.
Even if the product or service you're selling is far better than an industry giant, if you haven't got trust from your customers, you haven't got customers. So how did Vollrath and Campbell get over the problem of trust?
"We put a huge effort in targeting big legitimate brands from day one as we know if we worked with the best suppliers and had some big name clients we'd be legitimized right from the start. It worked well for us, as from month two we were able to go to meetings saying we work with Patty and Bun, Soho House, Samsung, Virgin, etc. and were taken far more seriously than we may have been the month before."
So the Feast It boys clearly recognize that their weaknesses--their size and therefore lack of trust--and have attached on to bigger companies, that already have consumer trust in order to circumvent their issue. And given that they're on their second round of funding, this seems to have worked pretty well for them!
Hostility from Industry Giants
Let's look at another company: so-sure, a socially responsible insurance company that designs insurance policies for the customer, as opposed to the insurer. Given their Net Promoter Score of 79 (above Apple's 72), this new approach seems to be working.
Founder Dylan Bourguignon says the key to jumping in against industry giants--who remain focused on profit--is to provide outstanding customer service. "You need more than a funky new bit of technology: You need to turn the establishment on its head," he says. "As you can imagine, the incumbents aren't so keen on smaller, innovative firms that want to drag them away from the status quo."
Bourguignon had to find avant-garde players who could help him redesign insurance with the customer at the center of the proposition. They were few and far between. He says that "you've got to fight twice as hard and be twice as brave" to stand out when you're going against the grain.
Attracting the Best Talent
Finally, let's check out Smarkets--basically a NASDAQ or CME for sports, politics, and current affairs events. The company ranked 12th on this year's Inc. 5000 Europe list. In 2016, its business profit grew by 160 percent to £13.7m, its revenue increased by 144 percent to £25.4 million, and it saw £2.5 billion worth of trades on the exchange--achieved with a headcount of just 78.
Smarkets CEO Jason Trost says, "The biggest challenge we face is being able to recruit the best tech talent who can continually improve and innovate our product as the business scales rapidly." His solution? Culture.
"As the company's grown, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the sort of workplace I want to have. As a software engineer myself, I've experienced being treated as a second-class citizen at work, so I wanted to empower engineers at Smarkets. We operate with self-management principles, where trust is the driving force and employees are given the freedom to work on what they think is best. They can also take unlimited holiday and propose their own salary."
Clearly, there are different levels of disruption: whether it's a mere ruffle, or full-on shake up. From the entrepreneurs I've spoken to be careful not to cut your nose off to spite your face, don't bite the hand that feeds you etc. but also stand your ground.
If you're really doing something different, don't be afraid to be yourself and stand out. "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." as King Henry IV says in the eponymous Shakespeare play.