The Disruption Machine and all the Cool Stuff

Disruption has become very much en vogue, so much so, I wrote about Disruption February 2013. The word has since moved on; “disruptive innovation” takes its place. A recent article in The New Yorker (June 23, 2014) by Jill Lepone called “The Disruption Machine” talks about the history of disruption and gives it a framework. I highly recommend it.

My understanding is that innovation IS disruption; without disruption no innovation. Speed of development is such today, that there is no time for ‘gentle’ innovation. To quote from Josh Linkner’s book The Road to Reinvention: […] Fickle consumer trends, friction-free markets, and political unrest,” along with “dizzying speed, exponential complexity, and mind-numbing technology advances, mean that the time has come to panic as you’ve never panicked before.” So, who does the innovating, the disrupting?A friend of mine introduced me to 9others, networking opportunity over a meal with nine other entrepreneurs and start-uppers. She had gone a few times in London and loved it. The New York chapter just started and I took part at a dinner at Projective Space [co-working space for start-ups] with, well 6others. We were asked to introduce ourselves and share what kept us up at night. The idea is to talk about challenges as entrepreneurs and start-ups and share experiences.

I walked away with a list of some really cool (disruptive) start-up addresses: boxbee.com, instacart.com, kitchensurving.com, cookisto.com, breather.com. I met a serial start up entrepreneur from China, the CEO of a healthcare tech solutions company with a back-office in Cashmere, a city launcher for Instacart, the head of production at Boxbee (tight NYC apartment? Check them out). These are smart, energetic young people who are making the world different, and I dare say, maybe even better. What kept them up at night however was quite ‘normal’ and decidedly non-disruptive; which made the evening such a delight for me.  They might be disrupting the hell out of grocery shopping, storage solutions, sponsor searches and health care, but they sure as hell are dealing with day-to-day (dare I say) brick-and-mortar issues.

Instacart is worried about the logistics of making it work in NYC (I can sing song about that). One participant’s part time employees had quit their other jobs to go full time with his organization and he realized that he now was responsible for the livelihood of these individuals – an awesome but, but also scary realization. Boxbee was worried about becoming a company that uses technology, rather than building a technology company. And, it wouldn’t be a bunch of millennials if the question of work-life balance didn’t come up.

When I started Clock Wise a few months (ok, years, a decade and a few even) ago there was no allowance for a balance of anything, but to work.  My early morning runs where a luxury and I remember being chided by a client for being at work after 9 AM (this is pre cell phones).  I thought it ultra cool, sorry rad, that work-life balance was actually a topic on the table for  serious discussion.

What keeps me up at night? The fear that I might end up a dinosaur and somehow miss the train; the dinner was a great example. I was the oldest, maybe an entrepreneur, but certainly not a start-up. The advice I was given to keep up, was to keep checking out YouTube and Kickstarter: interesting advice, and I’ll take it.

The next day I went grocery shopping with Instacart.  The interface was super fast and easy. I loved that I could choose from my favorite stores – I went for Fairways. A lovely woman called me while she was shopping to let me know what was missing from my list and if she should substitute. No overnight wait – I had my stuff not two hours later and her fruit and vegetable choices were impeccable.

I visited breather.com and was sad to see that there’s not much going on in Manhattan (yet) – it’s a great concept: think Airbnb for office and meeting space by the hour. I planned a (for now fake) party on kitchensurving.com and got inspired to host a party, that is just as soon as I find that perfect (fold out) dining room table. I looked at boxbee.com and next time I have a feature and need to store footage off-site I’ll use them.

I look forward to future networking with cool, young entrepreneurs and start ups – if they’ll have me.

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