Disrupt everything: how the web, social and mobile are changing everything we do

In the last decade, the world has experienced a significant boom in the disruption economy. The disruptive innovation that we have seen over the past few years has helped create new markets and value networks. Some even disrupt an existing market and value network over a period of time, eventually displacing earlier technologies.

Any industry that can be disrupted is being disrupted by technology. In some instances, new companies have formed to shake up how established systems work. Others have seen consumer technologies change the way these industries operate and function.

The rise of the web, mobile devices and social media as changed the way companies think about their businesses and their services. The more we explore these disruptive technologies and the industries being disrupted, the more evident it is that service businesses which don’t use social media or mobile technology to lower barriers and improve efficiency won’t last very long.

In the current disruption climate, you know that an industry is under attack from the innovators when someone is trying to sue them, or regulators are lining up to fine them. Such is the case in many of the below listed industries and the upstarts taking them on.



The education space has seen a fair amount of disruption in the last decade. Zach Sims of Codecademy reckons that “education needs to be disrupted from the outside.”

What began with purely moving content online for users to access from anywhere, has now moved to changing how people learn. There are now platforms that have no classroom components and encourage learning through a series of exercises such as Khan Academy and Codecademy. Other platforms, such as Coursera, partner with existing education institutions such as Stanford university to bring their courses online for people who aren’t able to attend the institution.


Uber App

Transportation and taxi services have been revolutionised by the emergence of Apps/Services like Uber and Sidecar. The most common phrase touted by startups today is: “we want to do for [fill in industry] what Uber did for transportation.”

In order to bring public transportation to the same pace as its customer Travis Kalanick, the founder of Uber, created a product to reduce friction in the public transportation sector. Various similar products have launch in the wake of the San Francisco-based taxi technology company’s market entry.

Lyft, another San Francisco-based company, uses the concept of the shared company, allowing ordinary citizens to share a ride in their cars to others. The future of transportation is currently being mapped by these well-funded technologies companies that aren’t bogged down by established systems or hectically defined regulations.



Hotels.com and other similar platforms began a long-awaited move into the future of hotel booking creating an easier way for users to find, compare prices and book hotels in different regions. The next wave of disruption in this sector came courtesy of the sharing economy and Airbnb.

The startup’s take on the hotel economy creates a new avenue again for individuals with excess capacity and accessible accommodation for travelers. This of course began with the Couchsurfing movement and its community of travelers, who would rather explore a city for free on someone’s couch. Airbnb, however took this a step further by not only monetising but aiming for hotel quality accommodations. Airbnb is currently valued at about US$10-billion, a billion dollars more than the Hyatt Hotels Corporation.



Mobile apps and online platforms have altered how we find restaurants, recipes and even what we eat. Platforms such as OpenTable allow users to find and book a restaurant without having to pick up the phone or do too much research. Various apps, like Evernote Food and FoodSpotting, allow users to find and share recipes and cooking tips with friends.

The real disruption however is the amount venture funding going to food tech startups, which according to the New York Times, is at an all time high to the tune of US$350-million.

These investments are going to technologies to create healthier foods, reduction of rich foods and the building and maintaining of futuristic “skyscraper farms” meant to feed urban populations from within the city. Though food technology is still in its infancy, according to Wired, investors realise “that investments in early stage food technology research will have a high pay off in the long-run”.

News Publishing


If there was ever any industry that was in a constant state of disruption, it would be the media industry. In the last decade, new digital platforms have transformed the news industry in all facets, from content delivery, to content production, to media revenue models. The rise of personal publishing via mediums like blogs has empowered individuals to become their own mini-media companies, propelling citizen journalism to the fore. It’s something that has gained more traction with the rise of social media and up-to-the-second news reporting from citizens and journalists via platforms like Twitter.

New advertising models like Google’s Adwords and Adsense, YouTube’s advertising programmes, and Facebook’s advertising offerings has created new commercial competition for publishers like never before. Media companies now compete with these massive internet brands for advertising revenue. Programme’s like Google’s Adsense has also allowed individuals to monetise their personal blogs and sites, much like formal media does. Companies are also getting in on the act, publishing like media companies and also monetising this content too. Social media has provided new ways for media to be distributed, and for readers to play a role in that distribution.

Besides the big names of Google and Facebook, some of the biggest disruptors in this space include Upworthy, Buzzfeed, Zite (creating one news source through aggregation) and Medium. By creating digital first platforms that work with several informal contributors, the publishing industry has become more fluid and democratised. Long may it last, we say!



The future of entertainment is streaming. This much has been made clear with the advent of streaming platforms and the adoption of streaming technologies by big media players such as HBO and ABC. The world of television, film and music have been rocked by technology the hardest in the last decade through piracy.

Online streaming, once viewed as a threat, could be the industry’s saving grace. Streaming services such as Netflix, Spotify and even YouTube have now established themselves as the norm for the tech savvy generation. Most streaming platforms have proved their worth by being platform and device agnostic.

The next phase in this disruption, however, lies in a stable integration of cloud-based content archiving and delivery, which are still yet to be an established reality. Currently Apple’s iCloud is the strongest when it comes to archiving but Google, Netflix and Amazon are working hard to dethrone the tech giant.



Big chain stores and retail dinosaurs are starting to feel the pinch of ecommerce in more developed markets and the demand for it in developing markets. “A new retail is emerging — it is consumer driven and tech-enabled,” Jody Ford, VP of eBay Marketplaces said earlier this year.

More than just ecommerce and the ability to shop online, what is hectically under attack is the retail customer experience itself. Mobile devices, social media and the new concept of “always on”, mean that the lines of traditional customer service channels and the online generation are closing in on each other. Retailers are under pressure to develop technologies that will evolve at the same pace as their customers.


The biggest disruptor in the advertising space is no doubt Google and its ad network. Google through relevance currently dominates the world of online advertising, a space Facebook is aggressively attacking and similarly Twitter is also exploring the same advertising mechanism, within its own platform. However, the next phase of advertising disruption isn’t Google, but content.

According to John Battelle, Chairman and CEO of Federated Media Publishing, there are very specific trends in advertising that are emerging. He argues that these big trends such as programmatic ad-tech, open conversation and native (content) advertising — will eventually be the future of advertising. Just like every other industry, advertising is evolving with the audience, brands are choosing to tell stories rather than overtly sell productions.

Banking and Money

The world of finance be it, banking, the management of money or accessing is rapidly changing. The rise of mobile banking and mobile payment platforms such has Square, M-Pesa, Google Wallet and PayPal has changed the way we think about money.

The biggest disruptor in finance right now though is Bitcoin.

“Bitcoin is the most intellectually interesting development in the last two years,” said Julian Assange earlier this year. He argued that the technological innovation behind Bitcoin is establishing a new global consensus. Assange argues that current structures around finance from political and economic points of view mean that the people in control can often get pushed around by the state. This is why Bitcoin is important, he says, as it brings about diversity, which is needed in any organisation.

International Development

Mobile phones

This area is being disrupted by the emergence of consumer technology, primarily mobile phones. All of a sudden, aid workers are connected and can share their experiences. Those affected by development can offer their critiques, and the conversation can expand. More importantly, technology offered an access point for everyone involved.

Tech has also shaped the way we deal with crisis. Ushahidi, Twitter live maps, Google heatmaps and other crowdsourcing platforms have, for instance, turned international development on its head. In the current climate, for governments and development agencies, a technology strategy isn’t just an added bonus, it is a must have and often key in handling a situation.



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