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The Key to Entrepreneurial Success: First, Invent a Disruptive Technology!

The Holy Grail for entrepreneurs is no longer just to be "first mover," but to be first mover with a "disruptive technology!" It's hard enough to achieve the former; achieving the latter is like hitting the lottery.  Yet you hear it every day in social media, in articles, in comments from the investment community. I don't care how smart you think Mark Zuckerberg is, do you really think he knew what Facebook would become.  Or, how about Steve Jobs?  Sure, he knew he had something important with the iPhone, but do you think he ever envisioned how much or how quickly that disruptive technology would impact every aspect of people's lives?

Disruptive technology is most often a case of right place, right time.  Kind of like lightning striking.

It brings to mind one of my favorite all-time cartoons, created by cartoonist Sidney Harris for the New Yorker magazine more than thirty years ago.  It depicts two obvious scientists viewing a chalkboard with a series of complicated formulas and equations to the left of them (obvious step one) in the middle is the phrase "And then a miracle occurs" and to the right of them (step three) are additional formulas and equations for the solution. One of the men is pointing to the phrase and the cartoon's caption says "I think you should be more explicit here in step two."

With so much "noise" about becoming disruptive with their business, I'm afraid many entrepreneurs are looking for that "...and then a miracle occurs" step along the way to their success. And, in so doing, may forget the fundamentals - that sometimes a simple business premise, based on solving a real problem with an economical solution can be the basis for sustained success. Was Uber really disruptive, or just a better solution than others have been offering for the same service?  How about RedBox?  They just filled a void that Blockbuster left open.

On the other hand, how about Groupon or Zynga?  Weren't they supposed to be disruptive?  What happened in just a few short years?

So, while you may have the next Facebook, or next the iPhone or Groupon, if you really want to succeed, stick to the fundamentals.  Don't wait to get lucky, or have that miracle occur. Just follow the fundamentals:

  • Understand your market. Solve a problem, fill a need. The very basis for your business.
  • Instead of trying to be disruptive, just execute a simple model, simply. Think Uber and RedBox.
  • Don't worry about your marketing going viral; just worry about creating awareness and interest with your prospective market. Think Everett Rogers and Geoffrey Moore.
  • No matter how disruptive your model, remember that happy customers are all that counts. Think Blackberry - they forgot about their customers.
There are an awful lot of smart people out there trying to invent the next disruptive technology. Right place, right time is not a good strategy.  Sometimes, a miracle does occur.  Sometimes, you do get lucky. The key to entrepreneurial success is to follow the fundamentals. If you are, you don't have to depend so much on miracles or luck, just hard work!

 "The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things.  He's been there.  May success be with you!

How often have you seen a truly disruptive technology never see the light of day?  Please share your thoughts in your comments.  It can help another entrepreneur.

If you like this post, by all means, share it with your networks and colleagues.

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