Have the Disruptors Impacted Us? Part One of Three

About a year and a half+ ago I read a fascinating article in Business 2.0 magazine called “The Disruptors“. The article was published in September 2006, and to date is one of the most eye opening articles I’ve read. The article talks about 11 companies with 11 big ideas that would change everything, or more accurately change industries, destroy established companies, and even change how we do things day to day. So today I started reading another article in Information Week called “5 Disruptive Technologies To Watch In 2008” that talks about virtualization, and that I’ve always been a big believer in both on the server and web application/services side. The more recent article in InformationWeek was definitely more geared towards technology disruptors, and to be frank wasn’t such a surprise to me. Anyway it got me thinking about the old Business 2.0 article, and how eye opening the “big ideas” were, so I decided to re-look at the ideas and determine if there were still strong disruptor candidates.

First off this article first introduced me to Netvibes.com, and ever since then I’ve been using it. The idea was that a highly personalized start page with no major advertising would knock Yahoo, MSN, AOL, and Google off the portal “my homepage” leader board. Although Netvibes.com has grown tremendously, the other major portals are still around, and in-fact iGoogle and Yahoo’s relatively new portal homepage have matched some of the unique personalization features Netvibes.com originally dominated with. For now it doesn’t look like Netvibes.com will disrupt the major portal, and what it really shows is how fast these portals can react and adapt to new challenges.

Everyone heard the buzz about BlueLithium and there highly targeted ad serving based on the whole networks click streams. The disruption was targeted against Google and traditional CPM ad networks back in the day. Well in this case I think BlueLithium rocked the online ad industry and certainly pushed companies like Google and ValueClick to react with similar behavioral targeted products. In September 2007 Yahoo made a big move and bought BlueLithium for $300M. In the short term I’d say BlueLithium had a major impact, however the competition was quick to react again and new competitors have risen as a result.

Salesforce.com’s AppExchange
The disruptor in this case was not salesforce.com as a CRM solution but the underlying database and so called “Web Operating System” salesforce.com exposed when they launched AppExchange. The big idea was to allow developers to build on-top of the AppExchange infrastructure and ultimately compete with the traditional enterprise big boys such as Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, etc. The problem salesforce.com has is that clients want to see lots of strong partners (developers) building products on-top of AppExchange, and developers want to see lots of customers before investing in AppExchange. This is an unfortunate catch-22, which hopefully will dissipate over time. Around May 2007 AppExchange was uncoupled from the main salesforce.com CRM system and prices were reduced in order to attract both customers and developers to the on-demand platform. Although I believe it’s too early to determine if AppExchange is a destructor, I believe it certainly has all the potential attributes and characteristics to disrupt the big boys.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks for part two and three that look at Coghead, Clearwire, Jajah, EEStor, Zopa, NanoLife Sciences, Applied Location, and NextMedium.

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