Game Changers use Disruptive Technologies, Break Rules and Redefine Business Models

The Internet is the ultimate disruptive technology. 15 years after the advent of the Web in the mass market, we only had a glimpse into what is possible. The Web changes the game completey. It empowers individuals to achieve what individuals never could achieve before in history. We call them Game Changers. They count on disruptive technologies, break the rules and redefine business models. “Change is inexorable.” (Jeff Jarvis) The true Game Changers are reckless innovators, free from the burden of traditional mass marketing. They use disruptive technologies in innovative ways to serve their consumers, filling a need and…

The Internet is the ultimate disruptive technology. 15 years after the advent of the Web in the mass market, we only had a glimpse into what is possible. The Web changes the game completey. It empowers individuals to achieve what individuals never could achieve before in history. We call them Game Changers. They count on disruptive technologies, break the rules and redefine business models.

"Change is inexorable." (Jeff Jarvis)

The true Game Changers are reckless innovators, free from the burden of traditional mass marketing. They use disruptive technologies in innovative ways to serve their consumers, filling a need and find the best way to fill it. They break rules that seemed to be set in stone but simply don't apply any longer. They don't accept constraints imposed by established business models. In fact, they challenge them by redefining them for a reason: to improve consumer experience, benefits and value.

The mass market of old days is dead, replaced by a mass of niches. Consumers have taken over control. These days successful small companies change the game successfully, reversing what once worked in favour of big brands and enterprises. It has become expensive and difficult to communicate with the masses, even with huge budgets, while it is easy to reach narrow and specific audiences, highly efficient and with much lower costs.

The Internet is the perfect tool for this new world of niche communication. It has not only enabled new ways to talk to consumers and get direct feedback - it is also a perfect direct sales channel. The Web has closed the marketing and sales loop for many companies that once had no chance other than to use mass media to reach a mass audience. Now they can listen to their consumers in real-time, responding to them and their needs. The Internet is a game-changing technology that leveled the playing field between large and small businesses.

This new world is at odds with the traditional brand management model that was created in the 1940s and worked well for decades. Most brands just aren't suited to highly targeted niches, real-time feedback and specific demand. They simply cannot find their greatest fans or, even worse, they don't have any because their products are aiming for a mass market, thus making it hard to love or hate them - they are simply in between all chairs, not moving anyone. And, as Jeff Jarvis puts it: "The incumbents are saddled with huge infrastructure costs and have to do everything in big ways, including fail."

Game Changers free the consumers from the walled gardens of the industrial heavyweights. Game Changers do more than just create incremental innovations - they break rules. In the last few years we have seen these Game Changers rising in many industries, not least in industries that were heavily troubled by the economic crisis of 2008/2009.

While automotive giants are in big trouble, a new breed of next generation automotive companies like TeslaBetter Place and Local Motors appeared on the scene. At the same time, zipcar redefines car rental and car sharing, using an intelligent combination of web-based services and new hardware. And on the construction level there are already countless start-ups like Transonic Combustion or Fallbrook Technologies, each of them focussing on one single car component they radically improve. Innovation is breaking free from the oligarchy of car maker giants who used to control the entire value chain.

While a lot of traditional banks folded or had to be rescued by government, microlending, microcredit and other forms of peer-to-peer banking flourished. Though Microplace or Kiva won't replace regular banking anytime soon, they fill a niche that wasn't even covered by banks before. They are changing the banking game by either cutting out the middlemen between lender and borrower or at least redefining their role. Meanwhile, Mint is radically redefining the user experience with online banking, freeing consumers from the Babylonian captivity imposed to them by their banks.

While German household name retailers like Hertie, Karstadt and Quelle went bankrupt, their dynamic, data-driven counterparts in the Anglo-Saxon world thrived. Walmart has been using predictive technology for years. Tim O'Reilly and John Battelle are drawing an interesting parallel: "Much as Google realized that a link is a vote, Walmart realized that a customer purchasing an item is a vote, and the cash register is a sensor counting that vote. Real-time feedback loops drive inventory." The British grocer Tesco now even uses weather forecasts to predict sales, reduce costs and avoid wasting food.

On the e-commerce side, category killers successfully entered markets that simply didn't seem suited for online shopping before. Zappos, now owned by Amazon, started with shoes and expanded into handbags, clothing and electronics. They relentlessly focus on the absolute best service, breaking rules formerly set in stone for the mail order business. For example, consumers can return shoes for up to one year after the sale and call center agents have no time limits for conversation with customers. Alice tries a category killer approach in the home essentials segment, going even further than Zappos. Using the Web, Alice helps households organizing their toilet paper, toothpaste, and trash bags with semi-automatic orders and free shipping. On the supply side, Alice tries to cut out the middlemen and source directly from manufacturers, thus keeping prices low.

The mobile sector is quickly moving away from the oligopolistic model where carriers controlled almost everything from technology and handsets to prices and services. Apple's iPhone was a real Game Changer on the gadget side of things, shifting the balance of power away from the incumbents, expanding the value chain to independent application developers and thus paving the way for Android and the Palm Pre. On the carrier side, new players like simyo in Germany entered the market. They outsource everything network-related to the traditional carriers and focus on the four Ps of marketing (product, price, place, and promotion). The next generation of alternative carriers is already imminent. Take for example the Belgian start-up cherry that merges GSM with Wifi to cut mobile costs to the bone.

At next10, you are going to get to know the Game Changers: visionaries, strategies, companies and products that do more than just innovate - they break rules. As we couldn't run the conference without you, the next community, we'd like your input. Help us setting the agenda for an outstanding conference! We currently focus on web- and IP-based technology use in the following industries:

  • Automotive
  • Banking
  • Retail, E-Commerce and FMCG
  • Mobile
  • Media, Entertainment and Advertising
  • Travel & Tourism
  • Health Care

We are looking forward to create a comprehensive list of true Game Changers with your help! The Call for Participation will be open soon.