When bulky mainframes ruled the computing world, who would have conceived of a device that fits in your back pocket, acting as phone, camera, mobile workstation, music player, and more? Steve Jobs and the company he formed, Apple, helped to fundamentally change the way we obtain and share information.
Twenty years ago, would you have imagined quick, free delivery with the click of a mouse? Jeff Bezos’ Amazon has changed the way we shop.
Celebrity-entrepreneur culture might lead us to believe that “disruptive” technologies hatch only in Seattle or Silicon Valley. One of the exciting challenges of operating a business incubator in Greater Palm Springs is trying to identify the locally created technologies that someday may alter entire industries.
Juan Guzman, founder and chief visionary officer of Palm Springs iHub portfolio company Nautica I/O, set out focusing his software development business on people, quality, and continuous improvement. It wasn’t until his small company was presented with the opportunity to develop a consumer-facing health and wellness platform that he recognized his role as a potential disruptor.
Though Guzman prefers the term “visionary” to “disruptor,” he nevertheless appreciates the freedom
to work on the unknown, and the vast scope of the project does not deter him.
“The biggest appeal for a potential disruptor–
visionary is solving problems in new and creative
ways — the feeling of being able to create without limitations,” Guzman says.
Nima Pauline, founder of Palm Springs iHub companies Eco Culture Manufacturing and EcoSustineri, has spent a lifetime caring about the environmental damage created by manufacturing, particularly in the fast-fashion industry. To address unsustainable manufacturing processes, she intro-duced a proprietary software platform that enables companies to quantify their carbon footprints.
Giving manufacturers a financial incentive to be attentive to carbon outputs would establish a new norm — one in which those outputs are routinely measured, traced, and offset. Pauline believes that, under this scenario, the guiding rule of business success will be “survival of the most sustainable.” Finally, companies will care about sustainability initiatives as much as Pauline has all along, and she’ll be ready to provide them with the quantification technology that they need.
Juan Guzman, founder and chief visionary officer of Nautica I/O.
Portfolio companies within the Palm Springs iHub are working toward goals and profits in numerous fields, and not all set out with the intent of disrupting an industry. But when a new idea has the power to make life better, safer, or easier for people, it grows. Change happens incrementally, sometimes imperceptibly. Then, before you know it, there’s a new normal.
Clues and Cues
How can you tell that an industry is ripe for disruption? Look for the biggest, most seemingly insurmountable problems that people face. They’re often the same problems that have seen multiple insufficient attempts at resolution. Current industries that beg for disruptive solutions include healthcare, higher education, housing, waste management and recycling, and transportation. You’ll notice that high costs dominate most of these industries and that, intuitively, most people feel there must be a better way to operate.
“Disruptive innovation” was coined by Clayton Christensen, the Kim B. Clark professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and author of Disruptive Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. The terminology refers to “a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.” (from Interaction Design Foundation’s The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction, 2nd Ed.)