Disruptive Technologies

What are Disruptive technologies?

In my last post about building mindshare I referenced a blog posting where users were talking about hot disruptive technologies and 2ndSite was throw in into the ring alongside blockbuster Flickr.  We have known that 2ndSite is a disruptive technology for some time now.  Many 2ndSite users recognize 2ndSite’s disruptive characteristics (see the list is below), but few of them are familiar with the concept of disruptive technologies.  Allow me to explain – and I’m going to take the long route.

Last Friday I was interviewing a 2ndSite user as I do when I want to “check in” with our clients and see how people are making use of the service.  Frank is an entrepreneur who runs a technology services firm.  As the conversation meandered further and further from my interview questions (as entrepreneurs are known to do!) we began to discuss where Frank sees market opportunities online today. He began to tell me about this idea he had a few years back start developing what he called “ZappApps”.  In essence “ZappApps” are scaled down versions of software that help Frank (and others) do specific tasks – applications that are devoid of the feature bloat that makes many software applications complex.  2ndSite is a scaled down application like this.  It is a tool that is simple, but helps you get done what you need to do.  For example, when I asked Frank to compare 2ndSite to QuickBooks he said, “2ndSite does 10% of what QuickBooks does – the 10% I need.”  Great feedback Frank, but that still does not explain what a disruptive technology is… Or does it?  I asked Frank if he was familiar with the concept of disruptive technologies, he said he was not.

The term “Disruptive Technology” or “the disruptive start-up” was coined by Clayton Christensen.  Clayton is a Harvard Business School Professor and the author of bestseller of “The Innovations Dilema: When new Technologies are Great forms to Fail”.  Clayton does consulting for companies (most often large, far from nimble gorillas) to help them incite and harness the power of innovators within their organizations. He defines disruptive technologies as products or services that answer the following questions with a “YES!”


Is there a larger population of less skilled, or less wealthy customers that could be pulled into the market?

Can the product help people get something done better that they’re already doing in their lives today?

Is the product UNDER developed (i.e. lacking some features)?

Here is another definition of disruptive technologies

Disruptive Technologies exist and thrive in a market “beneath” the current market’s offerings.  They are commonly cheaper (some times free!) and less robust (see above) and for these reasons they appeal to a huge audience who just wants a simple tool to get their tasks done – nothing more, nothing less.  Blogger.com is a good example of a disruptive technology, so is Flickr. 

So, if these are the traits of a disruptive technology, then both 2ndSite and Frank are on to something.  Perhaps the best  example of an Application Service Provider (ASP) that is disruptive is Salesforce.com.  This is the business model 2ndSite “subscribes” to (subscription billing model…I couldn’t resist).  I suspect you will see many “ZappApps” or “disruptive technologies” popping up over the next few years and with good reason.  “ZappApps” are cheaper, work better and get things done faster.  Isn’t that what we all want?

If you would like to learn more about disruptive technologies or about Clayton Christensen, have a look at this article from Inc.com titled, “The Disruptive Start-Up: Clayton Christensen On How To Compete With The Best“.  It’s part article and part interview and overall a great read.

2 thoughts on “Disruptive Technologies

  1. hai.. I’m a student in Junior High School, Jakarta, Indonesia. I want to ask you about distruptive technology. I have a homework about it. Can you tell me detail about it?? I wait your answer in my e-mail. pole_frozeneyes@yahoo.co.uk or greece_floral@yahoo.co.uk

  2. HI Ericka – sounds like a great project.

    Probably the best I can do is direct you to the following article:


    Good luck!

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