I’m not alone in disliking founders using the term “disruption”!

prime movers

From the homepage of Floodgate Fund.

The pervasive use of the term disruption by founders has really bothered me for quite some time. It seems like every startup has to be disrupting some industry. Uber and Airbnb with their disruption of the taxi business and the hotel industry respectively seem to be the models for every startup. But what does disruption have to do with solving a hair-on-fire problem for a customer? Disruption might be a byproduct of solving a problem for large set of customers who switch from using an established product to yours, but it’s a byproduct, not a goal.

I figured I’m just out of touch. as despite reading a ton of tech news every day thanks to The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times business section and Flipboard, I’ve yet to come across anyone who shared my discomfort with the constant emphasis on disruption.

Yes, Google totally disrupted the newspaper industry by destroying its display ad business, along with Craigslist, who destroyed their classified ads. But neither company set out to destroy the newspaper industry. I’ve read enough about Google to be confident that Larry and Sergey did not set out to disrupt the newspaper industry! They set out to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

So I was glad to see the article A prominent Silicon Valley investor says entrepreneurs need to stop copying Mark Zuckerberg so much and quit talking about ‘breaking things,’ ‘disruption,’ and ‘robots eating the jobs’ by Zoe Bernard on Business Insider.

I knew the name Mike Maples from his time as an executive at Microsoft. His son, Mike Maples, Jr.,  is a successful serial entrepreneur who started the venture capital firm Floodgate Fund.

There are a lot of quotes from Mr. Maples in this article, but there are two that make clear his position on the use of language by entrepreneurs:

“When an entrepreneur says, ‘I’m going to disrupt ‘X,’ I think: Why are you trying to disrupt anyone?” says Maples. “If your advisor told you to say that, then you’re getting bad advice. Advisors who talk that way are doing a bad job. The whole ecosystem from entrepreneurs to advisors to venture capitalists writ large need to do a better job at understanding the raison d’être of startups in the first place.”

For Maples, this raison d’être of startups is straightforward: “The best founders I know aren’t disrupting something, they’re creating things,” says Maples. “It comes from love and passion and innovation. True innovation doesn’t come from eating someone else’s business.”

So here’s a motto for you founders;

Move fast and make things!

And thanks Mike for helping me not feel quite so alone.



Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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