Dreaming of a Casper mattress … 100 more disruptors ready to shake up your world
June 9, 2017
Since I started exploring and ranking the world’s “Gamechangers” many others have either adopted the word, or concept in annual rankings and showcases. Disruptive businesses are interesting and inspiring. Many are start-ups, although the don’t have to be small. Or digital. For big companies they represent the source of new ideas, and also threats to their future. Many say such small businesses do not have scale, and so can never have impact. How wrong they are.
The whole point of disruptive businesses are that they create discontinuities – rethinking, reframing, reinventing – that spread like fault lines in markets, or contagions between consumers, shaking up expectations and aspirations, whilst also providing a more interesting friend for investors and influences. They also have business models, working in ecosystems of production and distribution through which they use networks to amplify their impact, far beyond their own size and location.
UK-based publication Marketing Week have got together with Econsultancy to produce another of these lists. Here are a few of their featured disruptors:
Plant-based nutrition brand Aloha was launched in 2014 by extreme sports enthusiast Constantin Bisanz. The meditation and yoga fan learned from Ayurvedic practitioners in India and those principles underpin the health and wellness brand. Aloha demonstrates its commitment to Hawaii, which inspired its name, by partnering with the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust and Maui Cultural Lands.
Head of marketing Molly Breiner says: “Consumers are looking to include more sustainable products in their diet without sacrificing on nutrition, taste and convenience. Above all, we’re aiming to help consumers live happier and healthier lives.” The company had raised $4.5m (£3.5m) from two funding rounds by 2014. Aloha products are available at grocery and natural food retailers across the US including Target and Stop&Shop, and are also available online
Claiming to be the world’s 100% user-created fashion brand, Awaytomars is based on sharing economy principles and crowdfunding. Launched in 2015, it outsources the initial stages of the creative process to the general public and then using its community it iterates them into designs that can make it to the prototype and eventually production stage. A different sales model rewards collaboration and profits are shared between the original designers and any community members who provided significant input. The company distributes 30% of its profits to the community, 20% to the designer and a further 10% to contributors.
Luxury and fashion management consultant Alfredo Orobio has garnered 10,000 active users in his community from 90 countries and has attracted the attention of industry experts, being named Fast Tech Pioneer at the Centre for Fashion Enterprise, the University of Arts London. He has a ‘creative commons’ approach to his concept, with WGSN Insider reporting “I want people to copy [the idea]. That will be so much more interesting for the future of design”.
The Babylon Health app lets users book face-to-face consultations with doctors via a smartphone or desktop computer. They can also check symptoms using artificial intelligence (AI), ask medical questions, monitor overall health indicators (including pulse, stress and blood pressure), carry out health tests and keep clinical records in one password protected, secure location.
“The majority of digital healthcare companies simply connect people to doctors through a mobile phone. Our next-generation app will harness the powers of AI and machine learning to not only prevent ill health, but also predict it and intervene when necessary,” says Dr Ali Parsa, CEO and founder of Babylon. Prior to Babylon, Parsa founded Circle, Europe’s largest partnership of clinicians with £200m of revenue, 3,000 employees and a successful IPO. Babylon currently has more than one million downloads, 800,000 registered users worldwide and is free to 220,000 employees on benefit schemes at 120 companies.
“No one wants to fund ecommerce companies any more,” Bevel founder and CEO Tristan Walker told Recode in March 2017, three years after the brand’s launch. They might not want to fund retail companies but they clearly have no problem with tech-driven commerce platforms for innovative consumer products. Bevel’s shaving products, specifically tailored to the grooming issues experienced by people of colour, are sold at a higher price point than mainstream competitors such as Gillette and typically by subscription. The opportunity to reduce skin irritation is clearly chiming with consumers as the company claims 95% of customers renew after the first three months.
Bevel’s parent company, Walker & Company, has raised $33m (£25.7m) in venture capital funding and its shaving products are sold in major US retailers like Target. After success with its predominantly male-oriented products, the company plans to launch further extensions such as an electric trimmer and a women’s range.
Casper launched in 2014 with a view to providing perfect mattresses direct to consumers. The twist is that the company sells only a single type of mattress, delivered in a small, manageable box. The company has now decided it can afford to diversify, launching a single type of ‘perfect’ pillow and sheets. Speaking to The New York Times, founder and CEO Philip Krim said: “When you check into a hotel, they don’t ask you do you need medium, firm, plush-firm or plush soft? There’s one mattress.”
Reportedly one of the fastest growing consumer brands of all time, it earned $100m (£78m) in revenues in its first full calendar year, 2015. At present, foam beds make up 20% of a £1bn UK mattress retail market but less than 10% of sales happen online. Casper’s five founders, whose backgrounds include product engineering, design and ecommerce, have received funding from a number of venture capital sources totalling $69.95m (£54m).
Curve allows customers to combine their credit and debit cards into a single physical payment card that is accepted anywhere, uses just one PIN, and means they don’t have to change their bank or behaviour. The Curve card is supported by a mobile app, available on Android and iOS, which means users have visibility of all their spending and charges in a single place. “We transform the existing fragmented financial world into somewhere crystal clear, designed for the user,” says CEO Shachar Bialick.
Curve has raised $5m (£3.86m) across three funding rounds from investors including the Mayor of London’s London Co-Investment Fund, as well as Connect Ventures and Seedcamp. The company claims to have processed £15m of spending across 80 currencies. In early 2017, it added a rewards programme offering instant cashback of between 2.5% and 5% on purchases when spending with one of more than 50 major UK merchants.