Laura Bohannon

Entrepreneurs Live in the Future and Disrupt the Past

In thinking about successful startups and how to approach building a startup of your own, duplicating successes of juggernauts like Facebook may seem like a daunting task. Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen notes that successful businesses follow a simple principle: think of jobs that need to be done.

In the article Breaking News, he notes that people “hire” businesses that get the job they need done at that time done. One example he highlights in news media is Metro, a free publication meant to be consumed in the average time someone would spend during their commute, about 20 minutes.

I’ve been trying to come up with feasible startup ideas for this class, and both Christensen’s article and How To Get Startup Ideas, written by entrepreneur Paul Graham, suggested tactics that go hand-in-hand: live in the future and disrupt the past.

Graham included an interesting quote from Robert Pirsig’s Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance that resonated with him at an early age.

You want to know how to paint a perfect painting? It’s easy. Make yourself perfect and then just paint naturally.

This, Graham said, is one way to approach a startup; become someone who has the right ideas and hunches. Becoming the type of person who is good at thinking up startups is much easier said than done, as is creating a disruptive business model like the ones that Christensen mentions in his article.

An important aspect of the businesses that have become successful that are highlighted in both articles is that they are constantly evolving and are working to live in the future to help guide consumers and show them what they need.

Companies like Facebook started out for a specific type of person: a Harvard student interested in whose hot on campus. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t try to invent Facebook as we know it today, but he ensured that his company was quick to evolve and take advantage of changes in the market. Huge companies like that are constantly moving forward and not looking to the past to solve their problems.

Another example of evolution in industry and adapting to that evolution is highlighted by Christensen: the music industry. When I think of evolution in the music industry and just generally ungodly successful people, one of the first names to come to mind is Jimmy Iovine. Iovine talks about not having a rear-view mirror in plenty of interviews, and is constantly evolving and working to change with the industry. Iovine and Dr. Dre came up with a wildly successful startup of their own: Beats by Dre. Ever heard of it?

They’re experts in music and sound and understood that if they could create headphones that sound great and look cool, then market it well, they could have a huge success on their hands. That’s sort of what these articles encompassed to me. It all starts with wishing something existed to make your life easier or better, then finding something to fill that need, or that job to be had.

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