Disrupt or die, baby!

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Last weekend was a working weekend, even more so than normal. A small group of TechPeakers and a few “outsiders” spent two days learning how to “Disrupt or Die”. This is the name of the workshop run by Vlad and Catalina from Geekcelerator.

Based in Rumania, Geekcelerator believes entrepreneurs will save the world, so they invest in startups that solve difficult technology problems for other startups. Coming out of their experiences working with startups, they have now created a tool of their own, called DoersApp. It is an app for Doers, lol! It is described as “the most collaborative way to build your startup DNA”. What does that mean? Well, that is what we spent two days learning.

The workshop had a strong design thinking focus, which encouraged us to start with the user. In fact, our first tasks of the day involved getting to understand our ‘visionary customer’, also known as an early adopter. You had to describe them in detail, giving them a name, describing where they live, their role in your context, their beliefs, media consumption etc. By the time you had completed all the customer cards, you felt like you knew your customer for sure.

The steps of the entire day 1 process were:

  1. Understand Your Customer
  2. Clarify the Problems
  3. Define the Solution – Delivering Happiness
  4. Communicate the Magic – Your Unique Value Proposition
  5. Identify the Market Size – How Big Can You Grow?
  6. Distribution Channels – Ways to Ship Value
  7. Revenue Streams

Each step listed is a board in the app that consists of several cards with prompt questions for you to think through. In the real world, you would be answering based on actual research, but for the purposes of the workshop we did this based on what information we had already gathered and our best instincts, based on understanding our customer. The general suggestion was that you should always be building a business where either you are the customer, or you know the customer very well.

Day 2 saw us all tired but ready to go. This time around, we switched tactics a bit and focused on how we would disrupt the market. The organisers had identified 5 major disruption methods. Again each method was a board in the app with cards. The cards took us through the process of thinking how we might use each method to disrupt and figure out whether that was in fact they way we would be able to disrupt the market.

The disruption methods we looked at were to:

  • Eliminate persistent pains – Looking at ways to remove the painful parts of a process for our customers.
  • Dramatically cut prices – Is it possible to lower prices significantly (like 90%) compared to your competitors?
  • Simplify complexity – By simplifying complex processes, startups can often get a jump on their predecessors.
  • Make stupid objects smart – In this world of smart everything, are there ways you can make something that currently acts pretty “dumb” really smart?
  • Build to stick – Here we examined ways to make customers far more likely to use our product than a competitors through things like personalisation.

The other one I would have added is to change the business model. By providing a similar product or service using a new business model, disruption has been achieved in several markets and is something worth considering for startups looking for a way in.

At the end of each day, we had an imaginary investment pitch competition where each team had to do a short pitch of their product/service based on the pieces they had put together throughout the entire process. The rest of us acted as the investors with up to $50,000 to invest.

The DoersApp and the Disrupt or Die process are interesting and definitely appealed to my own structured but visual way of thinking. The app is still in beta and requests to use it must be approved unless you get invited to an existing project by a current user. It does require you to log in using AngelList, but if you are working on a startup you probably should have done that already, right?



  1. Emma Lewis on September 26, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    “Disrupt”! I love that word. It must be very interesting for you to hear different approaches… “Dramatically cut prices” is something some Jamaican enterprises should consider! 🙂

    • bianca on September 26, 2013 at 11:18 pm

      Lol! Well it’s not as simple as a business just cutting their prices, but more about looking at inefficiencies in standard industry processes, for example, that you can improve on making it cheaper for you to provide the same product/service at a much lower cost.