Babek Ismayil, founder and CEO of OneDome, argues for a more positive and collaborative approach to innovation
The word "disrupt" is so frequently used these days by technology companies that it seems no start-up can claim greatness if it doesn't "disrupt" existing business models, regardless of whether that innovation has a wider positive social or economic impact. The problem is that encouraging a persistent culture of disruption can be... well, disruptive. And that's not necessarily a good thing.
It feels like the whole concept of disruption, while associated with innovation and business ingenuity, often has more of a negative impact, exploiting weaknesses within the system to gain market share. What we need to be doing is identifying an under-served market and seeing innovation as a way of adding value to both businesses and consumers.
Collaboration should be the new disruption. We need to think not only about creating something for the consumer, but also about empowering existing businesses and creating more, not fewer, opportunities. A collaborative company is one that works alongside established companies and, rather than trying to crush or destroy incumbent business models, helps to drive them forward through new innovations.
Perhaps this is just utopian thinking. Business is increasingly seen as a zero-sum game, and admittedly the 'collaborator' doesn't sound quite as grand or as swashbuckling as the 'disruptor'. From a media point of view, it makes for a far less interesting headline and from a fundraising point of view, investors may not be quite as interested without the prospect of quick market domination.
Collaboration is particularly important in industries where the 'disruptors' have so far failed to gain meaningful market share.
Specifically, I'm talking about the property industry. Almost all of us will interact with estate agents at some point in our lives, and anyone who has been through the property buying or renting journey will know that the process is often disjointed, stressful and expensive. The property industry is vast and fragmented; with archaic, analogue processes, real estate can often feel out of touch with tech-savvy millennials.
Yet despite this, traditional agents continue to be the primary players. Consumers appear reluctant to embrace the online challenger brands, with just 4% of homes sold by online estate agents.
Why? The simple fact is that consumers are more likely to trust established names with what will likely be the largest transaction of their lives. This might change for some segments of the market, but it is difficult to see it changing the whole market.
So for an ambitious new property-technology, or 'proptech', company, it's time for a new approach. I passionately believe that new entrants to this industry, above almost all others, should see themselves not as disruptors, trying to bring down the existing network, but as collaborators, with a positive message, looking to help and facilitate the current estate agency model, creating a better industry for both existing players and consumers.
At OneDome that's exactly what we're trying to do. We're creating a collaborative business model that empowers existing market participants to "connect all the dots" for a seamless customer experience. We want to make the property journey easier and more painless for consumers.
We see collaborative technology as the future for proptech companies and if we get this right we'll help the industry make best use of existing infrastructure, improve revenue channels for professionals and, most importantly, improve the image of the industry in the eyes of the consumer.
Collaborative technologies will ensure that digital innovation becomes a force for good. We need to show that modern technology can enable positive change for all existing players in an industry, rather than just 'disruption'.