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Mar 02

Disruptive Technology is Shit

Posted by: George Mulhern        


One of the most exciting things in business is to create or ride the wave of a disruptive technology or business. It is exhilarating, incredibly fast paced and has a growth rate that can create stretch marks bigger than delivering octuplets (I think,  I don’t actually have direct experience with carrying/delivering, or even doing breathing exercises with someone carrying/delivering, octuplets).  Anyway……..

I had the good fortune in my career to be involved in a disruptive technology and it was a blast. Since entering the world of venture capital, I also see lots of business plans and hear from lots of entrepreneurs about the disruptive nature of their ideas. This is top of mind right now, because I am working on an opportunity that has the potential to be very disruptive to the existing market/players. Clayton Christiansen wrote one of the definitive books on disruptive technology, The Innovator’s Dilemma.   He identified some tell-tale signs of a disruptive technology, or business model, for that matter.   It is worth a look, if you haven’t read it.

Here is one of my favorite tests for disruptive technology or businesses. It comes from a story that I heard while working in the early days of Hewlett Packard’s LaserJet business.  It was about 25 years ago, so I have forgotten one of the folks names that was involved (sorry). I was in a meeting with a gentleman named Efi Arazi who had founded a company called Electronics for Imaging (EFI).  They were a start up developing controllers for printers and copiers.  He had come out of the commercial print industry, Scitex, I believe —  million dollar machines that were used to print very high quality documents, brochures, etc.  In fact 25-30 years ago, that’s what you got you resume printed on.

Anyway, when the HP LaserJet and Apple LaserWriter were first introduced, Efi took some of the output from the devices and showed it to his previous CEO at the commercial print company, Scitex.

The CEO looked at the output and said, ”That is shit”.

Efi told him, “the printer costs $3,000″.

The CEO said, “That is good shit”.

A simple story, but it is always a reminder to me that when you think you are dealing with something disruptive, don’t expect the experts in that existing space to think much of it. In fact, they will probably tell you it is Shit.  Don’t let that stop you though, it just might be “good Shit”.


2 Responses to “Disruptive Technology is Shit”

  1. avatar tacanderson says:

    LOL, Awesome. Great story George. Most CEO's said the same thing about the iPhone, news paper companies said that about blogs and I bet almost all disruptive technology is greeted that way.

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