I wrote a post in 2014 called 33 markets ready for disruption and it took off.
Today there are over 20,000 reads of the post and growing.
I still receive emails from some of you asking to elaborate on some industries, so that’s what I’m doing with this post. I’ve done additional research on the original industries as well as expanded the list to include a couple more.
If you’re wondering where the next big opportunities are going to be, this post is a good place to get ideas of problems that are looking for solutions.
A year doesn’t go by where complete industries aren’t being disrupted by new business models & new technologies. Change in business and technology happens fast today and it’s quite exciting to watch it unfold.
To understand what I mean, look at what these companies have done in these industries.
Tesla is bringing fully electric, autonomous vehicles into the mainstream. And if that’s not enough Tesla/SolarCity is pushing forward on fueling our energy needs with the power wall and solar shingles. They have been disrupting the automotive and energy business and they don’t look like they’re stopping. Elon musk has big plans and he’s persistent enough to keep pushing to achieve them.
Not all disruptions are welcomed by all but Uber is certainly stirring the pot. The taxi industry has been working hard to derail ridesharing but I think they are losing the battle. Consumers love it and I think Uber is here to stay. An interesting thing about Uber is that even they are working hard to disrupt their own current business model with driverless cars and self-flying drones to disrupt the work commute even more.
A poster child for disruption in the early 2000s, Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia disrupted the encyclopedia industry so much that the former market leader Encyclopædia Britannica ended print production after 244 years in 2012.
Kickstarter is the most powerful way for creative people to raise money today. Anyone with an idea can pitch the world and get the financing they need to grow. roughly 100,000 projects have found a total of 540 million dollars in funding.
Amazon disrupted the book publishing & retailing industry significantly and even the cloud services industry which isn’t that old. Amazon continues to disrupt with many of it’s new products and services. Most recently with Amazon Go, their new retail grocery stores with no lines, cash registers or cashiers . They’re testing 3 different retail grocery experiences that will disrupt that space as well.
Change is the only constant and if the past 30 years says anything, the disruption is just beginning. It’s still very exciting times for the entrepreneurs that like to disrupt the status quo.
My research in to the industries below started from questions I found on Quora. Many of them were submitted by people responding on Quora to “What are some $10B+ markets ripe for disruption?” & “What are the set of problems that young entrepreneurs should focus on that will yield the next $100 billion companies?” and other resources cited at the end.
38 Markets Still Ready for Disruption
1) Space travel & planet colonization
I know it might sound nuts to some of you but this industry has seen huge developments in recent years. Privately funded organizations are working on colonizing the moon, building passenger rockets and figuring out ways to inhabit other planets. In September, Elon Musk unveiled the SpaceX interplanetary spaceship to colonize mars. If all goes according to plan, the reusable spaceship will help establish a permanent, self-sustaining colony on Mars within the next 50 to 100 years.
Mars the moon and other planets are all very different than earth and with that presents a whole world of new challenges to overcome if we want to colonize space.
2) The Electrification of Everything
This isn’t just one industry just, it’s all kinds of products and services that will be affected.
I recently read Canada’s climate strategy and a huge pillar of this strategy is the Electrification of Everything.
The goal is to create policies and encourage investments that focus on replacing fossil fuels as the preferred method to power everything in our lives. From cars to scooters to boats to locomotives to industrial equipment and more, we are in the midst of a transition that will electrify everything previously driven by combustion. This presents a huge opportunity for those focused on this transition.
I wrote more about this in Climate Change Startup Ideas: Problems need solutions
3) Education & Learning
Today’s education system is designed with one major flaw. That flaw is that it forces the kids to adapt to a really complex bureaucracy that was designed for a world that doesn’t exist anymore. The system should be designed the other way around, where learners are always in the driver’s seat. Kids love to learn but somewhere along the line, for a huge majority of kids learning = school = boring & not fun. That’s both frustrating but also exciting in that the whole process of learning is open for disruption and evolution.
There is a ton of value created by educating the masses in emerging and under-developed markets and those able to capture this value will do very well.
3D printing is on the cusp of becoming a mainstream phenomenon. And yet, contractors are still driving their big trucks over to Home Depot. This industry is also still very paper based on the admin side so there is lots of room for automation and new user experiences.
Augmented reality and virtual reality are also changing the way people design, build, and sell new properties. The huge disruptions in constructions may come with 3D printing and robots. There are some companies that have giant 3d printer robots that can print a building in a day. There are also brick laying robots that can lay down a street or build a wall in a fraction of the time that it takes human labor to do it. I can see all sorts of niche capability robots doing specific jobs in the construction process. A robot that installs windows on skyscrapers or painting robots that can do a whole condo in a few hours autonomously.
5) Water rights, and distribution
The clean water we are polluting for natural gas wells will soon be worth more than any form of gas coming out of the process. There is a global clean water shortage. Close to 1 billion people in the developing world doesn’t have access to it.
New ways to change this are desperately needed for filtering and storing, to water capture and efficient use of it. Resource industries use and waste tons of water. Solutions to change this can have huge broad impacts. Water capture from the air and seawater desalination are areas to watch as well as clean water gets more and more scarce.
The Fintech space continues to evolve at a crazy pace. This industry is really still at the start of an unprecedented period of disruption. Big established companies and start-ups are both testing new technologies, from smartphones, “big data” and AI to Bitcoin, the blockchain and more.
This promises big changes to banks, insurers, investment firms and real economy served by the finance sector. Start-ups and incumbents alike increasingly acknowledge that, in many parts of financial services, the ‘winners’ will be those that collaborate best to create win-win partnerships.
Who gives them out and how people get them (micro and peer financing) The number or FINTECH startups is exploding and they are taking on every financial experience, utility, and transaction.
7) Prime Time TV lineup
The whole TV industry continues to change and evolve. We are seeing people cutting the cable cord and moving to on-demand channels such as Youtube, Hulu and Netflix. We have just started to see how decision making has changed with on-demand TV when it comes to what shows to produce. For example, Netflix decided to bring create a new Full House show called Fuller House based on the data they collected from the amount of people watching the original series. They have a deep understanding of what people like and TV will never be the same because of it.
As new live streaming apps like Periscope, Facebook Live and others, the fight for live eyeballs will continue. There is still a lot of opportunity in this space as VR and AR start to become more popular.
8) The Legal Profession
Simple contracts could be generated and processed by machine at far, far lower cost than a lawyer’s hourly rate. Some legal documents could be modeled as graphs of conditions and outcomes, which could then be compared with tree-diff algorithms and annotated with other data. Visualizing information can help in creating better outcomes for cases.
One of the most pressing opportunities for the legal profession is process automation and Artificial Intelligence. The legal profession is still very paper based. They bill by the hour so many of the current established law firms are not so motivated to streamline delivery of a bill rate modeled business. There are some firms that are innovating here and using technology as a differentiator over the established firms. AI will play a huge role in this industry. doing research, digging through massive data sets of legal rulings and cases to find precedent etc. Also good for patent search and discovery.
9) Intellectual Property
Consider the black box of patent applications, as well as the aftermarket (or lack thereof) for IP.
“Patent Troll” is the latest buzz word; individuals or firms pick up bulk lots of IP on the secondary market and file suit against major companies for infringement, hoping for a big win. However, what if there were a more transparent and readily accessible market for IP? Searching for and buying patents is a huge gap in the current process and could use some innovation.
Big data will play a large role in modernizing this ancient industry. The vast collection of information can be mined for scientific and commercially useful insights that can be used to improve many industries and processes within.
The US Patent office recently launched web-based licensing platform that will bring together inventors and would-be users in a match-making marketplace type of service.
10) Wall Street
I found a great post by Chris Dixon about disrupting Wall Street. From retail banks, credit cards and trading to investment banking, fund management, and research. All of these areas of Wall Street are still in the hands of old school organizations and are ready for change and innovation.
11) Data Informatics
Corporations and professional services firms can pay upwards of six-figures for limited (annual or even monthly) access to certain specialized data stores. While some data pools are proprietary, pulling information from truly unique sources that cannot be duplicated. Others are currently providing nothing more than the service of aggregation and dissemination of publicly available data. These data stores are a wealth of knowledge and become even more useful when brought together. The disruptions here are challenged by politics as well as privacy laws but cracking through this can provide value and opportunities for innovation.
It’s a black box, from the way in which “risk” is calculated by individual companies, to the way in which claims are assessed for validity and payout. Having just received new insurance, I am reminded of the obscure legalese used in even the most basic of customer-facing communications. Try and find an insurance company that is transparent in its communications, or even one with a customer experience better than that of an armed robber.
Micro and Peer-insurance is a new industry testing out the waters. Everything can be insured by people for people and even people themselves can be insured. Still another old industry that can use some innovation.
The world just experienced one of the strangest presidential campaigns in history. I can definitely say, Mr. Trump disrupted politics and the political process.
Campaign spending alone stretches into the billions when looking at the top 2-3 levels of government. Consider aggregate spending on campaigns at all levels, in addition to significant sums spent on lobbying and other related activities. Disruption would certainly be difficult in this space, but there are examples of companies already attempting, and succeeding in some cases, to disrupt particular verticals. The future of politics is definitely digital as we have seen recently with allegations of Russia using technology to disrupt the election. Safeguarding democratic processes is a good opportunity to pay attention to.
14) Real Estate
One of the oldest industries out there still operates in very much the same way.
The fact that a 5% commission is extracted by the brokers for matching buyers and sellers is today’s information age is outrageous. The buy side of the market is very opaque with little visibility into who is interested in buying what and where.
There are opportunities in the direct market space where cutting out agents entirely is one idea. Again this is still a very paper based process. Blockchain technologies will be disrupting this industry in the near future where the entire sales and contract process can be done using a blockchain based platform.
Real Estate is a tough industry. Realtors continue to fight hard and lobby for restrictions that keep them relevant. Up here in Canada we don’t see anywhere near the data that you can see on sites like Zillow in the US.
15) Moving industry
A 16 billion/year industry formed mostly from small players. 50 companies have 45% of the market. The rest are small players, companies with under 10 employees. Frog box is one example for a moving company shaking things up.
A huge disruption could be robots in the moving industry. Robots to take boxes from the house to the truck or even the trucks themselves being autonomous as well. These technologies are here today but business has not applied them in any mass scale.
16) Long-haul Trucking
Disruption in this industry is on the cusp. Budweiser just recently shipped a whole lot of beer 120 miles in an autonomous truck. There was still a driver because the software only dealt with the highway part of the journey, with the driver taking over on the local city streets. When this becomes fully autonomous, we will see lots of disruption in all areas of this industry.
In the USA alone the Consumer Product Goods industry size $2Trillion+! Anywhere between 10% to 40% of that money is spent for the packaging of the product. That’s the cardboard, polyethylene, plastic, paper and glue meant for covering the actual product. This is so wasteful and not necessary. Needs some innovation that can work on a mass scale here.
Even when I look in a grocery store, it’s hard not to feel sad at the amount of packaging that goes into the landfill. We need more bulk retail systems that encourage reuse of container. The farmer to wholesaler to retailer to consumer supply chain can be improved.
18) Recycling & Reusing
There’s still so much we can do to recycle effectively. There’s a huge opportunity here, but I wonder if we’ll capitalize on it only after we reach a higher level of scarcity.
19) Landfill Resource Reclamation
As we continue to come to terms with resource scarcity, we’ll dig deeper into our own trash heaps to reclaim re-usable materials. I just heard on the radio the other day how a group in British Columbia is cleaning up the coast after the Japan Tsunami pulled all kinds of debris and garbage into the ocean. As they find new materials, they are trying to figure out ways of reusing what they find. For example, they are using a technology that turns much of the plastic they find into fuel.
20) Battery Technology
If we can make tiny batteries that never have to be recharged and that don’t cause a nuclear melt down we will advance tremendously. There is obviously lots of work being done in this industry and it is surley and enabler of other new technologies.
21) Fast Food
The fast food industry is known to deliver more than a quick ready to go meal. Fast food also delivers some of the highest calorie foods eaten during a typical day. Fast healthy food will change this industry as people continue to become more health conscious. See my comments on Nutrition below.
22) Software Operating Systems
The cloud is gaining ground quickly. OS’s that don’t require booting, installing, or updating by the user are surely preferred over those that do. Also, operating systems will also need to evolve as technologies like Augmented reality and Virtual Reality continues to grow.
23) Rare Earth Metals
This enormous industry has mostly been pushed into China were extraction labor costs are low enough to be economical. However, with >50lbs of rare earth metals under the hood of your typical Prius or EV – substitutes are needed as China cuts supply (recently announced that <50% of China-mined rare earth metals were available for export). Lithium is one of these metals that will continue to grow in light of the demand for portable power. Ways to get these rare earth metals to market faster and cheaper is just one of the opportunities. What to do with these metals after their end of use is another area that needs solutions.
While PayPal never quite lived up to it’s vision of displacing the major processors (Amex, Visa, MasterCard), this area is beginning to heat up again. 2%+ cost for each transaction is the reason $24T of B2B transactions are still completed using paper check. Blockchain technologies will be the technology to watch in this space. The blockchain is already changing the whole world of payments. You can see this in the recent rise in the price of Bitcoin and this is just one example of the use cases that the blockchain provides.
25) Low-Cost Distributed Energy and Sanitation solutions
Developing countries have a large need for dirt cheap, compact local energy and sanitation solutions, but the same applies to many of the developed countries too. Who wouldn’t like the prospect of generating their own energy with small solar panels or other green energy solutions? This is especially true when the electric grid becomes unreliable or cost of energy hikes up rapidly. Tesla is pushing hard in this area and I think with the strategies I outlined in this post on climate change startup ideas, governments will be incentivising the electrification of everything in the years ahead.
26) Diamond Retailing
This is a $72 billion a year market. It’s huge Bluenile.com, the biggest online player but only does about $350 million a year in revenues. Efficiency can be a win big in this industry. Still run largely the same way it always has. Mines & manufacturers are starting to sell directly to consumers but it’s still a user experience that can be made better. Lab-grown diamonds are already disrupting this industry. Will be interesting to see where this side of the market goes. Products with low environmental impact will be appealing to younger generations as well.
Diamond sales are in decline and efficiency can be a win big in this industry. Mines & manufacturers selling directly to consumers. lab grown diamonds are already disrupting this industry.Products with low environmental impact will be appealing to younger generations.
27) The Gambling Industry
Highly regulated and run by governments in most developed nations but still currently remains unregulated in over half the world (Thailand, India etc) and most bettors go through bookmakers with high fixed odds. With online betting exchanges (Betfair, Smarkets) you get the best prices because of efficient markets and high volume/liquidity.
Even in the regulated environments, innovation is needed. With aging player demographics, there is big need to create products and experiences that engage younger generations like millennials to what is traditionally known as a baby boomer entertainment experience.
28) Sewing garment factories
The clothing itself is getting disrupted by the Internet of Things more so on the end product. However, there needs to be a better way to find, vet and analyze factory capacity and order status. Also, there is an opportunity for more automation in process. If robots can build cars, they can certainly sew a tshirt or suit.
29) Medical Devices
Most big companies have commoditized existing equipment (esp.Surgical Devices). Much of the new features being added are bells and whistles to justify a price hike or reduce liability. There are a lot of opportunities in their improvement and total replacement. VR & AR are bringing whole new innovations to medical devices. Surgeons can now practice in a virtual environment before the cut open a patient. This and many other innovations will change medicine forever but this is all still in its infancy and needs more work.
Simply put, healthcare is not working and it will get worse as the population ages. Efficiencies need to be created or this will bankrupt governments.
A 74+ Billion dollar industry that’s fragmented and highly inefficient, probably the last industry left where consumers still shop from a trade show, magazine or google search.
32) Business productivity software
Right now, 100s of millions of people are using Microsoft Office on PCs, while their kids are using smartphones, tablets and web applications. The future belongs to collaboration and productivity apps designed for this new reality.
The tax system is another system designed for and by accountants. If the congress can get a simple(r) tax system designed and implemented, the entire accounting system as we know it today will be turned on its head. (which means they’re probably pretty safe)
34) Automobile sales and marketing
Particularly at the dealer levels – if you’ve ever purchased a car you’ll realize this industry is completely broken. Car dealers are packed full of sales people who don’t understand the difference between sales and marketing, particularly online advertising. We will see more and more car makers take the direct to consumer route and using technology to move people through the sales process. Shopping for a new car in a virtual marketplace sounds more fulfilling that driving around to 4 dealers to find what you like. That being said, with autonomous vehciles already here, we may not buy cars in the near future. Instead, we will use autonomous on-demand car services to get us from A to B.
They cost too much for what they are. Very old industry doing things the same way using the same materials for decades. There are some companies (Casper)already disrupting here. Mattresses made out of foam and other new materials that can be boxed up small and shipped at a fraction of the cost of sending mattresses with metal wire in it. There are some new bed-in-a-box companies that are doing extremely well today and they just started a few years ago.
Plant-based diets are on the rise and are disrupting the meat and dairy industry. Demand for meat has declined for a decade in the US and so has dairy. People are waking up to the fact that these foods are not only bad for your health but are also not very sustainable or good for the environment. From companies replacing your mayonnaise to egg, fish and meat substitutes, this industry is disrupting and will continue to for some time. The meat substitutes market alone will be worth $5.96 Billion USD by 2022. Lots of opportunity to reinvent food and nutrition for the billions of people on our planet.
37) Energy (generation, management, and storage)
It’s one of the most fundamental things for modern civilization and is still a long way from perfect. Cheap (or free), clean and plentiful power would have incredible effects on the rest of society and might actually make some real progress towards solving major problems like world hunger, poverty, and health.
38) Urban Infrastructure
Infrastructure is the collection of systems that support communities around the world. This includes water, sewer, power, roads, bridges and more. In some parts of the world urban Infrastructure is old and crumbling. In other parts, there simply is no Infrastructure or it is so poor that it’s in need of desperate attention. Society still faces the huge challenge of modernizing all of this infrastructure to support our growing civilization in centuries ahead.
Disruption is just that. Disruptive.
When a market or industry is disrupted, a business can close down, people can lose jobs and all sorts of things can happen both good and bad.
The one fact still remains and that is that change is the only constant and the best way to deal with it is to be aware of how disruption can affect you, your career and even your city and then be a part of it. I wrote this post to help you see yourself as part of the disruption, to jump in and be a disrupter or to find companies or opportunities where you can be apart of the disruption and not a victim of it.
Have other industries you think are ready for disruption? Disagree with me? Have something to share?
Please share in the comments.
- 6 Industries Ripe for Disruption (inc.com)
- The Difference Between Innovation and Disruption, and Why China Needs the Latter (techinasia.com)
- Disrupt ! (newmediaandmarketing.com)
- Is data the next disruptive technology? (csironewsblog.com)
- Is More Disruption What We’re Really Looking For? (janresseger.wordpress.com)
- Don’t You Dare Say “Disruptive” (newrepublic.com)
Last modified: February 22, 2018