It speaks to a company’s staying power when they can make a big splash, then follow through and keep the momentum going. Disruptive companies shake up their markets with innovation. Sometimes new products and ideas birth an entire batch of related breakthroughs. Other times, no one knows how to fit a new product into their lives, the company can’t make it work, and both eventually disappear.
Diagnostics for All - Founded in 2007
A non-profit backed by the Gates Foundation and others will make it possible to test people for diseases using only a tiny piece of paper. Already conducting trials of liver function tests, Diagnostics for All is also working to create tests for things like preeclampsia, malaria, and dengue fever. The testing device itself resembles a microchip, and is covered with channels (created with wax) and chemical “wells” designed to react with infected blood samples. The tests don’t require lots of medical equipment, so they’ll be especially beneficial in developing nations.
Kickstarter - Founded in 2009
This crowdsourcing site is the largest creative funding platform on the planet. Some notable Kickstarter projects include Pebble: E-Paper Watch, TikTok®, and Amanda Palmer’s 2012 album, Theatre is Evil. Palmer’s project raised an impressive $1.2 million dollars, but was plagued with controversy concerning the artist’s accountability for contributed funds and whether her touring practices were ethical. More than 90,000 projects have been funded through Kickstarter.
Buzzfeed – Founded in 2008
Best known for its hilarious list-style pieces, the site began to change when Ben Smith, formerly of Politico, took over as editor-in-chief. Days after taking over the job, the site broke the news John McCain would endorse Mitt Romney. Buzzfeed even hired a copy editor. With real news and funny pieces designed for sharing (and refreshingly lacking in obnoxious ads and slideshows), the company may be pioneering the next standard format for web journalism.
Snapchat – Founded in 2011
The app that allows users to send pictures and video that self-destruct shortly after they’re viewed has already spawned a whole swarm of copycats. Users are sharing around 100 millions “snaps” per day. In a world where everything you put online is there forever, Snapchat gives users a refreshing impermanence when sharing moments. However, even the most ephemeral data leaves a trail; a forensics examiner has shown Snapchat data can be recovered from Android devices, if you have the know-how.
Coursera – Founded in 2011
In 2012, the free online education portal hit one million users. One of many sites to offer free college classes, the quality of Coursera courses helps the site stand apart from the rest. With real courses from schools like Princeton University and Stanford University, Coursera has gained cachet as a legitimate online learning destination. And with ten more universities having announced partnerships with the site in May 2013, it seems likely this virtual schoolroom will remain at the head of the class.
Vistaprint – Founded in 2000
Business card printing once was a task only local printers handled. Vistaprint revolutionized business card printing by taking it online and offering free business cards with their own logo on the back. Since going public in 2005, and after barely surviving the “dot-com bust,” Vistaprint has remained a profitable company offering loads of marketing solutions for businesses of all sizes.
Leap Motion – Founded in 2010
This exciting device tracks simple gestures, like pinching and pointing, in three dimensions instead of two. It allows users to control things like their computer cursor with smaller, natural movements. It’s still in development, but a video on the company’s homepage shows just how intuitive and responsive the Leap Motion can be.
Google Knol – 2007 to 2012
Initially, this project seemed very similar to Wikipedia, but with a focus on the authors of the documents. Knol offered a slightly more social approach than Wikipedia, allowing comments and questions on entries. Unfortunately, the site quickly became known for spam, and suffered further ignominy when Google was accused of favoring the site in its search engine results.
Apple Maps – launched 2012
The iOS maps app should have been just as good as Google Maps, but it fell so short of its competitor that CEO Tim Cook actually posted an apology letter to Apple customers suggesting they try other map apps. The flop cost a few people their jobs—and got more than a few users lost. It didn’t take long for Google Maps to launch its own maps app in Apple’s App Store to fill the void.
Without disruptive companies, advancement would slow to a crawl. Despite the sea of failures, disruptive survivors continue to prove their worth while successfully spearheading innovation.
Diana Doherty is a freelance writer specializing in SEO content, and is a contributor to ChamberofCommerce.com. She loves all things tech, photography, craft, military family life, and business. She earned her BA in English Writing Arts from SUNY Oswego.