Great entrepreneurs truly do not care about the rules.
If you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of rules.
Some come and go with the times, others never seem to go away:
- You are supposed to dress a certain way
- Finance your company this way
- You pitch deck should look like THIS
- You, in your industry, with your product, it’s not the way it’s done
And there are the big rules, the regulations:
- You can’t dispatch drivers without doing X
- Cars can only be sold through dealerships
- You can’t expose the MLS to the public, freely.
- Hotels are just rooms, but there are a lot of other rooms travellers should be able to rent. Many cities are fighting that.
Great companies are built by breaking rules. We call them ‘norms’ but they are rigid and they feel real until someone destroys our idea about ‘how it’s done’.
- Marc Benioff decided to sell software as a service when everyone believed they had to install software on premise
- Steve Jobs built expensive but beautiful machines when every other hardware company believed they had to be cheap.
and so many more.
And it’s happening, there are more great stories of breaking the rules and the amazing companies that result:
- Figure1 is breaking the rules in Healthcare
- Wattpad has done away with not only publishers, but with most of the old creative process
Who else comes to mind?
Sometimes a pure rethinking of technology can completely rewrite the rulebook. Bitcoin is readily looked at as an alternative to fiat currency, something that was unthinkable before a purely electronic currency was conceived.
Breaking the rules goes by many different names like ‘disruption’ and ‘innovation’ but they all start with someone rethinking an old way of doing business. When we look back on what they’ve accomplished we often like to call these rule breakers ‘clever’, ‘brilliant’ or ‘strategic’. The truth is that they didn’t get ahead by adding complexity, or navigating what existed. Most of the time they were able to get ahead by pushing aside the rules and focusing on the opportunity.
The rules almost always come to mind later.
As the world becomes more and more ‘wired’ I believe that startups will run in to regulatory hurdles more and more often. Like uber, AirBnB, Lyft and others, the rules sometimes represent a massive opportunity to create efficiencies in a place everyone else thought was off limits.
There are little rules, and there a big rules. No matter which stage a company is at, it’s the rule breakers who get noticed, they are the ones who crack a market open and feed off the the plump center.