Imagine it’s 2008. You’re a Hilton executive checking email on your brand-new iPhone 3G when your colleague emails you about a new hotel startup.
You ignore the email because you have more important things to worry about.
Eight years later, you have a newer iPhone and a bigger competitor. Airbnb was the startup mentioned in that email, and it now has the ability to serve more customers a day than your nearly 100-year-old company.
“If you are Hilton, if you are Starwood, if you are Hyatt, you didn’t see Airbnb coming because Airbnb had none of the characteristics of a traditional competitor,” Mohamed El-Erian, Allianz’s chief economic advisor, said to journalists Monday.
“What’s amazing about Airbnb is that the disrupters never built a hotel,” he said. “What they knew was three simple things.”
Uber is another prime example. Suddenly, from seemingly nowhere, entrenched taxi companies across the nation have a huge competitor they weren’t prepared for. This has led to legal battles for Uber as the incumbents fight back.
But it’s not just Airbnb and Uber that used these three factors. Nearly every disruptive startup we’re familiar with today used them, according to El-Erian.