Creeping Disruption Startups Need to Be Aware of Many Innovations in So Many Fields

 In Benefit Venture Blog, Strategy

Creeping Disruption: Market disruption is presented as if it is a big bang like digital photography ending filmcreeping disruption photography.

The creeping disruption of the electricity industry has a very important message for any new venture that is not really wide awake and noticing what is really happening in the sector. Will the startup be caught out by creeping disruption, even before the venture is off the ground?

Some electricity coops question whether they should change their governance and seek to become for-profit companies. Some generator giants that were heavily invested in nuclear are looking to different fuels. Coal-fired stations are less and less economic with alternative fuels like natural gas being cheaper, let alone environmental challenges and costs. These are the power generation stories that hit the news.

However, there are many who consider that the utilities we have known and loved are in a death spiral. A death spiral, but not sudden death. Creeping disruption is not one big innovation, but multiple smaller ones with a bigger and progressive impact. Here are ten reasons why creeping disruption is having a progressive impact in the electricity generation market:

  1. Smart storage and innovative batteries are already here—big ones and small ones;
  2. Cities and communities within them can opt out and go their own way on power, as Brooklyn Power Coop aims to do; Green Mountain Power (the Vermont electric utility) has an experiment to turning homes, neighborhoods and towns into virtual power plants, reducing the amount of energy drawn from the grid;
  3. The national grid, though seen in the past as a way to prevent local outages, may be surpassed by regional or smaller ones—and more local energy independence—microgrids;
  4. Renewable energy generation is becoming comparable and cheaper, as well as enabling distributed generation;
  5. Homeowners can become self-sufficient in energy production and storage;
  6. The so-called internet of energy—you can have a network of smart devices within your home, where you could, for example, send your excess power to your parents, or where algorithms and computers dramatically reduce distribution costs ;
  7. Micro generation where your power consumption reduces dramatically; think the solar watch;
  8. Kinetic energy: the energy an object has because of its motion could be captured and used as needed; this is already happening in the bicycle industry, with e-bikes;
  9. The impact of the electric car on energy demand: India, France, Norway and Britain have end dates for gas and diesel cars, for instance; all Volvos will be electric or hybrid in only two years from now;
  10. Building industry and zoning changes are impacting energy demands.

The sector of your startup may not seem to be shifting as dramatically as the electricity generation market, but do not be too complacent. Apart from anything else it may be that the merging of sectors, convergence rather than their disruption is what will impact your business.

Quite apart from disruptive innovations about which so much is written, almost the reverse (convergence) is surprising some people. Just like solar roof tiles, more and more surfaces are being exploited for solar energy. Now we see off-airport parking lots with shade/light/energy producing covers.

Photovoltaic fabrics immediately suggest all kinds of convergence, such solar curtains. Power Textiles, a Scottish company is developing solar textiles (as opposed to heavy inflexible solar cells sandwiched between glass). They are looking to provide horticulture with a product which may be more efficient and beneficial than the current growing systems, such as the use of poly tunnels. Applications are many; since solar fabrics can be easily dismantled, rolled up and taken somewhere else, your imagination can run riot with ideas.

You don’t even have to limit yourself to solar fabrics, a team of researchers has developed a textile capable of harnessing energy from both sunlight and wind. The hybrid textiles are composed of photovoltaic and triboelectric nanogenerators—if you know what they are.

Make sure that your own startup will not be stillborn as a result of creeping disruption.

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