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Learning Nugget 12 - A Look at Some Disruptive Start Ups

Successfully helping your clients see what they can't see means developing a perspective they can't. Sure being an expert on your technology is one aspect, but not very differentiating. Understanding what the disruptors are doing and hpw they are shattering the ststus quo of traditional business models is a better way.

With that we thought we'd take a look at some amazing start up’s in 2015 and see how they are redefining markets, industries and customer expectations.

While you could pick probably hundreds of companies to review, I have picked a few that I think are interesting and relevant to you.

I would love to hear about others that you have come across in your travels over 2015.


Uptake Technologies, a secretive data analytics startup that popped up in Chicago this October when it raised $45 million at a valuation north of $1 billion–barely a year after its incorporation.

Doing what exactly?

The details are scarce, but Uptake is trying to be the analytics and predictive software back end service for major industries like construction, aviation, mining, rail, and more. That means, for example, that a locomotive pulling freight cars across the country sends a constant stream of data from its onboard sensors to Uptake, and the company collects that data and gives real time insights to the railroad and engineer–like how fast the train should go, whether it’s consuming fuel efficiently, and which parts may be close to breaking.

“It’s not ecommerce, let’s put it that way,” says Keywell. “What we’re here to do is deliver predictive insights that create real value, which means profit or savings or safety.”

To do that, Uptake needs to partner with major machine and equipment makers to create software-as-a-service products that help their end customer. One of Uptake’s partners (although the only one the company reveals publicly) is also an investor: the $55 billion annual revenue Caterpillar. Instead of building their own integrated services, Caterpillar works with Uptake, which has more than 300 engineers, data scientists, and designers.

“Going forward in years and decades to come, the revenue that comes off of insight will rival other macro categories like parts and service,” says Keywell. “Granted, we are early, but I’m looking over the horizon and seeing insight as a major value driver. So we are partnering with companies who want to be part of the solution and not disrupted by it. It’s challenging for the biggest companies to innovate at the speed of an entrepreneurial organization.”

In other words, Uptake will be the out of house software development partner for companies like Caterpillar who want to turn their machines into devices empowered with the newfangled Internet of things–but don’t have the expertise to do it themselves. Keywell, who was once a billionaire when Groupon went public at its peak in late 2011, calls that model unique. “Uptake is a company unlike any other that I’ve been involved with,” he says. “By collaborating with these business icons, we are creating a business model that didn’t exist prior.”

Fintech in General. Probably the hottest market and getting some serious attention right now in the investment community. It plays right into your core strengths as an enabler

If you aren’t across this market yet, get learning fast.

What is Fintech ?

Financial technology, also known as FinTech, is a line of business based on using software to provide financial services. Financial technology companies are generally startups founded with the purpose of disrupting incumbent financial systems and corporations that rely less on software. (wikipedia)

Lets look at 10 Fintech’s to watch ?

1. BillGuard

BillGuard started its journey as a service to help users identify hidden fees charged from their banks. It has since then grown into a fraud monitor and spend tracker where users are pushed warnings to their devices when suspicious activity occurs. So far, BillGuard has flagged over US$50 million in suspicious transactions for its users.

2. Wealthfront

Wealthfront is one of the larger influencers in the automated financial advisory space and has $1 billion under the management of its proprietary algorithms. Wealthfront’s competition is Betterment, Personal Capital and Intelligent Portfolios from Charles Schwab. Its success is attributed to the fact that the company attracts millennial investors who don’t buy into some of the more traditional opinions. Wealthfront just raised an additional $64 million in their latest round of funding.

3. Currency Cloud

This fintech startup is gaining market share in the international payments space, an area that is currently 85% controlled by banks. The London-based company is popular amongst smaller businesses due to the agile nature of the platform: the features are added and adapted quickly, a feat that traditional banks are failing to achieve. Currency Cloud has just received $10 million in the latest round of funding and almost acquires half a billion in payments per month.

4. Square

Square basically did what every fintech company dreams of. Square removed the hassle and expense of processing credit card payments for businesses by creating a simple, tech-driven answer. Square will send you a free credit card reader. All business owners have to do is download the app and start using it for payments. How do they make their money? Through higher transaction fees, but these don't seem to turn users away, as they are more interested in flexibility and freedom. Square is valued at $6 billion.

5. Venmo

Venmo has revolutionized the digital wallet world by developing a method of paying your friends back with an easy-to-use social app that is free from transaction fees. The company began as a startup, but was acquired by online financial king PayPal in 2013. The company reports zero revenue, however, it is helping promote the name of its bigger partner PayPal, now bringing in $7.9 billion a year.

6. Narrative Science

The company has developed an artificial intelligence engine, Quill, that turns numbers into stories. It's being used by Forbes to automatically generate earnings reports and by Personal Capital to create mini-reports on customers' personal finances. Banks could use the software to automate compliance and other reports.

7. Planwise

Develops financial modeling products for consumers. By-mid year, its app will include a feature that lets users link in their bank accounts.

8. On Deck

Uses Big Data to make loans to small businesses. It competes with banks and alternative online lenders such as Kabbage.

9. Pageonce

Creates personal finance software that lets users pay people and bills. It's attracted eight million U.S. users already.

10. Nok Nok Labs

Builds security software based on a new protocol created by the FIDO Alliance, which Google joined this week (PayPal and Lenovo are already members). Ultimate goal: better, stronger authentication using biometrics and other technologies.

Know lets get way out there….

McKinsey predict this year that by 2025 Knowledge work automation, such as where IBM Watson is going could replace 140 million workers across the globe. This is a major area of investment for a small number of highly focussed companies. One such company is:


Rainbird enables you to take existing, human, business knowledge and combine it with your data to automate knowledge work and deliver consultative systems that can transform the way that your staff and customers interact with each other.

Not quite Watson level yet, but a very very interesting AI platform.

Their target market is contact centre, customer experience and collaboration.

  • Contact Centres - Rainbird enables the modelling of a new generation of problem solving tools, accessible to both agents and customers. The result is a reduced time to competence, quicker mean time to resolution, and a substantial increase in service standards.

  • Sales Teams - Rainbird enables you to combine nuanced, human knowledge with your transactional data – to scale expertise to your entire sales force. Make your newly recruited sales staff as effective as your most seasoned sales people.

  • Operations - Rainbird helps transform your operations by augmenting your human knowledge workers with powerful tools. Rainbird stitches multiple systems together enabling you to automate repetitive tasks.

  • Risk & Compliance - Use Rainbird to model and track your governance and compliance obligations. Integrate this logic into your business processes utilising real-time data. The result is greater operational compliance, reduced costs and fewer breaches.

The key lesson in sharing some of the above is nothing more than curiosity a "passion for the explorer" as John Hagel would say.

If we don’t spend some time researching, exploring and getting outside our own blinkered, busy, routine world, you miss the opportunity to see and learn what else is going on the world.

Companies are disrupted because they got blindsided.

You will often learn more from what’s happening outside your industry. Not what’s happening in it.

Any more to share ????

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