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5 Ways Digital Disruption is Creating Massive Opportunities for Startups



startup and digital disruption

Recently I caught up with Roger Seow, who is the Head of Social Media & Digital Integration at a large financial institution, and has a career that spans many years and companies. He has made a name for himself as a thought leader, who changes the status quo through the use of digital disruption principles.

During our chat, we covered a lot of ground around where the opportunities lie and some strategies that startups can use.

This article is based on Roger’s advice from many years of experience and insight, and it will also clarify some really useful points around digital.

What is digital disruption in simple terms?

It’s the use of digital technologies such as social, mobile, analytics, and cloud computing to challenge the traditional status quo of doing things. This could be improvements or solving problems on an idea that hasn’t been thought about. For something to really be disruptive it needs to be able to scale or grow quickly. Digital Disruption is everywhere, not just with startups, and they are not immune to being disrupted themselves. It’s important to be aware that the landscape has changed.

The components, that make a successful startup, are that you’re agile, nimble, willing to experiment, have the ability to execute on trends and able to make mistakes. Digital disruption is something that just happens and it’s a means to an end. Startups by their very nature are already disruptive because you can do things quicker and cheaper than most businesses. Before discussing digital disruption, Roger always stresses that it’s important to understand the four key ingredients that make a successful startup.


– What problem are you trying to solve?

Most entrepreneurs look at their startup from an opportunity lens because they are serial optimists by nature. There is nothing wrong with that but you need to make sure you’re finding a problem that actually exists.  Will someone pay to have this problem solved? Is the problem large enough and is it something people care about? If your startup is able to address this then you’re well on the road to success.


– Find the right people to solve the problem

No one has a monopoly on all the skills that are required to make a successful startup.

When we talk about digital disruption it’s not just about coming up with a great idea. You need to be able to think what the future is going to look like with your solution, when it’s of scale. With this in mind, you need to think about what people you need along the journey that can perform such functions as marketing, legal, risk management, business strategy and product development. Ideally these people would have good business acumen, understand commerciality of your idea and know how to manage the startups reputation. Obviously you don’t need all of these people on day one, but you will need them on the journey.


– Have the correct structures in place

Structure has its purpose and sometimes it’s looked upon by startups in a negative way because it can potentially slow things down.

The temptation for a startup is to take shortcuts in getting something to market, but if you really want to be sustainable and successful, you need to be thinking of scale. In order to scale you need to have strong structures in place from day one.

“Try to build for scale not to scale.”


– Lastly, funding to execute

When you have thought about the first three ingredients, then you can think about how to approach the various ranges of funding in the market. Any person or firm, who is wanting to invest in your startup, will be wanting to see that you have a problem worth solving, the people to solve it and structures that will demonstrate financial discipline. When all of these are aligned then it’s a good time to look at investment. Successful capital raises are often done because of an understanding of these principles.

Now that you understand these four ingredients and what digital disruption is, let talk more about the opportunities that exist for you and your startup, thanks to our good friend digital disruption.


1. Large organisations can’t innovate as fast as your startup can

By virtue of their brand and time in business, one model your startup could consider would be to actively position yourself as very innovative for large, traditional, organisations. If you look at the recent trend in acquisitions, large organisations are seeing startups as attractive and buying them because they simply can’t innovate fast enough. One of the ways your startup could take advantage of this and prove your startups worth is to build some relationships with large organisations and then ask them to put forward a self-contained problem. Once you have their problem you could use your startup mentality and skills, to solve their problem and prove you can be a valuable partner to them.

Then what the large organisation brings to the table for your startup. is that they can help you grow to scale by exposing a number of their customers to you as a test. This partnership could be a win-win model because, in the eyes of the large organisations customers, they are seen to be innovative, without having to build everything themselves. From the startups point of you, you get to test and refine your product to a real customer base. This sets you up for success when you go to get funding and allows you to show them you have a track record and have incorporated the feedback from these customers, into your product.

You might be thinking to yourself, “I don’t know any large organisations”. Some ways, to find them, are to go to meetups, hackathon’s put on by large organisations and government-sponsored activities.

“Google staff gets 20% of their time to explore new ideas.”

It’s also important to understand that a lot of large organisations will be happy to talk to you because most of them know that no one has a monopoly of good ideas. Chose the right time to approach the “Gandalf’s” (Think, Lord of the Rings) of the large organisations, who can navigate you through the key decision makers and assist you to validate your idea further. Look to your mentors or angel investors to advise you when the right time, to engage large organisations is, because it’s different for every startup.

The other factors, to consider, is when to share your idea and how much of it to share, because your competitors might be listening. On the flip side, the question to ask yourself is, have you shared enough of your idea to gather excitement from the guide within the large organisation?


2. The Social Media wave has already hit

“80 – 90% of people today have a disbelief of what organisations say about themselves.”

There are a lot of costs involved in marketing, to tell your potential customers about your products, services and differentiation in the market. If you consider that a large part of people might be discounting that message, then you need to look at other ways to get your message through.

“Increasingly people are turning to Social Media and online ratings, to inform them prior to making a purchase decision.”

Like-minded people, on sites like Tripadvisor, are getting together and sharing their stories, talking about solutions and sharing their experience. Previously people would primarily trust big brands, but this new phenomenon of people buying from people is something that startups can take advantage of. One way you could take advantage of this, with your own startup, is to create these destination points on free social media platforms, and then invite the crowd into your product development cycle and marketing ideas. In the old days, when you wanted to test your idea, you had to run small focus groups in a room, whereas now you can run Google Hangouts with a crowd, and do a similar thing, but at a much larger scale.

As far as completing the transactional side of selling on social media, it’s best not to do this part on the platform because you run the risk of creating a conflict of interest, and having prospects think that you only engage them so you can get something from them.

Trying to complete a transaction on social media loses the purity of the benefits that you get such as things like unsolicited advocacy, community, peer to peer sharing and collaboration, which is what typically comes out of the medium.

The mindset, that you need to have when selling online, is that selling is a cycle. It starts with awareness of your startup, development of the idea, refinement, education, packaging etc, and then finally, the exchange of value – social media has a big part to play. Use social media for all the parts of the sales cycle, but not necessarily the final transactional element where credit card numbers are exchanged, as this could taint the whole social media message you are trying to put out there. The final exchange of value is best done on your website with a shopping cart.


3. Mobile first and the cloud (not the ones up in the sky)

When Roger attended Dreamforce  (an annual Salesforce event) in 2013, Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, said that they want to be a mobile first company and she remembers when she first got the job, there were only 40 mobile engineers, they now have more than 4000.

The rise of smartphones worldwide and the demand for content to be consumed on them has created even more opportunities for startups, especially considering that many websites are still not mobile friendly.

Dreamforce Event by Salesforce

Part of the further rise is in smartphone use, has been driven by Android becoming a serious player and other brands of smartphones starting to come on the market. This will only continue to grow as the market share starts to split further between the likes of Apple, Android, HTC, Sony etc. As the entrepreneur / founder it’s your job to set the vision for the startup, and it’s important to ride the wave that is already here. If you’re at the stage where you want to pivot your business, a mobile first strategy is something to consider. More people in a household have smartphones than they do televisions or newspapers, and they can engage and interact whenever they want. As a startup, you want to create a really great mobile experience so that your users can consume and contribute with you, whenever they want, however they want.

If you’re at the stage where you want to pivot your business, a mobile first strategy is something to consider. More people in a household have smartphones than they do televisions or newspapers, and they can engage and interact whenever they want. As a startup, you want to create a really great mobile experience so that your users can consume and contribute with you, whenever they want, however they want.

One other result, that has come from digital disruption, is the cloud. I remember a few years ago when maintaining server was a real pain. You had to have a special room, adequate security, loads of expensive hardware (that always needed changing) and air con to keep the room cool. Now the cloud allows us to move infrastructure, which startups and businesses use to manage themselves, to experts, which will help them drive scale further as they grow. The cloud moves capability to where the expertise exists, as long as you get the security and privacy right, with the option you go for.

The opportunity here is that large organisations still can’t use this tool to its full capability yet, whereas you can. There is really no reason for a startup trying to stay lean, not to take advantage of this digital disruptor.


4. Payments and the opportunity

Digital disruption is also creating opportunities in the payments space, if you’re a startup that is interested in facilitating payments. The two forces, that consumers are driving, are simplicity and frictionless commerce. On the other hand, the same consumer also wants security and safety. Pay Pal has won the game so far because they have made it frictionless, by allowing users to login with their mobile number and a 4-digit pin, which you would be unlikely to forget.

On the other hand, they also cover the security aspect by covering fraud for 30 days. At the micro level, if you’re a startup wanting to succeed as a payments provider, you need to get these two things right. At a macro level, the other part to understand is that the exchange of value between the user and a startup is only a slither of the entire value chain. Roger believes that there is still opportunity as no one has cracked payments end to end yet. The challenge of course, is that there are only small amounts of margin in it, yet there are so many players in every transaction that want a slice.

Even if you do not want to be a payment provider, it’s still worth having some form of digital wallet on your site, to allow frictionless payments. Where applicable, your startup should also consider taking advantage of the new Apply Pay technology, that allows you to do real world, contactless transactions, with your smartphone. If you do all the other bits previously mentioned, and do them well, then the transactional side takes care of itself.


5. Content is king in the long term

The way that you market your startup can be still achieved by traditional advertising or SEO / pay per click, but it depends on what you are trying to achieve. Digital disruption has really made content an important part of any marketing strategy and you can take advantage of it. In order to do this successfully you need to get your messaging right and clearly communicate within your content,  what problem you are solving, and why your startup is in the best position to solve it. If your not good with content it’s definitely worth investing into some good copywriting.

The content should also have the intent to build advocacy, remembering that people buy from people. Rogers opinion is that a lot of content out there just reads like a marketing brochure. Make it easily digestible and shareable so that your audience can see, feel, and understand what you do. For example, if you are trying to solve a financial problem don’t dilute your message by creating content that talks about cars or coffee. This strategy is a good way to start a niche and grow from there.

The content should also have the intent to build advocacy, remembering that people buy from people. Rogers opinion is that a lot of content out there just reads like a marketing brochure. Make it easily digestible and shareable so that your audience can see, feel, and understand what you do. For example, if you are trying to solve a financial problem don’t dilute your message by creating content that talks about cars or coffee. This strategy is a good way to start a niche and grow from there.

If you look at Amazon as an example, they didn’t start by being the world’s biggest retailer from day one, they started selling CDs and books, then they invited users to review their products, long before they expanded into everything else. Your marketing mix is really important. Depending on what your strategy is, this will determine where you should share your content. Are you trying to create awareness, increase traffic or create shares and likes? Tailor your content to the channel you’re sharing the content on. Content will really help you create interest. One issue though is most marketers create interest around a specific point in time, but it’s really preferable to keep that interest going, which is very rare. The life of a tweet is 12-15 seconds. How do you keep the interest going? Ensure you have consistently new material to keep the conversation alive.

Tailor your content to the channel you’re sharing the content on. Content will really help you create interest. One issue though is most marketers create interest around a specific point in time, but it’s really preferable to keep that interest going, which is very rare. The life of a tweet is 12-15 seconds. How do you keep the interest going? Ensure you have consistently new material to keep the conversation alive.


If you want to continue reading up on the subject then Roger recommends reading Code Halos that talks about social, mobile, analytics and the cloud and how they are challenging businesses.

The book is available on the Amazon link below:


If you’re interested in knowing more about Roger Seow then you can connect with him via LinkedIn

Roger Seow A2S

Tim is best known as a long-time contributor on Addicted2Success. Tim's content has been shared millions of times and he has written multiple viral posts all around personal development and entrepreneurship.You can connect with Tim through his website

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Terry Woolford

    May 29, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    Great article Roger, a interesting and thought provoking read. By the very nature and speed of digital innovation it is always disruptive. Entrepreneurs shouldn’t just be thinking about wholly new applications but to how “digitize” traditional products and services. Think about Uber and now others – they digitized the taxi cab industry and revolutionized it. Essentially the same product delivered in a innovative way – convenient, and simple.

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You Are The Problem With Your Business



A great way to screw up your company is to get into the habit of blaming your suppliers, the market, your staff or your product for your failures.

I recently heard a story of a business that had set up a website. They sold various products and services focusing on helping people with psychological issues. The business owner was smart. The product solved a problem.

Unfortunately, the company was making almost no money. They’d hired someone to help them with their digital marketing and it wasn’t working.

Plenty of traffic was coming to the site, users were having a look around and then not buying a single thing. Who’s fault was this?

Well, according to the business owner it was the person running their digital marketing. As a result, they wasted approximately eight months marketing a website that couldn’t make any sales. The reason the business was failing according to the owner was because of the keywords that were being targeted in the marketing campaign. This is a horrible excuse.

The reason your business fails is because you’re blaming someone other than yourself. It’s the quickest way to bankruptcy. Don’t do that.

Your company is a reflection of you.

It took me a long time to figure out that a company is a reflection of its founder.

One of the businesses I had, had a toxic culture and a bunch of people that were rude to customers, arrogant and not nice people. That was a reflection of exactly who I was at the time.

The company was reflecting the flaws of my own life and what I refused to admit.

In the case of the business owner above, what was obvious is that they were good at telling lies to themselves. It was easy not to change as a business owner and insist that the change needed was nothing to do with their vision.

The issue of their company was not the digital marketing strategy but their lack of understanding around what their customer wanted.

The thought that their products were too complicated, not solving a real problem or priced incorrectly was an admission of guilt they wanted no part in. Hence the eventual demise of their company.

Take responsibility and it will change.

When you own the business, everything is your fault.

You have the power to solve any problem you choose. It starts with you being brave enough to admit that there’s a problem, and then secondly, being bold enough to insist it’s your fault and that you can change it.

The problems in your business can all be solved. That’s what it took me a very long time to understand. When I changed as a person and faced up to my hidden battle with mental illness that I didn’t want to talk about, the odds turned in my favor.

Had I have not taken responsibility for my mental illness, I would have never become a leader in a business or started another side hustle. I would have been crippled by the big, bad world that I thought I could control.

Control came from responsibility, and responsibility solved the major problem in my business: me.

Change is a must.

Not with your digital marketing strategy.
Not with hiring new people.
Not with developing a new product.

Changing yourself is the *must* because YOU attract the problems and the solutions into your business”

You can’t find the solutions or stop the never-ending problems until you stop the cause of it all: you. You’re the problem with your business. The good news is that it’s entirely within your control to fix.

Change you.

Not the business.


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The Different Ways of Measuring the Success of Your Start-Up



startup success
Image Credit: Unsplash

You’ve probably heard people use the term “unicorn” in a business context. This means a privately held start-up whose value has grown to at least one billion American dollars. Think Airbnb, Uber, and so forth. There is no doubt that some start-ups have been major financial successes. And many smaller-scale start-ups are doing great as well, working hard and turning a steady profit. But that begs the question of whether finances are the only way to measure the success of a start-up. As it turns out, they might not be. At least, not always and not on their own.

How to Evaluate Success

As anyone who’s been involved with start-ups knows, you need a fair amount of flexibility to do well in this environment. Take the division of labour for example – rather than strict roles, you’ll often see everyone do a bit of everything. The same principle extends to measuring success. It can be vague and mean different things to different people, and it can change over time.

But amongst all that vagueness, one thing has become clear. Predicting the success of a start-up is very difficult for external observers. As a matter of fact, it’s often impossible. Therefore, in order to evaluate how successful a start-up has truly been, we need to know the goals of its founder(s).

“Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.” – Marianne Williamson

The Numbers

When people think about business, it’s common to boil matters down to the finances. And it certainly is possible to use numbers to measure and predict the performance of a start-up business. Net worth, gross margin, customer acquisition cost – these can all be indicators of success. But, a start-up can post impressive numbers for a while, perhaps even attract large investors, and still shut down in the end. So does this make it a failure?

The answer to this depends. If the founders wanted to start a lasting business, then yes, they failed to meet their goal. However, that isn’t always the case. If they were looking for a short-term solution and came out with more money than they had coming in, a closed-down start-up needn’t be unsuccessful. It can actually be the opposite of that.

So, looking at the figures isn’t enough, and there are different perspectives to consider. When they start planning their business venture, start-up founders may not have any particular numbers in mind when it comes to profit. Instead, they can judge their success according to some of the following criteria.

1. Happy Customers and Solving Problems

The story of a start-up often begins with a problem. The desire to help people overcome a specific issue can be the spark which ignites the creation of an entire business. And in the end, that may be all that matters to the founders.

This is closely connected to the happiness of the customers. If the resulting product or service has made people happy by helping them solve a problem, that is all that may be required for a start-up to be a success. Now, no business wants unsatisfied customers. But in cases like this, happy customers aren’t the way toward the ultimate goal – they are that goal.

In other words, some start-up founders don’t just use financial reports to measure how much they’ve achieved. To them, the one metric which stands above all others is the quantity of positive feedback they’ve received. The main area of focus is customers who use the start-up’s products or services to solve a problem they were having.

2. Impact

Every start-up founder likes doing well in terms of revenue. But for some of these entrepreneurs, the profit is merely a side effect of what they actually set out to do – impact the world in a positive manner. You can see an example of this line of thought with Elon Musk. He said that back in college, he had wanted to be a part of things that could end up changing the world. The continuation of this philosophy is evident in his electric cars (which aim to reduce pollution) and the SpaceX program (which strives to break down some of the barriers of space exploration).

In both cases, the furthering of mankind is the ultimate goal. Many other start-up founders feel the same, even if they have smaller goals in mind. To these people, there is no greater proof of success than if their company has had a positive impact on society or even a small segment of it. In their view, to make a difference is to succeed.

“The only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment.” – Tony Robbins

3. Freedom

For some, starting up their own business is less about getting rich and more about gaining the freedom to conduct their business the way they want to. In this case, financial success is just a means to an end. The endgame is to be your own boss.

The fact is, some people don’t do well when they’re constantly receiving orders. They are simply hardwired to be free thinkers and they require an environment that allows them to do things in their own way.

Being in a position where you hold all the cards can be exhilarating. The knowledge that your decisions are final is very empowering, and many strive for such freedom. If a start-up can allow such people to go from being a regular employee to being in charge of making all the decisions, then it has already achieved all the success that it needs to.

4. Time for Friends and Family

As many people know all too well, a job can easily turn into the focal point of your daily life. Instead of being a way to support your lifestyle, your work dominates your time. And when that happens, the time you have to dedicate to your loved ones becomes scarce. Combating this is precisely what some have in mind when they decide to take the leap and start their own business.

Now, running your own company is no mean feat and it will require a lot of effort. But the beginning is the most time-consuming part of the process. Later on, it can be possible to create a system which leaves you with a lot more time on your hands. You can spend this time with your significant other, your children, or your friends. A start-up which gives you this opportunity is perhaps the greatest success of all.

A start-up is an extension of its founders and so are that company’s goals. Some entrepreneurs are in it for the profit, but not all of them. In the end, there is no single way to measure the success of a start-up. It all comes down to the specific aims of those who established it. But if the founders can end their day on a happy note, then the venture is a success even if it doesn’t fit some standard definition of the term.

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The Problem Is Not Your Website Or Your Product.



spend a lot of my time talking to business owners. They focus on their product, their marketing channels and trying to make more profit.

I met one such business owner who was in the plastic surgery business. Their product (boob jobs and nose jobs) was not working. Their website sucked and people clicked off as soon as they visited it.

People would call their office, get put on hold, listen to the on hold message and hang up.

This business didn’t seem all that special. I’ve talked to many businesses and didn’t think for a microsecond that a plastic surgery clinic could ever teach me anything valuable.

I’ve been to Hollywood on holidays and the issues of body image are all too apparent to me. Anyway, this post is not about body image.

I ended up losing this business as a customer — not that I would ever have sold anything to them if it were up to me. I sat down one afternoon and thought about why we no longer did business with them.

That’s when I realized it’s not about your product or your website. All the issues with this plastic surgery clinic and a lot of other businesses I’ve dealt with stem from one thing. Let me explain in more detail.

Your Google Reviews say you’re an piece of work.

I looked up their Google Reviews and their customers said they were assholes.

They spoke down to clients, they didn’t deliver their clients what they wanted, they argued with their staff in front of customers and they treated people like they were nothing more than a dollar sign.

All I had to do was read their Google reviews to see that the problem wasn’t their product or their website.

Your clients tell you every day that you suck.

I asked the plastic surgery what their clients said.

Many of their clients told them that their services sucked and they would prefer to go to places like Thailand where they could get a better product at a much lower price.

The business owner made the mistake of thinking it was their product that was the problem and that a new website will tell clients a different message.

That wasn’t it.

You abuse your staff and they consistently leave.

I spoke with many staff that worked for this business.

Every single one of them hated the company and were not afraid to say what they thought of the business owner.

The business owner would sit outside on a nice sunny day and look across the street at all the yachts and the people boarding them.

They’d sit there and think that every lead they got was going to take them one step closer to owning their very own yacht.

“If only I could deliver more boob jobs, maybe I could have one of those,” they thought quietly to themselves hoping that no one else could hear how ridiculous this sounded.

I can remember multiple times being on the phone to the business owner and having one of their staff burst into tears halfway through the call.

The first time it happened I didn’t think much. After the third time, I got the message. During the short time I dealt with this business, people consistently left. If you made it to the six-month mark, you were some sort of hero and would probably be given a free surgery to say thank you for your work and make you feel worse about your own body at the same time.

It was free noses and boobs in return for daily abuse.

The problem still wasn’t the website all the product.

You don’t solve real problems; you solve your own problem.

A good business solves a problem.

That problem typically affects human beings and solving it is how you make money in business. Solving problems can start out with a problem that affects you, but at some point, you’ve got to start solving that same problem for other people/businesses.

This owner of this plastic surgery clinic was only trying to solve their own problem which was making more money to buy fancy items like yachts.

Only solving your own problem is not just selfish but bad business.

Good business is solving a big problem or lots of small problems for entire strangers who you don’t know thus doing something valuable for the human race.

Solving only your problem will make you poor.

The problem still wasn’t their website or product.

Creating more problems.

Everything this business owner sold created more problems.

They’d film videos to purposely make people feel like their body wasn’t perfect.

They’d write articles suggesting that everyone needs botox to feel young.

They’d take photos of men and women who were supposed to be perfect so that young people would dream of looking like them.

Not only was their business not solving a real problem; it was also creating more problems every day that it existed.

If your business creates more problems than it solves, you’re in real trouble.You need to take a long hard look at the business and become obsessed with doing everything you can to change it — and do so damn fast to limit the whirlwind of problems you’re creating behind you.

The heart of the problem.

It’s the business owner.

The business I mentioned will fail. That part is certain. The problem with the business is not the website or the product.

The problem is the business has no heart because the business owner has no heart.

You cannot focus on your own selfish desires, create really bad problems in the world, treat other human beings like garbage and expect to go buy a yacht and live happily ever after. It just doesn’t happen like that.

Whether you are a plastic surgery clinic like the one I described or a solo entrepreneur, the problem with your business is you.

Fix the problem of YOU. You can’t get away with being horrible forever.
Being horrible is bad business.

Being respectful, kind and valuable is the final answer to the problem with your business.


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18 Must Read Business Books for Emerging Entrepreneurs and Startups



business books

Reading is both relaxation and training for the mind. Who reads, dives into another world. Learning, entertaining and breaking out of everyday life for a short moment. One could go even so far as to say reading is the second most beautiful thing in the world! Whether it is non-fiction or a novel of all the world’s man has created, the book is the most powerful tool. That is also, why we wanted to find out which business book you should undertake in the new year. (more…)

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