Growth Industries: Does Disruption Have to Be High Tech?

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On September 26, 2016

growth-industries-does-disruption-have-to-be-high-techIt’s not uncommon to hear business people talk about disruptive technologies, or things that turn an existing industry on its head. Most of the time when we hear those stories, we think of companies in the high-tech industry. But is all innovative and disruptive growth limited to those who deal in bits and bytes?

A recent article in Forbes would suggest otherwise. The article (which you can read in its entirety here) highlighted a disruptive and innovative company in a rather old-school industry: Shoe-making.

Jack Erwin is a New York based shoe company that specializes in top-of-the-line men’s dress shoes that are available at a fraction of the cost of competitors’ products. While other shoes were selling for around $1,000 (remember, this is New York), the entrepreneurs from Jack Erwin were selling shoes of equal quality for around $200.

Let me be clear: This success story isn’t about undercutting the prices of competitors. It’s not just about minimizing costs and getting “lean and mean.” It’s not about “cutting out the middleman” (in fact, the founders of the company did just the opposite). There was a lot of thinking, planning, strategy, and plain old hard work (and maybe some luck) that went into this endeavor. If you’d like to know more details about what the two young entrepreneurs behind Jack Erwin did, I suggest you read the Forbes article here.

My point is that innovation and entrepreneurship isn’t limited to the domains of software and high tech. Success and growth don’t necessarily depend on the kind of product or service you offer. They depend on whether or not you can offer people what they want in a way that nobody else can.

You may not think of the industry you’re in as a “high-growth” industry because it’s not glamorous or high-tech enough. But the two young (at the time, 29 and 30 years old) entrepreneurs that started this shoe company might disagree with you. In their first year, they had revenues of $2 million. Later that year, they were looking at a financing round (lead by a company that could have been a competitor) landed them $9 million to expand their operations.

As one of the founders (Ariel Nelson) says, “I believe there are hundreds of millions of dollars in opportunity here, and we are poised to become the big player.”

Who knew that shoes could be so disruptive? What have you got that could turn an industry on its head?