There are only 3 Types of Tech Disruptors

June 8th, 2016 / Clayton C

Entrepreneurs love throwing into conversation that their innovative idea will be a ‘tech disruptor’. These two little words can make it seem like the idea is ground-breakingly, earth-shatteringly different from anything you could have possibly seen before. When really, all tech disruptors approach problems in one of three ways. Through forms, frictions or fees. Dividing tech companies into these three basic categories, makes it pretty clear they have more in common than we may think. If a so-called ‘tech disruptor’ doesn’t attempt to change one of these three things, it’s unlikely they’ll be the disruptive force they set out to be.

Changing Forms

Tech disruptors in the ‘forms’ category are the ones who change the form that a product or service is delivered in. They do this by assessing the basic needs that people have and questioning whether the solution currently available could be substituted for something physically different.


AirBnb is a prime example of a form tech disruptor. The basic need people have is to find somewhere to sleep when they’re travelling. Previously, their only option was to pay for a hotel or motel room where they would sleep in a secluded space surrounded by the bare essentials. When AirBnb came along, they changed the form accommodation takes by offering it in homes instead of hotels. AirBnb users are no longer secluded, they can stay with locals and enjoy the full benefits of their home.


Other form tech disruptors include:

  • Google
  • YouTube
  • Snapchat

Solving Frictions

Friction tech disruptors attempt to resolve tensions or annoyances people have with a current system. They ultimately deliver the same product or service, but in a way that’s faster, easier or more convenient than the system that’s traditionally used.


Netflix managed to disrupt the television industry by solving frictions. Viewers were previously restricted by the programming schedules of different television shows, but they wanted to have the freedom to watch what they want, when they want. Netflix solved this friction by offering programs on demand so people could control their own viewing. Netflix viewers can now choose which program to watch, when they watch it and how many they watch in a row.


Other friction tech disruptors include:

  • Uber
  • Freelancer
  • Slack

Lowering Fees

Tech disruptors in the ‘fees’ category are the ones who lower the price that’s typically associated with a certain product or service. This could be done by using technology to automate tasks that were typically done by humans, streamline tasks into a more effective system or give people the means to complete tasks they traditionally needed to hire others to do.


Canva achieved the title of tech disruptor by dramatically lowering the cost of graphic design. Before Canva, people had to pay a professional design agency hundreds or thousands of dollars for a logo or branding design. Through an easy to use app, Canva now allows people to create their own designs using the pictures, icons and colours of their choice. This makes good looking designs much more accessible and affordable for the masses.


Other fees tech disruptors include:

  • Fiverr
  • Spotify
  • Duolingo

Crossover is Common

There may only be three ways for a tech company to disrupt an industry, but that’s not to say they can only choose one of them. With most tech disruptors, they attempt to solve more than one of these problems to make their solution all the more appealing. TransferWise is one example of a tech disrupter who has successfully conquered all three categories. They lowered the fees associated with international money transfers by creating cloud accounts as an alternative to traditional bank accounts, which removed the hassle of transferring money into different currencies.

forms frictions fees


There may be a lot of self-proclaimed tech disruptors floating around these days, but the best way to sort the wheat from the chaff is to check whether they are attempting to change the forms, frictions or fees in an industry. If they are, and they do it better than anyone else, then they might just be one to invest in.


There are only three Types of Tech Disruptors. Dividing tech companies into these three categories, makes it clear they have more in common than we think

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