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Technology Subversion Means You’ve Made it

Every new startup or tech company that enters a market faces the risk that it will be hacked and its technology subverted beyond its goal.

Frustrated Tesla owners openly repair and hack their own cars:

US Farmers trying to fight off John DEERE predatory business model:

And very lately, users of BIRD scooters mess with them in all possible ways:

(Read fascinating article on BIRD hacks here.)

You might view all that as a form of resistance. After all from the company’s viewpoint this is a counter-productive mess. Money is lost, customers express dissatisfaction in a very active way, and investors will start to worry.

Or are you actually uncovering new real needs in your market?

I would advocate that most of the time this is a very powerful signal. Technology subversion means you’ve made it.

In which case, it’s a matter of choosing how to fight off what is going on (the mess, the hacks, the destroyed property) or embrace it and adjust what you are doing.

Let me just ask these questions in regard of the previous examples:

  • Why is TESLA not going open source on some models to increase car availability (when they are still struggling with production) ? Or why don’t they offer an open platform for low income country (remember Elon MUSK’s « master plan ») ?
  • Why is John DEERE not providing more granularity in his business model where tractors are now part of a platform ? There should be more incentive at being the Apple of farming, instead of being a version of Microso stuck in the eighties.

  • Why is BIRD not… Well, I don’t know about this one to tell the truth (quite a few ideas, no clear insights yet).

What I know, is that whatever happens, consider technology subversion as a clear signal that you need to adapt, change your initial plans, but push even more in your market. Because your market is responding. It is showing very vocally that your products are useful, they fill a gap.

They are just needed beyond what you expected or were ready to provide.

Published by

Philippe Méda

Philippe has been training about 200 startups a year since 2007, consulted for dozens of multinationals on rupture innovation or corporate incubation. He also teaches innovation in key MBA programs in Paris and Shanghai.