While the tech giants are eating one another, startups have a chance to change the rules

Chess

The world’s once-disruptive tech giants have become increasingly preoccupied with cannibalising one other, leaving themselves vulnerable to disruption by nimble Aussie startups with global ambitions, according to Cheryl Mack, the head of StartCon, which returns to Sydney this December.

The tech startup conference and expo will run from 1 to 2 December at Royal Randwick Racecourse and boasts Karen Lawson (CEO, Slingshot), John Egan (Engineering Manager, Pinterest), Adam Miller (founder, medical cannabis accelerator BuddingTech), Sarah Bird (CEO, search marketing software provider Moz) amongst its lineup of local and international speakers. The event will also include a two-day hackathon, the 2nd Annual Australasian Startup Awards and a pitch competition, where 100 startups will vie for the chance to represent Australia at the Startup World Cup in the US.

Regarding the bold theme for this year’s StartCon, “Software is eating itself”, Mack told Dynamic Business that it evocative of the war being waged amongst world’s tech giants across multiple markets.

“Six years ago, this month, Marc Andreessen published ‘Software is eating the world’, where he foresaw the rise of disruptive technology companies such as Uber and AirBnB and predicted further growth for the likes of Facebook, Google, Freelancer.com and Netflix,” she explained.

“Our theme builds on that – ‘Software is eating itself’ is timely because what we are seeing is that these once disruptive companies, are now beginning to eat each other as they battle stay at the top. We’re seeing headline and after headline about these companies fighting with themselves and diversifying into each other’s markets. For instance, Apple has announced a $1.2 billion war chest to take a bite out of Netflix, while Facebook has announced Watch to compete with YouTube.

“The once lean and agile companies have grown into large-scale businesses that are either aggressively attacking other markets or eating up as many competitors as possible, rather than focusing solely on developing the next disruptive technology. In doing so, they are facing threats from new nimble competitors, those already established in the sector, increased regulation, growing pains, internal turmoil, dysfunctional board dynamics and conflict with investors – all of which are contributing to potential vulnerability for them.”

Asked whether customer experience was a victim of this ‘the battle of the titans’, Mack replied: “Consumers can expect to see more of the core products/services they use (music, TV, news, sports, shopping, etc.) coming from the same company, as the tech giants fight to deliver a ‘one-stop-shop’ that supplies all. The aim is seamless convenience, however if done poorly it could risk the current customer relationship”.

She added, “The real question, however, is that while the giants are busy fighting each other to become the company that delivers all your needs… will they even notice the small upstart, capable of reframing the problem and turning the way we consume on its head, rendering them all obsolete in the process?”

To take advantage of the giants being too focused on one another, Mack said startups need to “think big and be agile”.

“This means thinking global from day one and building your product with global markets in mind (even if you’re not serving them yet),” she explained.

“This is the best time for Aussie startups to find a problem or unmet need that has large-scale application but can be tested in a niche market. By focusing on solving that problem and doing it better than anyone else, Aussie startups can gain traction, prove their model and even fund their own growth. Australia is a fantastic place to start a global company because we are the perfect sandbox market to test before going global.

“Aussie startups also need to pay attention. Learn from as many experts as you can, there is no one right way of growing a business, it’s only by seeing many different ways that you’ll find yours. Stay current with trends, and pay attention to what the giants are doing, because that unmet need or problem may not even exist yet, if you aren’t paying attention you might miss it.”

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