Encumbered Incumbents: How Startups are Changing the World

Business as we know it is on the verge of revolution.  While much of my research focuses strictly on the transformation occurring within the construction & infrastructure industry, the progressive market shift is impacting industries across the board. Companies that carved out a future by relying on a history are becoming overshadowed by budding, nimble startups. Consumers today are demanding more than generic marketing slogans that fail to deliver the value they are seeking.

The Trend:

The United States economy was built on the strength of American branding. Monopolies have historically dominated the market and in lagging and capital-intensive businesses such as airlines, continue to do so. No monopoly, however well-funded and recognizable, will be able to maintain relevancy without restructuring strategy. In the new economy, companies that lack scale may be less inhibited to play by an antiquated, phantom rule book.

Incumbents have begun to recognize the shift and request help from their innovative competitors. NASA recently launched The Startup NASA Initiative that offers licenses of patented technologies to start-up companies. The government organization enables for-profit companies to use NASA’s patented technologies at no up-front cost. Once the start-ups have created products based on the research, NASA receives royalty fees. By providing access to the large patent portfolio, NASA can leverage the innovation intrinsic to the new tech startups.


All industries will increasingly be shaped by players with new ideas. Startups are beginning to enter the construction sphere. Venture-backed startup Acre Homes builds homes with a zero energy model that allows the house to generate its own power, eliminating gas or electric bills. Renovate Simply is an online platform that allows users to find a cost estimate of renovations and choose a project contractor within seconds. Older, larger contractors with outdated systems will struggle to implement the technologies and trends as seamlessly and quickly as small, new companies.

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