Hipster Disruption: friend or foe

As I scour the internet for inspirational sites, creations, & companies I am realizing that “hipster” companies are not as innovative as they lead you to believe. Even though I am glad that small businesses are continuing to be created, they tend to make more wake than necessary in a calm market.

An industry where I have seen this play out is within the coffee industry. Specifically the micro-roaster coffee industry. (The Starbucks vs. micro-roaster is for another day.) From the help of a Youtube mini-series entitled Caffeination, as well as personally consuming micro-roasted coffee, I have seen that “hipster” companies are disrupting the coffee industry. Some have actually done it for the good while others have done it for the detriment of the industry. Luckily, Harvard Business Review has also observed this and has labeled this phenomenon (all intellectual credit goes to my brother for sharing the article with me.)

First, the companies that have founded the industry are called “legacy” companies. Legacy companies have the joy of seeing the ebbs & flows of the market, and in turn know how to adjust to them. They also usually have a robust network of trusted buyers. Second, the companies that are the new kids on the block are called “disruptor” companies. The disruptors have the “outside the box” insight to see what the legacies should improve upon. They (usually) also have the technology to make practices easier & faster. Now, I am not saying that all legacy companies & disruptor companies are inherently good. I have witnessed that legacy companies tend to have bad quality assurance & customer service. So, disruptors come on the scene with a “company vision,” fresh marketing, & a twitter account, to make amends. But the disruptor companies tend to not value the already established market structure. So legacies fight back with Buy One Get One deals, slandering adds, & “new & improved” labeling. It becomes hostile & a stalemate ensues.

The relationship between legacy and disruptors can be a positive one. The consumer must be the judge/determinant of this. We must not fall for the gimmicks of a fresh look, cool mobile website, or “established in the middle-ages” brag. We must look past them into the workings of the business & its products. Are they producing quality product for the benefit of you first. Portland, New York, San Fran & Texas are all very cool places. But is there a local alternative that is being produced that is just as good or better?

I would enjoy to see the wake of the disruptors benefit the economy and when the waves come crashing back the legacies help out how to ride it out.

Where have you witnessed legacy and disruptor companies duking it out? Where have you seen industry peace? Which companies are your favorite of each?


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