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Upstart Disruptors: Shaping the Future of Business

A growing community of forward-thinking businesses has recognized the need to shift to an economy based on sustainable consumption. While this need creates a bit of a conundrum for traditional business, the success of which typically depends on the selling and production of “more,” it has created unprecedented opportunities for disruptive innovation. A recent spate of savvy entrepreneurs is reinventing stodgy business models and driving the market to demand new forms of value: Their array of creative new products and services is fueling a new economy based on sharing and reuse, increasing economic value, minimizing waste, and connecting users to peer-to-peer resource networks for everything under the sun.

Since its launch in 2008, Airbnb - a global online marketplace that turns people’s unused living space into vacation rentals - has revolutionized the travel accommodations industry. In a recent interview with EatBigFish, Chris Lukezic, Airbnb’s Director of Communications, EMEA, explained the site’s phenomenal success: “People are seeking value and experience, and it’s no longer a corporation making this possible - it’s another person, whether they’re in Paris or India or the US. I think that has a social impact that people are starting to realize is quite powerful. A few years ago, people thought this business model was crazy; no one would’ve thought this was possible, and we proved that it was. We’ve helped change the way people view what it takes for people to build trust, to build these peer-to-peer marketplaces ... Not only does it offer incredible economic value, but it has this incredible social and experiential aspect to it as well.”

Rethinking the traditional design of everyday products is what led Jason Foster, Founder and Chief Reuser for Replenish, to develop the company’s line of concentrated, eco-friendly cleaning products that minimizes packaging waste with reusable, 100% recyclable bottles. In an interview at Sustainable Brands ’10, Foster explained: “We are motivated by the power of design and your intent around design. We are a cradle-to-cradle company and we believe that the power of design can create a big sustainable impact on a lot of the products that we use at home. If you really want to make sustainable products, you’ve got to design them for reuse. Most of the cleaning products that we use in our home are just made of water - only 5% of that product is actually a solution. So we’re just shipping around water in this bottle that’s really only designed to be thrown away. That was our big light bulb moment: We can take the water out of this product and ... build a whole new reusable bottling system to mix the solution. If I’m shipping just the solution and reusing the bottle, it’s very powerful.

“At the end of the day, it’s about saving money, and that’s what we’re trying to bring to this conversation - that sustainability when done right with the right design is actually about saving money for retailers and for consumers.”

These visionaries and those behind more of our favorite upstart disruptors are gathering at the SB London Conference this November to discuss the role of such leading-edge thinking in the future of business.


  • Diana Verde Nieto (moderator), a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader (2011) and Founder & CEO of Positive Luxury, the first consumer guide that encourages people to vote with their money for more socially and environmentally responsible brands
  • Jason Foster, Founder and Chief Reuser, Replenish
  • Chris Lukezic, Director of Communications, EMEA, Airbnb
  • Christiaan Maats, Founder of OAT Shoes - the first line of shoes made of completely compostable, plantable (yes, they bloom!) materials
  • Danae Ringelmann, Co-Founder of Indiegogo, the crowdfunding site that has enabled thousands of campaigners in nearly 200 countries to source millions of dollars in funding for their creative, entrepreneurial or cause campaigns


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