In my latest video interview I’m sharing a conversation that I recently had with Florence Chung, Chief Engagement Officer at The Hetty Group and founder of Police Foundation Partners. We had a quick chat about the changing landscape of entrepreneurship, innovation as the great disruptor, and how the Moonshots and Moneymakers conference supports this disruption.
Predicting the Disruptors
Moonshots and Moneymakers got its start with an observation that the late Professor Clayton Christensen (a Harvard Business school professor) made throughout his decades as a researcher of entrepreneurship, author, and teacher.
“He had this very profound idea that some people say shaped Silicon Valley, which is the idea that large companies are disrupted by smaller, more innovative companies.”
Consider an example that Professor Christensen often used himself: Netflix vs. Blockbuster. It’s hard to envision Netflix as a tiny video rental company, but at one time, that’s exactly what it was. They had an innovative idea to rent movies and games through the mail, but the Goliath to their David was Blockbuster, far and away the market dominator with their thousands of franchise stores nationwide and an established reputation.
As many large companies do, Blockbuster chose not to put resources behind streaming technology. It was underdeveloped at the time and expensive to build. Netflix on the other hand was still flexible enough to invest, and stood to save money on inventory and shipping costs. They developed a streaming technology that would soon completely transform the video rental industry. Blockbuster struggled to evolve, and finally ceased operations in 2010.
Christensen noted this dynamic again and again where smaller, more flexible companies, just by dint of trying to grow in established industries, used innovation to disrupt that industry. But there was always a missing component to Professor Christensen’s theory.
“What’s missing is a predictive capability. In other words Professor Christensen could tell you which companies were disrupted by which companies AFTER it happened.”
He would freely admit that his observation only revealed the disruption in hindsight. It was when Birthing of Giants organized an innovation program at Oxford University in 2019 that I was struck by a method that could actually predict disruption before it happened.
Moonshots and Moneymakers
At the conference I observed two kinds of entrepreneurs (“Moonshotters” and “Moneymakers”) come together to develop innovative solutions to real world business challenges. Moonshotters are the innovators, the academic researchers who develop new tech. Moneymakers are the entrepreneurs who build successful small businesses. They’ve brought their company past the start up phase, and are actively seeking ways to continue scaling. And they’ve got the capital to do it.
I realized that I was sitting at the nexus for disruptive ideas. Actionable solutions and strategies to implement them were being born all around me, and I could see that, if those strategies were successfully implemented, they’d be huge disruptors.
“You can actually discover [the disruptors] in advance. You can ask a bunch of questions about the smaller company to see if they have the capacity or the capability of being that disruptor.”
With a vow to continue this gathering annually, the Moonshots and Moneymakers conference was born.
Moonshots and Moneymakers builds on Clayton Christensen’s thinking by bringing together innovators and entrepreneurs in an environment that births disruptive ideas.
“And if you knew that in advance, you could help support it. You could help strategize around it. And you could create a roadmap in order for them to actually do it.”
It’s a profound way of looking at how businesses grow, and a reflection of how so many small businesses have used innovation to fuel growth and transform their industry.
An Oxford Innovation Conference for American Entrepreneurs
The conference itself will take place at St. Stephen’s College, one of the many colleges that make up Oxford University. In partnership with Oxentia – the consulting arm of Oxford’s $1 billion dollar research and innovation industry – and the Norm Brodsky College of Business at Rider University, we’ve built a week long program that brings American entrepreneurs and their decision makers together with the top innovation researchers in the UK. These folks are developing the tech today that will define our culture tomorrow. They’re the Moonshotters looking for Moneymakers to bring their tech to a wider audience. It’s a match made in heaven.
Check out my extended write-up on Forbes.com.