Follow the journey of a start-up, Disrupt Surfing. An innovative company that is disrupting the surf industry by using 3D printing technology to create entirely customised surfboards and surf equipment.
What is the sure-fire way to start-up success? We’re still trying to figure it out.
‘Start-up’ has become a term that is often thrown around the world of business, management and entrepreneurship.
The definition of start-up is contentious, some say it refers to businesses that are small but target a wide-scale, rather than simply on a local scale. Others say they are new companies with an innovative direction, however once the brand grows substantially larger, the title ‘start-up’ is then dismissed.
Natalie Rohbemed of Forbes Magazine says “to be a startup is to claim a freshness that suggests a finger on the pulse of the future.”
For Disrupt Surfing, a start-up is a small company with a big, innovative idea.
In the surfing industry we saw a gap in the market. When it comes to surfboards, there is limited education available to surfers surrounding surfboard design and the correct surfboard to suit a surfer’s specific needs.
After walking out of a surf store, only to find that three mates had bought the same board that we paid an arm and leg for, I knew something needed to change. Surfers are being force fed boards that do not necessarily suit every individual’s needs.
Later, after a mate mucked around with his kid’s 3D printing software and discovered it was possible to create an entirely custom model surfboard, there was a light-bulb moment.
At the core of all start-up companies, this ‘light-bulb moment’ is the driving force behind each venture.
Entrepreneurs need to ask themselves:
Is this fresh – has it been done before, and if so, how is this different?
Where is there an opening for a new product or process?
What is my business plan and how do I plan to execute it?
Who are my target customers?
How will I generate adequate growth?
Who are my competitors – what are their strengths/weaknesses?
Research the industry of your venture– and is there a market for it?
The way we addressed these questions was with Disrupt’s key focuses:
The encouragement of innovation, creativity and constantly being on the brink of a new development.
Disruptive technologies are a key element in start-up companies. By supporting creativity and experimentation in Disrupt, a bounty of innovative new ideas are conceived.
Also, by handing over the reigns of creativity to our customers, they are able to dream up original designed boards.
Disrupt allows surfers to not be limited to buying stock boards that are designed for the ‘average’ surfer.
By considering specifications such as the customer’s weight, skill level, fitness and style of surfing, we are able to create entirely customisable boards to ensure the surfer’s fast progression.
We put the power in the hands of the customers, rather than the company. They dream it – we construct it.
The online 3D customisation platform on the Disrupt site allows customers to personalise their surfboard to their individual specifications. For customers to be able to see what their surfboard could potentially look like online is a new development to our site and is already gaining a lot of positive feedback.
The customer is the key. This should apply to all start-ups. Without a focus on great customer service and the customer being the ‘king’, don’t expect to get far. As start-ups are at a small size to begin with, establishing an effective customer service system will ensure that word-of-mouth will pass on the message.
Our online site ensures that the customer is able to access everything easily through ‘self service’. Whilst designing their boards have created a Pinterest board for users to get ‘inspiration’ for their dream surfboard.
As well as allowing customers to autonomously craft their surfboards, we use a ‘chat’ box in the corner of the site to easily ask questions to team members during the design process.
This is a component of the Disrupt venture that does what large corporations fail to do.
Customers need to know how their board will perform in different surfing conditions. They want to understand why some boards are thicker than others. They want to know if buying a custom board is even worth their money.
We answer these questions and aim to give the customer and understanding of their board, which is not as superficial as the basic information provided by surf stores and large surf companies.
But do remember, that you should never think that you’ve reached the point of supreme knowledge. I am no expert, we are still learning and will constantly be learning as Disrupt grows, evolves and changes.
At the core of Disrupt’s philosophy is the concept of our surfboards being made by surfers, for surfers.
What is the core of your start-up philosophy?
I’ll leave you with this quote from Paul Trott, author of Innovation Management and Product Development, 2012.
“There three forces reshaping the world’; ‘youth, ICT and entrepreneurship’” – “Young entrepreneurs around the world are blending new technologies and next generation thinking, building radically new kinds of organisations adapted to a flat and crowded world.”