“Richard and the Eyetease team whizzed us through the remarkable rise from idea to disrupter. We experienced why passion really is a true privilege and saw that changes are being led by bright minds of the future.” Christel Wolthoorn, Director, Digital with KPMG. 


Earlier this week, Eyetease was honoured to be approached by KPMG to run two workshops with senior partners on a subject we know well – disruption. While being invited to collaborate is always a pleasure, we were particularly flattered to be invited to host this event for KPMG at our offices in Google Campus. KPMG is undoubtedly one of the largest and most reputable multinational companies in the world, so Eyetease was on their best behaviour! But if there’s one thing that startups understand, it’s how to be disruptive, innovative, and downright fearless. As Neil Blumenthal described it: “a startup is a company working to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed.”

But of course disruption and innovation isn’t just for startups, it’s for anyone ready to shake up established processes, displace systems and technologies, and even create whole new markets. Both multinationals and startups alike could benefit from a refresher course to provoke how we think and inspire a culture of new ideas. Businesses must promote a disruptive culture within their organisation, where all team members are encouraged to ‘disrupt’ themselves, to enable change and growth to occur.

That’s not to say it’s easy. Eyetease founder and CEO, Richard Corbett, explained that when he started developing the world’s first high definition digital taxitop, he was often asked (1) “if it’s such a good idea, why hasn’t anyone else done it already?” and (2) “what gives you the right to make a play in this new market?” Understandably, no one wants you to disrupt the status quo. Change can be scary. And yet for Corbett, it was evident that the shift from print to digital in outdoor media was not only apparent, but an unstoppable trend that must be explored. Although the Out-Of-Home (OOH) media market growth was flat in 2010, Digital-Out-Of-Home (DOOH) was growing at an incredible 36% CAGR! Why hadn’t this shift occurred in taxi advertising (I hear your cry!) – a major sub segment of the OOH market? With taxi advertising spend in decline, the opportunity to evolve and develop a digital taxi media format was there, and the field was wide open.

But to disrupt an established market you have to expect significant barriers to change, and introducing digital taxi media was no different. Technically, nothing like this had ever been done before, and no one knew what it would take to create reliable hardware for these ‘harsh’ conditions. To succeed, a complete shift in current DOOH design was required, to meet the limitations of the vehicle and extreme forces acting against it. But if you could do it, you would prove the previous taxi media formats far more costly (per campaign). Not to mention that wireless updates would mean each campaign could be deployed in seconds rather than weeks.

Commercially, we had to educate the market to understand how to buy and sell digital media that moves. While DOOH was growing, this specific sub-segment was brand new. But theoretically, this newly proposed tech could advertise the right message, to right person at the right place and time. Plus, with the added level of flexibility, targeting capabilities and accountability of digital over print, this was sure to transform the industry. No more would taxis be driving around with the same message to all people – now you could have multiple ads in super high definition that could be broadcast and updated with the click of a button. Even more revolutionary, the iTaxitop would allow advertisers to target consumers anywhere there is a road, even in areas like the City of London and the City of Westminster where fixed advertising is prohibited.

The regulatory hurdles were yet more complex: you simply weren’t allowed to change the shape of a London Black Cab. That’s no problem for a millimetre thick wrap, but when you’re adding another foot of height to the roof, that’s another story! We would have to change transport regulations to proceed (don’t worry, we did!) Even that was just the beginning of the approval process: we had to prove that a digital screen wouldn’t be a distraction; that it was structurally sound and durable; that it was safe to other road users; that it would withstand environmental challenges…and much more. But the opportunities far outweighed the challenges, and once the barriers were overcome the industry would be permanently disrupted.

With industries evolving faster than ever, the mind-set of innovation is one we all have to be attuned to. While Corbett began seeking opportunities out of necessity (after being made redundant during the recession), the landscape has since drastically changed. Now, both startups and multinationals are vying for the prospect that will keep them ahead of the competition. It’s time for us all to step outside of our comfort zones, and find the next revolutionary idea. The opportunities are out there.