Start-Ups are said to be the drivers of change in the digital economy. Just to play around with that pun: if there are drivers who are the passengers and are there any free-riders in the game?
It depnds on the point of view: Seen from the perspective of Start-Ups, the customers are passengers by design, the big companies by their own fault and inability to keep up with the innovation speed. To add a german perspective: Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises do not really matter to Start-Ups in that game as they consider them to be traditionally good when it comes to new inventions but they often mistrust innovation and new business models.
Start-Ups use big trend movements and innovate in the slipstream of Megatrends. It tends to be easy to ride in the slipstream as new products and services easily meet trendy market demands. Doing so – and if you are a car (pun!) – you can save lots of energy and run-up to overtake business models of the old economy.
But there is an important group we must not neglect in our considerations: free-riders. They are watching and they are well prepared to understand, copy and use the innovations of others. If they are Start-Ups as well or if they are Startup-Investors with a specialized strategy, innovation unfolds its first side-effect: innovation can affect innovators. There is – most likely – a couple of other cars in the same slipstrem, ready to run-up and overtake.
If we change the perspective to the view of big companies it might be a pure joy for them to watch Start-Ups. After all these Start-Ups do the innovations that costly (and most of the time with minimal success) had to be produced by the research and development departments of the big companies in former times. It is easy for them to buy a product or service, even to adopt new business models, that already have the seal of a proven concept.
Finally the customer perspective. Lots of the services provided by one (new) company solve a small problem of the customer. If the customers combine solutions they might be able to do (or use) innovation on their own. We will see if this effect speeds things up and if it changes the game.