Re-designers and transformers: Disruptive companies

Innovative, dynamic companies successfully meet changing consumer demands with technological advantages and new service offers. Newcomers often put established market participants under great pressure. To disrupt or to be disrupted—that is the question here.

«Disruptors» als Investment-Thema: Der Blick von oben auf Kolonne gelber Taxis, die sich zur Stosszeit stauen. Das veranschaulicht die Uniformität, aus der sich Chancen für Disruption ergeben

Disruption is not at all a phenomenon of modern times. Since time immemorial, new machines or technologies have always replaced things that were old, slow, or tedious. The telegram, analog photography, and video stores have shared the same fate.

Digitization as an intensifier

In the digital world, disruption happens much faster and more radically than before. We are also in the beginning phase of substantial technological changes in many sectors of the economy. These two factors are making disruption into a long-term trend that is opening up new markets, breaking up existing patterns, and is changing the way the world economy functions. From self-driving vehicles to healthcare to the travel industry, investors and consumers have experienced a great change in the way that the world does business.

Often overlooked until it is too late

Disruptors are invasive, innovative, fast-paced companies that concentrate on developing new technologies, products, or services. The most well-known example is Amazon—a disruptor of all businesses that it affects. However, a company or a market is not disrupted immediately. It is a process. In the beginning, the competing companies are small and harmless, and established companies normally do not discover them until it is far too late.

Disrupting, destroying, re-creating

Newcomers such as Airbnb, Uber, Dropbox, or Spotify have reacted to new demands of global consumers and have “disrupted” entire industries with relatively simple technologies. Their growth has been facilitated by multiple factors such as the exponential increase of worldwide online users, the increase of open, digitally networked platforms, and first and foremost by global scalability.

The greatest disruptors: Millennials

It used to be the postwar generation, or baby boomers, who set consumer trends, but today millennials are setting consumer trends more and more. Millennials make up approximately 27 percent of the population worldwide. The breakthrough for companies like Uber, Amazon, or Netflix would probably have taken a long time without these digitally savvy young adults who are happy to try new things.

Disruptive technologies are long-term innovations that can affect every area of our lives. Vontobel experts use quantitative and qualitative criteria on a regular basis to determine which companies have disruptive features.



Online shop with the highest sales that has no warehouses.


The largest taxi company that has no vehicles of its own.


Largest provider of overnight accommodations that does not own any of its own real estate.