By Nina dos santos
LONDON – As the saying goes, there is no such thing as bad publicity.
And for today’s disruptive startups, crucial media coverage is often touted as a badge of honor.
This means that, as a newcomer, they are making an impact. And that can be seen as a vindication of a desire to change things, which highlights the fit of established businesses that they wish to challenge.
This advertising can also increase their visibility, saving them large amounts of money on marketing.
Uber is a great example. Its business model may be revolutionary, but it is unlikely that the company would have captured global attention as soon as it did without the flow of “bad news” stories.
Similarly, when city officials around the world declare war on Airbnb, people want to know what the fuss is about. They visit the website, and might even be tempted to make their first foray into the world of alternative hosting.
But there comes a time when even the least resourceful startup needs to grow and embrace the responsibility that comes with creating a new market.
And for companies like Uber and Airbnb – both now valued at many billions of dollars – that means acknowledging when you’ve become part of the established system.
Such a transformation will not be easy, especially when both tech companies are started by charismatic young men eager to become the next Steve Jobs; though less willing to control their languages, as the Uber CEO learned the hard way.
These companies not only need to improve their image, it is also time that they give something in return. And they could start with your staff.
Because while the so-called “trade economy” has helped homeowners and car owners make a little money aside, it hasn’t created many full-time jobs. A large number of people employed by these companies are freelancers.
What can be done?
Venture capital, with its experienced investors, could play a larger role in steering these companies toward that goal. In fact they have a duty to do so, to protect their investment.
Governments around the world must begin to adapt to the changing landscape such disruptors create, assess the risks they pose to consumers, and smooth some of their failures through smart regulation.
Nobody wants an exchange economy, if it is not safe or rewarding.
Many of these companies, including Uber and Airbnb, say they are willing to work with authorities to resolve any cracks in the system as they arise.
In a rare example of working with regulators rather than against them, Uber has agreed to shut down its services in Portland, Oregon, for three months while the city updates its laws.
Today’s new agents of change have already altered our daily lives, for which they deserve recognition. But for that legacy to last – like that of the tech titans before them – they need to mature and learn from the mistakes of the past.