Business Brains

Some cool 2011 startups, and what they're disrupting

Posting in Design

New business ideas that emerged in 2011, promising to disrupt everything from fitness to design to education.

Thanks in large part to technology, business ideas are only limited by their creators' imaginations, and the past year saw its share of interesting startups. Many may eventually fail, others will be bought up by larger companies, and some may even become the next Microsoft or Berkshire-Hathaway. But part of business success is failure, and having the boldness to move on to the next experiment. In the process, entire industries, saddled by expensive or moribund "always-done-it-this-way" approaches, are disrupted.

Courtney Boyd Myers of The Next Web just published a list of New York's most interesting startups for 2011, and what they're doing that's so unique:

Fitocracy: An online game users play to improve their fitness. While playing, they can track their progress, compete against friends, and get real results in physical fitness.  It is estimated that the site has 100,000 members, and "has passed 1,000,000 logged workouts on its platform." Industry being disrupted: gyms and health clubs.

Memberly: A platform that helps individuals and small businesses run their own subscription programs, such as ‘of-the-month’ clubs or quarterly art projects. Industry being disrupted: retail.

Shelby.tv: A platform that helps users discover videos posted on Twitter and Facebook. "This year, Shelby released its first iPad and iPhone app, raised $1.5 million and grew from 2 to 9 employees." Industry being disrupted: social networking (yes, even they are ripe for disruption).

Skillshare: Community marketplace that enables users to learn anything from anyone, thereby democratizing learning. "This past year, Skillshare racked up 15,000 hours of teaching on its platform. Today, the number of students in the Skillshare community equals the size of New York University." Industry being disrupted: education.

Codecademy: Online resource to learn about software programming. “I think education is finally having its moment,” says co-founder Zachary Sims. Industry being disrupted: education.

General Assembly: A "coworking space" at 902 Broadway in Manhattan, encompassing 20,000 square feet. "The campus, which opened in January 2011, was immediately booked to its 100-seat capacity. It now has 350 members, representing 100+ early-stage startups, selected through an application and interview process." Industry being disrupted: commercial real estate rental.

Goodsie: Build a branded storefront on the web within minutes. $15 a month subscription fee. "Today, Goodsie has 1,000 active, paying sellers, and is growing 20% month-over-month." Industries being disrupted: e-commerce and retail.

Fab.com: Online design resource with a live social feed. Free membership by invitation. "Today we’re 140 people worldwide, we’ve sold 700,000 products, and we’re making 1.5 million members smile each day by providing them with fun, witty and affordable daily design inspirations." Industry being disrupted: design firms.

(Photo Credit: SkillShare.)

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Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure