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5 industries that are ready to be disrupted by startups and new approaches that drive change

Today, more than ever, it is important to look up to disrupting and exciting newcomers who are finding niches in established markets and forcing change and/or social impact on the existing infrastructures of corporate cultures and companies. We all know, the larger the company, usually the more invisible and lost the “situation behind the scenes” becomes. Green-washing is a task that many multi million corporates do, to portray a safe and supportive system. Yet nowadays, it is up to us, the Millennials and Xennials to drive and support change.

The following five industries are in dire need of some reinvention within the next few years, and considered more a burden, than actually a support.

1. Insurance: Nowadays everybody needs insurance, but very few people actually get excited about needing to sign a contract with a multi billion dollar insurance company, which does nothing to inspire an individual, have created low levels of trust in the client, offer way too difficult to understand policies, let alone actually assist in times of need. In the US, insurance policies are allowed to be cancelled and dropped when the customer gets diagnosed with serious illnesses, which the insurance company is not prepared to pay for. So, many people think “Why should I even buy insurance?”, yet in the same breath it is safe to say that many, simply cannot afford it. A new crop of startups across the globe are trying to conquer and solve this problem. Developing easy to understand policies liked with simple, user-friendly app interfaces have been reaching serious funding since 2013. Focusing on target markets usually forgotten, for instance seniors, who reach a high of 60% un-insurance in the US alone, these startups are disrupting an industry that is heavily regulated, requires a lot of capital and comes with a lot of barriers while trying to enter into the market segment.

For example: Jamii, a Tanzanian startup, which is using technology and digitalisation to improve people’s lives. It is a micro-health insurance product for those who work in the informal sector, an economy which is neither taxed nor monitored by the government. They offer 8 different cover levels, depending on the number of people in a family. Once a person has insurance, they can then receive hospital services within their policy limit. It also covers dental, eye and maternity treatment and funeral expenses. By creating an affordable by using a mobile policy management platform, co-founder Lilian Makoi says:
 “This has enabled us to cut insurance administration costs by 95%, enabling us to launch insurance policies from as low as $1 per month for the low-income population.” 
 The company has formed strategic partnerships with Jubilee Insurance and Vodacom Tanzania to enable mobile premium collection and a cashless facility from over 400 hospitals. Jamii is more than just a startup with a great idea, but it is also helping the 76% of citizens who cannot afford out-of-pocket health care. Since it has launched, over 8.000 Tanzanians are using these services and is now expanding to 5 more African countries Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa.

Also Neos, which is a connected home insurance, which uses technology to help prevent situations that could result in claims. When homeowners take out a policy with Neos, they are provided with a bunch of smart sensors, which alert the customers to problems and make them aware via a smartphone app, giving them the possibility to resolve these before they get worse. The policy includes round-the-clock monitoring from the Neos emergency assistance team, who are on hand to warn customers if something is brewing or has already happened.

How they are disrupting?
What is exciting about the Neos insurance is the technology which interferes with independent and unrelated events. The interruptions can go as far as having this technology detect running water from the faucet while nobody is present at home. It is not seen as an immediate risk, but combined with other factors, it has a potential of a serious problem. This could stop a disaster from becoming a reality using this type of technology.

2. Class room eduction: Schools are transitioning away from paper, textbooks and projectors more and more and there is an ever-growing opportunity for startups to create new tools focussed on education and its educators. In 2017 the VC funding for educational-tech startups was estimated to almost $3 billion, according to CB Insights. Already the processes in our education system is being transformed…

…for example by Schoology, which secured $57 million in funding, and has created a platform for teachers, parents and students to review work and communicate with one another personally. Which has a huge importance nowadays and enables a professional yet personal communication between the parties.

Or also by Newsela, who uses artificial intelligence to transform news articles into age-appropriate reading comprehension materials. Since its 2012 founding Newsela has already made its way into three-fourths of America’s schools. Newsela fits seamlessly into any student’s level and provides reading material which is up to date and interesting for each and every individual. Often we find our school material outdated and I also have asked myself, “Why are we learning this” – Yet this startup has completely transformed a standard approach of teaching and learning.

As well as, Examity, a startup that helps administer online tests while preventing cheating, closed a $21 million round last year and has partnerships with more than 100 universities. The studies at University of West Florida showed that students have the perception that it is easier to cheat online than on traditional ground-based courses and that is something Examity wants to change with remote proctoring services which have proven to be more secure than “in-person” services.

3. Healthcare: Doctors diagnose patients, patients take what doctors subscribe – That is the standard cycle we are used to in terms of making sure we are and stay healthy. Yet artificial intelligence is showing that it might be able to do it better. In 2017 a machine vision program developed by Stanford researchers was able to diagnose cancerous moles with more than 90% accuracy.

Freenome, a liquid biopsy startup that’s looking to enter clinical trials, is working on technology that would be able to detect cancer in the body, including its location and type, using only blood samples.

Grail, a spinout from biotech giant Illumina, last year closed a $900 million round that included Amazon and Johnson & Johnson for its own early-stage cancer detection system.
And startup Arterys, which uses machine learning to study MRI scans and detect abnormalities, recently became the first company to receive FDA approval for a cloud-based screening platform.

Using cutting-edge technology and innovative therapies, WideCells Group is aiming to increase the number of treatable diseases with stem cells and make treatment accessible and affordable globally. Much of its focus is on growing the company’s knowledge of blood diseases and using leading technology to provide cell-banking services for a wide range of human tissues. However, it is also aiming to become the world’s market-leading provider of stem cell services; protecting as many families and individuals as possible from the financial consequences of blood cancers by providing insurance for stem-cell treatment and accessibility to the best care worldwide.
 Why they are disrupting? WideCells Group is providing the world’s first global health-care plan, bringing accessibility and affordability to the treatment of blood diseases and disorders and making stem-cell treatment a reality for families. They’re also working with universities and other researchers to create stem cell training courses for healthcare professionals, to develop more experts in the field and conducting stem cell processing & storage for a wide range of human tissues at their laboratory facilities.

Of course, doctors aren’t going to lose their jobs anytime soon. Many of these companies position their products as being used to supplement clinicians instead of replacing them.

4. Law and Legal Services: Legal advice comes with probably one of the highest costs we are aware of. But AI, once again might be revolutionising this problem. It is becoming more capable of processing and understanding complex languages, and therefor lawyers’ jobs are becoming more efficient.

Casetext, which was founded in 2013 and closed a $12 million round last year, has developed software that can read a brief and suggest relevant past cases in a matter of seconds.

Other companies, like LawGeex, offer platforms that can examine written contracts for missing information, troublesome language, or other potential red flags.
Don’t be surprised if soon you might be able to ask a chat bot for specific legal advice.

5. Environmental “Protection” & Sustainability: While many companies are actually trying to change their ways and are focused on being concerned about giving our planet a break, there is also much green washing happening in every industry. Green washing is considered a marketing strategy that gives the perception the the company, its visions, its products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly.

I will give you a quick example … Wow! You’ve spotted a new bottle of lotion that says it’s “eco-friendly” thanks to its recyclable packaging and sleek design. Now you can feel good about throwing 10 of these in your shopping basket, can’t you? Not quite. The reality is that being merely recyclable is not enough to make it truly Earth-friendly. In the United States, less than 10% of plastics were actually recycled, causing a strain on resources, landfill space, and oceans. Sure, it’s better than the old bottle design. But calling recyclables “eco-friendly” is too big a claim considering the inefficiency of our recycling systems and the scale of plastic pollution.green-body-milkThese companies are serious about disrupting this already established standard of what we think is environmentally friendly…

Ice Stupa is a startup that is offering a form of glacier grafting technique that creates artificial glaciers used for storing winter water, which otherwise would completely go to waste. The water is stored in large cones that give the sun minimum surface to expose and yet it holds high volumes of water. During spring, when water is needed most to sow crops, the cones melt and it increases water supply.

How and why they are disrupting: Ice Stupa was designed to be used in the Ladakh region of India, an agricultural area in the Himalayas dependent solely on snow and glacier meltwater. Due to climate change, the region is experiencing hotter summers, resulting in an increase of melting glaciers and a scarcity of water during the spring season, when it is most needed. Storing ice in these large cones means it can be readily accessed when it is required to sow crops such as barley, wheat and fruit trees.

Skipping Rocks Lab is an innovative sustainable packaging start-up that is pioneering the use of natural materials extracted from plants and seaweed to create packaging with a low environmental impact. Their first product, Ooho, is set to revolutionise the water-on-the-go market. It’s a biodegradable water ball with natural membrane, that can be fully swallowed and digested, hydrating people in the same way as drinking water would, the product is made from a seaweed extract and is tasteless, although flavours can be added. The spherical flexible packaging can also be used for other liquids including soft drinks, spirits and cosmetics.

How they are disrupting: By becoming the leading global producer of seaweed-based packaging, Skipping Rocks Lab looks set to disrupt the plastics industry with letting everyone know, that the material is cheaper than producing a plastic water bottle.
The carbon found in charcoal is known to produce a black pigment, but so too does the carbon found in pollution from car exhausts and generators – it is this pollution that is now being captured and turned into ink. Company Graviky is using a device known as a Kaalink to capture carbon emissions from vehicles and chimneys before they enter the atmosphere. In cars, the Kaalink goes over the exhaust pipe for instance. The technology then imparts a positive electrostatic charge on particles leaving the pipe, which are then drawn into a negatively charged chamber. Each Kaalink collects up to 95% of the pollutants emitted from the exhaust, including tiny particles that are bad for the lungs. And this is enough carbon to produce one fluid ounce of ink, filling a pen in about 45 minutes. Chemists then strip the material of heavy metals and dust, leaving only a carbonrich soot, which is then ground into an ultrafine powder and combined with solvents and oils to produce five grades of ink for a variety of applications, from screen printing to oil painting.

Wow… The technology has cleaned 1.6 trillion litres of air so far, but it is still in its infancy. Once scaled up and fitted to bus and taxi fleets, the potential to reduce air pollution (and supply ink in the process) is impressive.

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Hannah Neuburger
Hannah Neuburger
Hannah Neuburger is a Design Management & Strategy specialist with a background in Interior & Product Design. Hannah changed her path in 2017 to launch her first App and to fully integrate herself into the world of startups in Europe.


  1. As a Finnish provider of professional medical translation services, I’m happy to see companies like Freenome, doing such an incredible job as detecting cancer from a mere blood sample. Looking forward to seeing them develop their business concept.

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