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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Norfolk

How three startup companies are disrupting industries

Three innovative startups around the world are disrupting their industries and reshaping their markets.





Blinkist


Blinkist, a book summaries app, is reshaping the way adults learn with a model reminiscent of SparkNotes. Heetch, a ride-sharing app, is reshaping the industry by catering to niche markets, unlike its competitors. Lookiero, a subscription box clothing website, is disrupting the fashion markets by catering directly and personally to its consumers.


Blinkist is a startup app hailed from Berlin, Germany. In 2012, the company started with four friends who wanted to integrate knowledge and learning into their daily lives. The four founders narrowed their approach by creating a source of learning through summaries of nonfiction books. These summaries, or Blinks, give users the most impactful lessons from non-fiction books in about 15 minutes.


Holger Seim, C.E.O. of Blinkist, attended the University of Marburg in Germany, where he met three friends and future business partners: Niklas Jansen, Tobias Balling, and Sebastian Klein. After graduating and landing jobs in the real world, they decided it was time to launch their idea.


At the time of the Blinkist launch, in 2013, the iPhone 5S was released. Seim saw the way smartphones were influencing society and creating new and faster ways for people to connect. He and the Blinkist team saw a way to improve this technology for the better.

In an interview with The New Yorker, Seim said a lot of their ideas centered around knowledge management. Realizing smartphones and social media apps have created an addiction to scrolling, they asked themselves how they could teach people something quickly and how they could take advantage of this new device.


“We naturally came to the idea: wouldn’t it be good to have something that helps you learn on a smartphone and spend those downtimes more meaningfully than playing Angry Birds,” he said.


The founding four devised the approach of crafting bite-sized, audio-first content to deliver education and knowledge; designing personalized experiences that guide users to discover, listen, and lead users to their next big idea; and building a culture of growth and learning.

Similar to sites like SparkNotes, Blinkist summarizes each book's main takeaways, topics, and ideas. However, what sets Blinkist apart is they work with 45 of the world’s best nonfiction publishers and over 50 authors directly to ensure the summaries hold the essential contexts and preserve the essence of the book. Blinkist sticks to nonfiction books specifically, because the main goal of nonfiction is to gain knowledge and improve mental health and well-being, according to Medium.

Blinkist has since diverged into podcasts and expert guides to help users stay in touch with relevant topics that also help users apply what they learn with interactive tools and activities. The podcasts coincide with the summaries or Blinks, the user has chosen to read or listen to on a particular day. The expert guides are tailored for each user with topics such as How to Build Boundaries for Better Mental Health, How to Master Robert Glazer’s 4 Capacities for Success, and How to Lead Effective Performance Reviews.


Blinkist has also started a business section to help organizations create learning programs that let learners personalize their experiences based on their interests. Blinkist Business provides learning opportunities for organizations through relevant content from the best leaders and thinkers. Organizations can help close the skills gap through Blinkist’s 27 learning categories to further improve employees' daily lives.


Organizations can cultivate a learning path to coach teams on important company-related topics, with help from Blinkist’s expert coaches. Organizations and employees can present and learn from multiple perspectives through the DEI Initiative to create new ways of thinking and learning. Organizations can help support employees' mental health and well-being through Blinkist Business’ personal development content.


Blinkist Business has partnered with over 1,500 organizations, including Chick-fil-A, Microsoft, Hyundai and more. Blinkist has over 31 million users and over 7,500 nonfiction books and podcasts. 91% of Blinkist members create better habits and 87% have made positive changes in their lives because of Blinkist, according to the Blinkist website.

Blinkist creates 15-minute bite-sized nonfiction book summaries, however, as of May 2024, they have decided to step away from audiobooks. This stepping back has disrupted audiobook sales for the better, according to the We Do Audiobooks website.

Blinkist has helped boost book sales since its inception, with 95% of its members reading significantly more than before, according to the Blinkist website. This boost in a thirst for learning and knowledge, coupled with platforms like Spotify, a music listening app, adding select audiobooks for its Premium listeners, the audiobook industry has seen a 28% increase, according to The New York Times.


Heetch

Heetch, the second startup to watch, is a ride-sharing app that is reshaping its market by offering competitive commissions for its drivers.

Heetch is based out of Paris, France. Launching in 2013, they offer transparency between riders and drivers, the lowest commissions for drivers, and payment flexibility, such as cash, debit or credit cards, and prepaid cards.

Heetch only operates at night and is mainly used by young people who enjoy nightlife. Heetch has around 200 drivers, but on a typical Friday or Saturday night, they usually have around 50 drivers in operation, according to TechCrunch.

Although Uber and Taxis are perfectly safe and are available 24/7, Heetch is more transparent between drivers and riders. Riders are sent a verification code to verbally give to the driver, so each party knows they’re in the right place with the right person, according to Medium. Heetch drivers aren’t required to make a certain number of trips and they typically stay in suburban areas.

Taxis tend to be more expensive than Uber. The average starting fare for taxis is around €2.60 ($2.80) and the minimum fee, regardless of distance, is around €7.30 ($7.90). Taxis have three types of rates based on rates per kilometer and rates per hour. Rate A is around €1.13/km ($1.22) and the price per hour is €37.90 ($41). Rate B is around €1.47/km ($1.59) and the price per hour is €50.52 ($54). Rate C is about €1.66/km ($1.80) and the price per hour is €42.10 ($45). The exception to these rates is prices going to and from the Orly (ORY) or Roissy (CDG) airports, which are a fixed rate all year round, according to the CDG Paris International Airport website.

Ubers, although not as popular among Parisians, offer a variety of rides and prices. The price depends on the type of ride, the distance to the destination, and the time of day. Uber has a pick-up fee of €2 ($2.17), a price per kilometer of €1.05 ($1.14), and a price per minute of €0.30 ($0.32), according to the France Hotel Guide website.

Heetch has a flat rate of €16 ($12), they display the ride estimate before the user orders the ride. Heetch also offers the lowest commissions for their drivers. A commission for ride-share is a little bit like taking taxes out of a regular paycheck. Uber takes a 25% commission for app maintenance, development, and customer support, according to RideShare Mechanic. Heetch takes an 18% commission for their drivers, according to the Heetch website. Taxis do take a commission from their drivers, but it varies depending on the taxi service. 

Heetch offers more flexibility for payment methods. They accept cash, credit or debit cards, and prepaid cards. Taxis prefer to use cash only but will often have the preferred payment method posted in the cab. Uber’s payment methods include credit or debit cards, Venmo, PayPal, Uber gift cards, and digital wallets.

Heetch, although a new ride-sharing app, is slowly gaining popularity. With over 10 million downloads on the Google Play Store, the Heetch app has a 4.6-star rating and over 211,000 reviews. The app has 4.7 out of five stars and over 4,200 reviews on the Apple App Store. Originating in Paris, France, Heetch has expanded to over 20 cities in seven countries in Europe and Africa.

Heetch is reshaping the ride-sharing industry by offering the lowest commission rates, at only 18%. Heetch is also tapping into a niche market by only operating at night, in suburban areas, and mainly targeting young people.

Even with over 200 drivers, and about 50 operating during a typical Friday and Saturday night, this little startup has a long way to go before it makes significant changes.


Lookiero

Lookiero, the third startup to watch, is a subscription styling box service that is disrupting the fashion market by catering directly and personally to its consumers.

Launched in 2016, Lookiero is a women-only style and fashion website dedicated to finding the right style and fit for its users. Lookiero originated in Spain and is a way for women to find the styles they want on a budget without the hassle of shopping.

Lookiero, often compared to the American-based style website, Stitch Fix, has access to over 150 brands and focuses on women of all body types and ages. Lookiero and Stitch Fix have nearly the same business model, where a customer takes a styling quiz, a personal stylist selects items, and the customer decides what they want to keep and sends back the rest.

Although Lookiero and Stitch Fix styling quizzes are similar, they also ask different but important questions to tailor to the customers' needs. Both sites ask the user what styles they’re looking for, body type, height, size, personal questions, budget, typical clothing fit, and favorite brands. Both quizzes ask what areas the customer would like to highlight, such as cleavage, arms, bottom, waist, and legs. Both sites also ask what items, colors, patterns, and styles to avoid and what the customer is looking to gain from the experience, such as a wardrobe update.

Lookiero’s quiz is more unique to the individual than Stitch Fix. Lookiero asks about hair color, eye color, weight, and how the user typically dresses. Lookiero customers pay £10 ($12.82) for a personal stylist to send them a box with five items to fit their style while keeping trends and budget in mind. The user tries on the items, keeps what they like, and returns what they don’t want.

 

 

Lookiero offers free returns within five days but requires customers to maintain the condition of the items with labels attached. Customers can have their style boxes sent either monthly, bi-monthly, or tri-monthly or they can order an individual box whenever is convenient, according to the Lookiero website.

Lookiero recommends users find at least 20 items per day to concentrate on their styles and preferences. Although it’s not a requirement for users to sift through those styles, it does help the styling team make better-personalized suggestions.

Since its launch, Lookiero has earned over $58 million, gained over 500 employees, and expanded to nine countries, according to the Lookiero LinkedIn page. Lookiero also has more than three million users registered on its website, according to PitchBook.

Lookiero is disrupting the fashion market by expanding into the blogosphere and YouTube channels. These platforms allow Lookiero’s personal stylist teams to share trends, tips, and styles along with customer testimonials, according to FasterCapital.  

Lookiero also takes the hassle out of shopping by delivering right to the consumer’s doors, making it a fast and easy way to get new styles, trendy pieces, or a new wardrobe while staying on budget.

Blinkist, Heetch, and Lookiero are the startups to watch as they grow, expand, and further change the landscape of their markets.

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