The New Disruptors

‘It began with Mr Shah’s data obsession. “I started looking around at data for fun, to see what people were searching for and buying online,” he told me. “I looked at flip-flops.”

“Then I typed in ‘slippers’, and the search volumes were 60 per cent higher than for flip-flops, a £4bn industry. Yet I couldn’t name a single slipper brand.”’


It’s been hard to miss Mahabis  – ‘The slipper. Reinvented.’ – thanks to its ‘relentless’ online campaign since its launch three years ago. As the FT reports in its recent profile of Mahabis founder and ‘unlikely slipper magnate’, 35 year old Ankur Shah, Mahabis – producing a hybrid inside-outside slipper-shoe, thanks to a detachable sole – ‘turned over £1.5m in its first year, £10m in its second and is heading for £18m in this, its third’, and is now selling 500 pairs a day.


Shah is part of a new breed of product entrepreneurs using technological insight, social marketing, and accessible supply chains to reinvent industries – with staggering results. By first using search engines to reveal an in-demand yet unbranded space; collapsing the line between home and work to befit the millenial workspace; and harnessing the design capabilities of 3D printing and factory outsourcing, he had a powerful niche. On its first day, Mahabis had 10,000 orders.


Another phenomenal disruptor in this vein is Dollar Shave Club: this time, toppling the brand giants of a space, instead creating one. In July, it hit headlines after selling to Unilever for $1bn – reinventing the overserved, overpriced, practically-monobrand men’s razor industry with a simple proposition: high quality razors, delivered to your home, every month, for $1.


Supported by a YouTube ad that quickly went viral thanks to its irreverent assault on the industry it was busy reshaping, the sales quickly skyrocketed: ‘first year sales were $4 million… followed by $19 million in 2013 and $65 million in 2014. But, as its founder Michael Dubin attests, technology was also essential to testing and proving the concept before securing $100,000 from their first round of Angel investment.


As The New York Times chronicles in this long-read feature, Dollar Shave Club epitomises the ease with which the rules of industry are being rewritten:

‘In the past, challenging Gillette would have been impossible. It would have required billions of dollars to invest in a distribution network and advertising to get the product on store shelves. No more. Now you can get free advertising through YouTube, easy distribution through the mail system and low-cost sales through the internet. Factories and distribution can be bolted on throughout the globe.’


Learn more about Dollar Shave Club’s unique approach from original investor David Packman.