The future is looking a little brighter. Why? Because companies are looking and acting differently. These companies understand that while making profits is critical, they have other competing priorities that lie in solving social, political, and environmental issues. They approach energy, health care, and computer science from a preventative and proactive perspective. These companies are creating new markets, innovations, and creating tangible solutions. Many people have not heard of these companies because they have only been visible in the tech world, but they are making waves across a range of sectors. What are these companies? Disruptive.
One such company is called Ambri. Ambri is creating a massive liquid battery that will transform our energy system. This battery could store many hours’ worth of energy, from solar to wind power, at very low cost to help power an electric grid. The battery will be stationary and made from inexpensive and available materials through a simple production process. The other exciting element of the battery is that it can handle large currents of power and deliver power in bursts over long periods of time. Ambri’s technology is different from any other regular rechargeable battery because the battery will be composed of all liquid. Standard batteries are solid and do not last a long time, but a battery with only liquid parts could last for years without losing much of its energy and storage capacity.
According to MIT’s Technology Review, if Ambri can make this battery work it will change the way we get electricity. Currently, the energy output of wind and solar farms is intermittent. These renewable sources alone can’t reliably power an entire grid. Grids need to maintain a balance between the power being consumed and the amount being generated. The system must be able to meet peak demand, which typically occurs when people turn on their air conditioning on hot summer days. That means wind and solar farms are typically backed up with natural-gas plants that can quickly add to the electricity supply.
If Ambri were able to replace this system, it would lead to lower costs, a more sustainable energy source, and less dependence on fossil fuels.
So what are disruptive companies? Disruptive companies and disruptive innovation by definition do not affect existing markets. Their nature is to offer something new that fundamentally changes the marketplace. In this space, innovators claim there are two types of innovations: revolutionary and disruptive. Revolutionary or commonly-called "sustaining" ones are innovations that do not affect the market, but can at times add value to it.
A disruptive innovation is something that creates a new market by applying a different set of values, which ultimately overtakes an existing market. These innovations change industries forever and in turn make products that fill in unforeseen or unsolvable gaps in the marketplace. Today, we look to Silicon Valley and technological innovations like apps, smart phones, etc., as disruptive innovations. But in fact what they are doing is designing products that are "better, cheaper, and faster." Building a better phone isn't disrupting any markets.
The question I pose is, Can we value disruptive companies more, and can corporations, banks, and local governments invest more in these types of companies? I believe that corporations can integrate disruption and innovation to create, design, and manufacture products with the least environmental impact and the most social impact. Ambri seems to have found a good formula already by creating a new market and new product at the same time as they try to solve our energy problems. This may not be profitable right away — I'm guessing Ambri's projected returns are low at the moment — but if we can suspend the idea that profits are the number-one driver of business and think instead about purpose, our valuations would change.
We can learn a lot from disruptive companies like Ambri, which incorporate values and strategies that look a little different. This focus on purpose instead of profit will in fact make companies more dynamic and more profitable. Essentially, disruptive companies can promote business ethics and practices that could lead to a healthier, sustainable and more productive society.