How to Disrupt an Industry

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LearnVest’s Alexa von Tobel offers advice on how not just to build a company, but to upend an entire industry.

By Jessica Stillman (Editor, Women 2.0)

Let’s say you dream big. Sure, you want to start a high growth company, but you also want to take an inefficient or backward industry and utterly disrupt it. How do you go about it?

Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of financial management website LearnVest.com, has some ideas. She recently spoke at Inc.’s GrowCo conference in New Orleans and offered plenty of tips for founders hoping to shake up established industries, which Inc.com helpfully rounded up in a post. Here are a few examples:

When everyone zigs, you have to zag. Von Tobel started her company at the end of 2008, as the recession was sinking to its lowest depths. “When everyone is battening down the hatches,” she says, “grow.” It will set you apart.

Put skin in the game. “When you’re spending your own money it’s different than when you’re spending someone else’s money,” von Tobel says. “That should never go away. I treat every dollar like it’s my own dollar.”

Vet your investors. “I thought of each of my investors like someone I was marrying–I’m going to be married to you for 10 years or longer,” she says. Each of those people should be a person you’d want with you in a boat in the middle of the Atlantic, in the middle of a storm.

For a half dozen more tips, check out the complete post on Inc.com.

Women 2.0 readers: Are there any tips you’d add to von Tobel’s list?

Jessica Stillman is an editor at Women 2.0 and a freelance writer with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She writes a daily column for Inc.com and has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist, among others. Follow her on Twitter at @entrylevelrebel.

Image credit: Chance Yeh.