Outsiders and Innovation

Outsiders are people who aren’t working in an industry and (usually) don’t have relationships in that industry. They’re on the outside looking in, wondering what it’s like to be on the other side. They don’t understand how the industry works, but they work to fill their knowledge and relationship gaps. Successful outsiders can penetrate the industry through hustle and a bit of luck.

The experience of being an outsider who makes it inside an industry puts these people in a unique position. They’re different from insiders. They’re engaged enough to see and understand the mechanics of how the industry works, but they’re detached enough to question the status quo. They see things from outside and inside the industry simultaneously. This perspective can help them identify a gap that others have ignored and understand the potential in exploiting it. Further, they’re uniquely qualified to come up with the right plan to exploit the gap in a way insiders and those still outside the industry can’t.

I’m a fan of backing outsiders. They’re driven enough to hustle their way in. They’ve likely got a chip on their shoulder from wanting to prove others wrong. And they usually have strong conviction. All these are great founder traits.

While some think outsiders are “out of place,” I view them as scrappy people who can be catalysts for innovation.