University of Southern California

USC Marshall and <em>Business 2.0</em> Magazine Disrupt Standard Conference Approach
May 7, 2007 • by David Bloom

Here's a fun recipe: throw together three-dozen people known for creating companies that disrupt existing business models, toss in a question about what industry they'd like to "blow up" next, then sample the resulting soufflé of outrageous opinions.

Participants at the recent USC Marshall/Business 2.0 "Next Disruptors" conference in downtown Los Angeles cooked up plenty of candidates for a transformative new concoction: education, litigation, logistics, home construction, deal-hunting software, gerontology, oh, and teleportation.

That last, thoroughly unlikely suggestion came courtesy of Suranga Chandratillake, co-founder and CEO of video-search site Blinkx.com. Others tended to be grounded in achievable, if still wildly ambitious, aims.

But the idea most favored by the group of about 40 USC academics, journalists and C-level executives from cutting-edge companies was perhaps the most intractable, and basic, of all: providing clean water cheaply to Third World countries.

The conference was one of three events hosted around the country by Business 2.0, a tech-oriented business magazine, in conjunction with USC Marshall and the business schools at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of North Carolina. The "Next Disruptors" gatherings will feed into a summertime conference hosted by Business 2.0 sister publication Fortune.

Participants in the Marshall event had plenty to talk about, particularly when leaders from new-media companies such as YouTube, Diggnation, paidContent.org, iStockPhoto, Veoh Networks, JibJab Media and Nextmedium crossed swords with speakers with background in traditional movies, TV and music, such as current or former executives with Fox Networks Group, MGM Studios, EMI Records and IBM.

Digital access to and piracy of entertainment remain hot issues in the shadow of Hollywood. Another hot area is user-generated content, touted by some as the future source of most entertainment and even news. Critics said user-generated content has a few notable high points and far more dross, drowning the Web in mediocre amateur creations. Its defenders at the conference included several pioneers in the business, and they said such criticism is wildly premature.

"We're at the kindergarten level right now," said Amanda Congdon, who made her reputation as a video blogger with Rocketboom, but now has her own site and contributes to ABCnews.com. "We’re just starting to learn. It’s too early to say online content is no good."

After two hours of spirited verbal jousting, the group adjourned to the cloud-chilled rooftop bar of the Standard Hotel downtown for a reception, joined by dozens of additional Marshall and USC academics, administrators and alumni among others.

Conference co-host Morley Winograd, executive director of USC Marshall's Center for Telecom Management, said the event already has paid off handsomely for Marshall, connecting the center with a number of companies interested in partnering with CTM in its research and policy work on digital networks.


About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.