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Start-Ups

Five Companies that Didn’t Stay in their Lane

By Townes Haas   |    January 7, 2016   |    8:21 AM

Companies That Encourage Thinking Outside the Box

Many companies find what they are good at and stick to it. So what’s the problem? They aren't forward thinking and miss out on opportunities to expand their product line or services. Here are some examples of companies that encourage thinking outside of the box and reaping the rewards for it.

1. Silicon Valley is home to the world’s most brazen rule-breakers and it’s an environment where “disruption” is often code for bold innovation. There is no clearer example than AirBnB, the controversial apartment rental service that recently halted a community campaign to stop the company’s practices in San Francisco by simply out-spending its competition. CEO Brian Chesky says that the company is simply trying to bring apartment rentals out of the shadows and streamline the process for hosts to pay occupancy fees. However, the company has also used Uber’s argument that it’s a software product and not an under-the-table rental agency that doesn’t pay taxes. How far the company can push the rules before they push back may very well be left up to the courts.

2. Zappos broke the rules around customer service by offering free shipping on every product to anywhere and building up a customer service model that has made it a hit with consumers. By delivering a world-class customer experience combined with a bit of cheeky marketing, the Amazon-owned retailer built a $1 billion company in less than a decade. Case in point: the company is offering its customers a deal during the holidays by giving out $100 for each white elephant gift returned by the first 500 customers. They even provide free shipping.

3. Netflix broke the rules around video consumption so hard they made their own lane. After decades of corporate control by Blockbuster and independent video stores, Netflix created a multi-billion dollar industry by renting older movies to younger consumers on laptops and living room set-top boxes while simultaneously bypassing the entire cable industry entirely. Not only did the company inspire a generation of cord-cutters to move to Apple TV, Google’s Chrome, and other non-cable devices but they’ve also disrupted the entertainment industry by launching their own popular content including Daredevil, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.

4. YouTube broke the lock that entertainment companies had on video venues. Instead of video being a medium that was exclusive to television or movie screens, the website allowed consumers to share their own content, creating an entirely new product for monetization and a generation of home-grown celebrities. The website continues to be one of the most popular Internet destinations of all time.

5. Amazon.com broke the rule that stores were the primary place for consumers to buy things. Originally perceived as simply an online bookstore, the e-tailer today sells groceries, electronics, video games, and just about every other product or consumable imaginable. In 2015, the shopping and cloud computing company surpassed Wal-Mart as the most valuable retail operation on the planet.