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Mobile Disruption: 5 Companies That Are Redefining Their Industries

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By Stevan Popovic

More than a fourth of Facebook users access the social network solely from their mobile phones. One might say we're at the brink of the mobile-only age, and innovative tech startups are leading the way.

As Aaron Levie, CEO of Box, predicted in his  2012 Simplicity Thesis: "If you are making the customer do any extra amount of work, no matter what industry you call home, you are now the target for disruption". Through clever interface design, real time data, and capabilities like GPS and camera access, industry innovators can provide practical solutions to streamlining everyday consumer processes.

From hailing a cab to expensing your client dinners, these five companies are dramatically fueling change in their respective industries.

Square

Payments startup Square is a forerunning example of a seamless end-to-end solution in the financial technology sector. Combining minimal hardware with its Square Register app, the company enables any small business merchant to turn a smartphone or tablet into a point of sale. Once a pocket sized card reader is plugged into a mobile or tablet device, customers can swipe their cards to make a payment.

Square's technology doesn't just do away with the clunky cash register, but it also prevents merchants from needing to invest $900 in a Verifone wireless credit card terminal by utilizing technology they already own. The company distributes the card reader and software for free and charges business owners 2.75 percent swipe fee, or 3.5 percent plus $0.15 for each manually entered transaction, instead of a flat rate.

Beyond innovating to the point of sale, the company is also a leader in peer-to-peer payment technology. Square Cash offers a simple service to send and request money, enabling users to deposit cash in a bank account via a text message or email, free of charge.

Abacus

Why does the old fashioned expense report model still exist? This is the question being answered by Abacus, a YC-backed company that utilises mobile technology to drastically simplify expense repayments. By traditional means, it can take employees up to 30 days to see any money from their claimed expenses, as managers manually batch receipts month by month. The company empowers employees to claim expense repayments overnight and managers to control refunding in real time.

Using tagging functionality, the Abacus app allows users to add locations and photos of receipts in order to provide the necessary context for speedy approval. On the flip side, the app automatically categorises spending by employee, category, location or project, as well as syncing with sophisticated bookkeeping software such as Quickbooks. This company has radically simplified an ancient process in the enterprise sector.

Uber

"The taxi industry has been ripe for disruption for decades," Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber, recently said to Businessweek. Currently valued at $3.5 billion, Uber is the leader of the pack when it comes to the competitive taxi and ride-sharing service market. The app's "one tap to ride" functionality makes finding a taxi so easy, that hailing a cab with your hand on a street corner seems archaic.

Now available in 110 cities around the world, the app uses GPS to locate a user and nearby Uber-authorised driver in real time, and lets both parties rate each other after the ride. Anyone with a credit or debit card and smartphone can book a ride, eliminating the need for ATM stop offs and cash exchanges. By seamlessly and securely connecting drivers and riders through mobile, Uber has successfully tapped into a simplified solution for this traditional industry. In fact, it's made such an impact that pressure to ban the service has been felt across several European cities.

YPlan

This London-based startup is making serious noise across the crowded event discovery scene. YPlan allows users to "spontaneously" discover, organise and book tickets for a night out. By targeting users 48 hours prior to an event, the company caters to its target demographic while stealing market share from ticket merchants who traditionally aim to sell out months in advance.

The YPlan app, which reached 500,000 downloads a year after launching, operates in densely populated cities such as London, New York, Las Vegas, and San Francisco based on the premise that busy city dwellers don't typically like to commit to events far in advance. By pushing a daily curated list of premium ticketed events straight to your smartphone, users win time from sifting through infinite options. In terms of the market, the company sets up a win-win situation: YPlan generates profit from sales commissions through its partnerships while event promoters profit through incremental sales of excess tickets.

Duolingo

Learning is no longer a one-size-fits-all model. The ability to move education online and make it accessible to many has seen a proliferation in online course providers over the last few years. Now players like Duolingo and Voxy are leading the way in terms of mobile technology as well.

Always wanted to learn a foreign language? Duolingo let's you do so on the go and for free. The app was  voted iPhone App of the Year in 2013 and Techcrunch Education app of the year, and has raised $38 million investment to date. Supporting more than 20 million people to learn a language in their free time on their mobile devices, the company quotes gaming giants like Candy Crush as their competitors over other educational services. With its gamified virtual store feature and expansion plans into Asia, the company shows no signs of slowing down their edtech innovation.

These five stellar companies have entered the market and, by simplifying the user's experience, rattled with the traditional ways things are done. Within each of these industries, a wealth of players are competing for the consumer's attention by offering minimal complexity for maximum value. With this type of disruption becoming the norm, what will be the next innovation trend to sweep the startup ecosystem?

Image via Shutterstock

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