Mar 06, 2018
Airbnb, Uber, Amazon, Netflix, almost identical scenarios for the disruptors. Change before you are forced to do so.


The biggest cinema in the world has no auditoriums, the biggest shop in the world has no physical stores, the biggest hotel in the world doesn't own a single room, the biggest taxi service doesn't own a single car, etc., etc.
Lately, this has become a regularly-recited fact. Understanding who it refers to is easy and realising that this really is the case has a certain impact.

On going into detail, it emerges that the reality is more complex than a phrase created to amaze, both in terms of the online origin of success (Netflix began by sending DVDs by post), the physical presence (Amazon has opened an experimental shop in Seattle), and procurement strategies (Uber has purchased an articulated lorry start-up more for the autonomous driving technology than for the lorries themselves).

The new giants which have developed online, overturning their markets by replicating a business model founded on the non-ownership of assets, seem now to be looking with interest at the purchase of some form of physical property.

But this is not the case for everyone. In what direction are these companies moving nowadays?

Amazon and Alibaba are investing in the purchase of physical store chains. A few months ago, Amazon purchased Whole Foods (specialised in organic food), while Alibaba has acquired a significant share in Sun Art Retail, the Chinese version of Wal-Mart. Rather than a show of aggression towards the offline market, these strategies seem to be a form of "prototype" aimed at the definitive integration of online and offline experiences.

In the US, Airbnb has begun investing in a number of apartment complexes, built from scratch and managed according to new methods, obviously perfect for residents who will be hosts, but who are, above all, frequent travellers themselves.

Uber has tested vehicle purchasing in Singapore, with poor success. It is, however, investing in revolutionary flying taxis which it will presumably have to own. (The question also remains on how to manage in the future an asset-free model with driverless vehicles. Will the owner provide the self-driving car, working for Uber yet staying at home?)

For Netflix, considering the way in which it works, the dynamics have been similar, but without ever abandoning the immaterial: explosive penetration of the market and investment of earnings to free itself from dependence on entertainment leaders - in this case through the production of original material.

With regards to physical assets, is a macro trend for these actions emerging?

Certainly, the strategies differ for the various markets, and are applied in differing contexts, but none of these companies seems to be focused on snatching up assets depreciated by competitors.

There is no Airbnb buying up Holiday Inn or Uber taking over taxi companies being sold off. On the contrary, they all seem to be concentrating on strategies which are focused on a distant future, as though the inability of old-style competitors to adapt, their consequential disappearance, and even the uselessness of the goods which they are now founded on seem to be so taken for granted as to almost not even merit attention.

There are two lessons to be learned from all of this:

Even in the offline world, where until yesterday the definition of relationships of strength and services was in the hands of the traditional large-scale players, the rules are, nowadays, ever-increasingly set by the asset-light disruptors.

These all seem to be driven by the same rule which many very large-scale companies, now no longer in existence, have instead ignored: think about reinventing yourself before it becomes necessary.

Alberto Gianera

Strategic Designer

Share it !

CBA Paris

96, rue Édouard Vaillant
92300 Levallois-Perret, France

+33 (0)1 40 54 09 00

© 2016

All Rights Reserved

CBA is a design agency.
It is composed of a network of 13 offices located across the globe, sharing the same mindset.
Our 305 professionals work passionately everyday on projects for more than 30 countries.

CBA Global en
CBA France FR / EN
CBA Italy IT / EN
CBA Spain ES
CBA Turkey EN / TR
CBA Middle East EN
CBA Asia Pacific EN
CBA Latin America EN / PT / ES

Type your search and hit return


First Name

Last Name

Your email

You will need to confirm your address to activate your subscription
By clicking "Subscribe" you will be agreeing to our privacy policy

Terms and conditions


This site is edited by:
CBA Paris
SASU with a capital of 1 150 000€ Euros
RCS Paris
Headquarters : 96 rue Edouard Vaillant, 92 300 Levallois-Perret, France
Tél : 01 40 54 09 00

Director of Publication : Louis Collinet

This website was developed by :
CB’A Srl
Headquarters: via Lecce 4, 20136 – Milan, Italy

The information displayed on this site concern all CBA Paris entities. These companies are referred hereafter by the name « CBA Group ».

Property rights

All data, text, information, images, photography, videos or any other content shared on this website are protected by copyright. Any reproduction, representation, use or adaptation, whatever the form, of all or an element of this site without the written consent of CBA group will be considered as a counterfeit act and falls under the penalties of Intellectual Property Code.

Brand copyrights
All named and logotyped brands and other distinctive signs which appear on this website are CBA group’s property and / or of their clients. Consequently, any reproduction or representation, and any use of these distinctive signs is prohibited, except with a writtent consent of their owners.

Links generation to
The website allows the set up of an hypertext link pointing towards its content, except using the technic of « deep linking », i.e the pages of should not be integrated within another website pages, but accessible through the opening of a new window.
This authorization should not apply in any case to websites displaying controversial, pornographic, or xenophobic information or which could tharm sensibility or cause public disorder.

Website editor 's responsibility
Website content :
CBA Group has attempted to ensure the accuracy and the update of the information contained on this website ; CBA Group reserves the rights to amend, at any time and without notice, the content. However, CBA group cannot guarantee the accuracy, the precision or the comprehensiveness of the information carried on this website.

Website access :
CBA group companies cannot be held liable for any incovenience or damages related to the general use of Internet, notably in case of service breakdown, external intrusion, downloaded viruses, or damages caused to the equipment or software which would be linked to the use of this website.

Links to other sites :
The site might include links to other Internet websites. Given that CBA group can’t control these sites, CBA group cannot bear the responsibility towards their contents, advertisments, products, services or any other material available on or from these websites. Moreover, CBA group cannot be held responsible for any damages or loss related to a trust relationship to the content, goods or services availables on these sites.

Privacy policy
Visitors are made aware that all personal date collected on this website are automatically processed. Data collected are kept confidential and are aimed at the exclusive use of members and services of CBA group.

These personal data fall under the dispositions of law « Informatique et Libertés » of January 6, 1978.
It is understood that the visitor is given a right of access, amendment or deletion of any personal data related to them, by sending a mail to :

CBA Fabien Godimus 96 rue Edouard Vaillant 92300 Levallois-Perret
or by sending an email to