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Quora Column

Driven to success by anger or rivalry

A Tesla Coil creates lightning. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)

A Tesla Coil creates lightning in a village in China. Tesla's use of alternating current eclipsed Thomas Edison's direct current power. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)

Hell hath no fury like a consumer — or rival — scorned.

Grumbling, grizzling and general indignation over everything from poor customer service to impossible clothes sizing has you all riled. You aren’t alone. There is a lot of exasperation out there.

 

Maybe you should put some of that aggression to good use? Frustration has clearly sparked some brilliant entrepreneurial business solutions.

BBC Capital wanted to dig a little deeper in to the mindset of the grumpy innovator so we went to online question-and-answer site Quora to find out which successful businesses have started solely in angry reaction to another business? Here are some that stood out to Quora users.

Sparking innovation through rivalry

Rivalry among inventors has long-fuelled some of the best creations of the modern age. Shriharsha Kumar Konda suggested Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla.

And also added: “Do the names Rudolph and Adolph Dassler ring any bells? They’re two brothers who started companies in their small town of Herzogenaurach, Germany. They began working together in their mother’s laundry room in the 1920s before suffering from a huge falling out and moving their separate ways.”

Konda said: “If the Dassler brothers don’t sound familiar to you, maybe the names of their companies do. How about Puma and Adidas? That’s right, the two athletic giants were started by the brothers.”

Gaurav Harode nominated entrepreneur Reed Hastings who “started Netflix because he had to pay $40 for a movie he rented from Blockbuster and was late in returning it. The movie was Apollo 13.” 

Retail rage

Shopping for sharp tailoring can prove an irritating task, particularly for those with unusual measurements, wrote Aaron Ellis. Donald Fisher (who went on to found the Gap clothing chain) once “couldn't find a store in the San Francisco Bay Area that sold Levi's jeans in his size and all stores refused to accommodate him,” Ellis wrote.

Citing Fisher’s story on the Gap website, Ellis described Fisher’s numerous hurdles when he tried to return some ill-fitting jeans he’d ordered. Fisher needed a 34-inch waist, 31-inch length leg and yet every pair he tried in a particular store was 30-inches long. The salesman suggested taking the pants to a city department store, instead.

Fisher took him up on the idea, and asked his wife and business partner, Doris, to visit a department store in San Francisco. She found a Levi’s display table in the basement and cringed at the mess. But she sorted through the items and reported back that they carried only even sizes. He tried another floor. Same problem. He tried another department store. Again, no luck.

Ellis wrote: “So Fisher thought what if someone put together all the styles, colours and sizes Levi Strauss had to offer in one store?” The Gap clothing empire was born.

Meanwhile Fred Landis offered the success of FedEx versus the US Postal Service (USPS) as a further example. Originally the postal service “had a legal monopoly on the delivery of documents. The medical, banking, and legal professions were angry with this situation,” Landis wrote. “FedEx came up with an overnight document delivery system that exploited a loophole in the law giving USPS a monopoly. Because FedEx had access to its own planes the business “did not have to wait for the documents to be placed on passenger airlines,” he added.

Quora respondents are required to use their true names under the site’s Real Names policy. To help ensure legitimacy and quality, Quora asks some individuals, such as doctors and lawyers, to confirm their expertise.

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