This paper puts the spotlight on digital-first start-ups, it identifies the common characteristics that make brands such as Glossier, the cosmetics brand and Dollar Shave Club, the razor brand, so successful.

In doing so, the authors offer suggestions for what creative agencies, and legacy organisations generally, can learn from them – how they can compete and stay relevant in this new world order.

The authors draw on insights from a study of 20,000 disruptive brands across 14 global markets. Brands analysed include Netflix, the TV streaming service, Monzo, a mobile-only bank, Airbnb, the accommodation service and Uber, the ride-hailing company.


Digital-first start-up: a company of any category, any size, but usually small, that was born online and continues to grow and thrive there. They may also be known as DTC (Direct-to-consumer) brands or disruptive brands; companies that change the game and play by new rules, often disintermediating channels or disrupting categories via a spectrum of new platforms, technologies, new products, or new ways to reach consumers.

Where to start