It's time for disruptive tech firms to grow up

Airbnb runs into legal trouble
Airbnb runs into legal trouble

As the adage goes, there is no such thing as bad publicity.

And for today's disruptive start-ups, critical media coverage is often worn as a badge of honor.

It means that, as a relative newcomer, you're making an impact. And it can be seen as vindication of a desire to shake things up, setting you apart from the established businesses you want to take on.

Such publicity can also raise awareness, saving huge sums of marketing dollars.

Uber is a great example. Its business model may be revolutionary but it's unlikely the firm would have captured global attention as quickly as it has without the stream of "bad news" stories.

Likewise, when city officials around the world declare war on Airbnb, people want to know what the fuss is about. They visit the website, and may even be tempted to make their first foray into the world of alternative accommodation.

Related: Uber's global ambitions hit roadblocks

But there comes a time when even the most scrappy of start-ups needs to grow up and embrace the responsibility that comes with creating a new market.

And in the case of companies such as Uber and Airbnb -- both now valued at many billions of dollars -- that means recognizing when you have become part of the establishment.

Such a transformation is never going to be easy, especially when so many tech firms are started by charismatic youngsters keen to become the next Steve Jobs -- if less willing to hold their tongues, as Uber's CEO learned the hard way.

Not only do such firms need to improve their image, it is also time they gave something back. And they could start with their staff.

For while the so-called "sharing economy" has helped home and car owners make a little money on the side, it hasn't created many full time jobs. A lot of people employed by these firms are freelance.

So what can be done?

Venture capital, with its experienced investors, could play more of a role in steering such companies towards this goal. Indeed they have a duty to do so, to protect their investment.

Related: Google Venture: Fewer Ubers, more health care

Governments around the world should start adapting to the changing landscape such disruptors create, assessing the risks they pose to consumers and smoothing some of their rougher edges through smart regulation.

No one wants a sharing economy if it is not safe or rewarding.

Many of these firms, including Uber and Airbnb, say they are keen to work with authorities to resolve any cracks in the system as they arise.

In a rare example of working with regulators rather than against them, Uber has agreed to shut down its services in Portland, Oregon, for three months while the city updates its laws.

Today's new game changers have already altered our daily lives, for which they deserve recognition. But for that legacy to last they -- like the tech titans before them -- need to mature and learn from past mistakes.

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