Timing Your Startup

Timing Your Startup

Timing is everything – and with Startups this true as well.

I wrote yesterday about Standing in a Graveyard. But there are some markets that you might not think of as Graveyards, even though they were in an earlier startup generation. The Apple Newton, Apple’s first attempt into the tablet market circa 1993, they were right, just early. Another category is Voice Search, Microsoft acquired TellMe in 1997, but it didn’t take off. Nuance has built products for both business and individuals (DragonVoice), but didn’t have blazing market success in the form of consumer adoption. Most recently Apple purchased an independent company that made Siri, then they integrated it as a feature in the release of the iPhone 4. I remember seeing an in-car demo of voice technology five years ago… it’s pretty cool, but took a long time to get market acceptance.

I was talking to a friend yesterday that was reflecting on an idea from 8+ years ago about creating casual games for aging parents where you could track the results of the games and see if there were changes that would indicate mental acuity or even a need or evidence of medication changes. A good idea, but not viable 8+ years ago in a pre-smartphone and iTunes store market.

What these examples have in common is timing.

Here is the timing continuum as you prepare to launch your startup:

  • Perfect Timing – I think this rarely happens – so if you timed yours correctly congrats!
  • Too Late – it’s hard to catch up from too late, you have a couple of dominant players in the market and a few other early followers – Think Groupon a year ago.
  • A Little Late – hopefully just a little late, with a little late, you can still catch up. But, it will cost you. You’ll need to delivery at least a Minimum Viable Product to compete, you’ll need to know the customers better and you’ll need to figure out how to do guerrilla marketing better – you won’t likely have a big budget for a while.
  • A Little Early – you’re in front of the market, but there are macro factors that are aligning to make the idea into a company. For example, you’re making a Facebook app that leverages the aging demographic of Facebook, etc.
  • Too Early – I think early is the worst – you believe in the product or market and as an entrepreneur. You likely see the market as it “will exist” in the future, but the entrepreneur see the market as if it exists that way today.

Being too early to market is worst and most expensive option because you either have to train the market or wait for it to get ready for you. Dave Bluhm, one of the FI mentors recently said, “you end up tilling the ground for someone to come after you in 10 years to make the money”.

Here are two ways you might know if you’re too early:

  • You’ll talk about your idea as a “concept” – people may nod and smile but they generally don’t get it
  • Industry folks or analysts totally get it, but when you explain it to your potential customers they think of it as a nice concept

Being innovative is awesome – Guy Kawasaki defines innovation as “creating products and services for people prior to them realizing they need it”. I think innovation is great and it’s better to innovate then develop a feature for someone else’s product. But remember, people still haven’t realized they need it yet.

We’ve created a new product for my latest startup – Bundled. We’ve automated the Donation Request process for merchants and Franchises. But, it’s difficult to buy key words for a solution people don’t know they are looking for – YET.

REMEMBER it is execution not the idea that wins.

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