Today, smartwatches are one of the most sought-after wearables among customers. Apple dominates almost half of the smartwatch market, followed by Samsung, Fitbit and a few other brands. But, did you know that none of these brands were the pioneers of this device?
It was, in fact, Microsoft which had first introduced a smartwatch prototype in 2004. Unfortunately, it never made it to the market because it was too futuristic for customers at that point of time. Given its sheer magnitude and volume of business, Microsoft managed to absorb the failure. It didn’t shut down. However, if it were a startup, it may have already doomed.
Market timing is a critical element in the growth and success of any business.
Timing can be defined as launching the product or service at the right time in the right place. If your startup arrives too early, you may not get the expected traction. If it enters the market late, there are already competitors and entry barriers to fend off, and your startup may end up being a case of ‘me-too’.
So, let’s assume that your idea is fantastic, you have a strong team in place and even there is sufficient funding at disposal to scale it. However, if the market is not ready to buy your product, nothing else matters or works.
Bill Gross, the founder of Idealab and a serial entrepreneur, in a TED talk, mentioned that timing is the single biggest reason why startups grow successfully. His statement was based on the survey of 100 Idealab companies and 100 non-Idealab companies he had conducted to find out what made startups succeed. The results were surprising – timing accounted for 42% of the differences between successful and failed startups, followed by the team (32%), idea (28%), business model (24%) and funding (14%).
Timing is that element of your startup growth mix which is not under your control. You know the ‘how’, but it is the ‘when’ that deludes you.
This is what happened with the app-based startup Zeppery. The founders Utkarsh Srivastava and Lalit Vijay had a great idea – allow users to pre-order food at restaurants so that they don’t have to wait in queues and meals are ready by the time they arrive. They were trying to imbibe the successful business model of the US-based startup Tapingo. Unfortunately, their shop shut down within six months of launch because the founders realized that the Indian market was not ripe for this model.
However, in the case of Ola Cabs and Flipkart, the indigenous models (Uber and Amazon) worked perfectly fine! Their idea wasn’t original, but they addressed the pain points of customers just at the right time. The idea and timing were backed by efficient execution and continuous innovation, which is why these two startups are unicorns today.
So, How To Determine If The Timing Is Right?
Well, the answer to this question is a mystery. However, the following factors do give a fair idea:
Conduct a market research to understand the pulse of the market. Does the pain point exist? If yes, then can your product address it? If yes, how much traction your product is likely to get? Can you acquire more customers as you move forward? Eventually, you want to scale your startup, so if only a handful of customers show interest, it isn’t good time to move ahead.
It is possible that there are already startups offering similar solutions as yours. It is advisable to find out how they are faring. If you are confident that your product offers a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and the market isn’t already crowded with the competitors, the timing is right.
Remember the dot com crash? The internet companies doomed as quick as they flourished. You can’t predict economic conditions, but you can study the trends and see if they are favourable for the long-term sustenance of your startup. If the answer is affirmative, and you have already ticked off the above two factors, the timing is likely to be right.
A startup needs your blood and sweat. If you don’t have sufficient time to dedicate to build and grow it, the timing isn’t right.
Incidentally, there is the unique case of Airbnb which started during the Great Recession! The idea was to help people earn supplemental income by renting their houses to travellers. The idea worked, and as they say ‘rest is history’.
It goes without saying that timing gives your startup the first-mover advantage. There isn’t a tried and tested formula to determine the right timing, but it is definitely the ingredient which can make or break a startup.