Isn’t it frustrating that the most important driver of success is one that is out of your hands? I really liked the Airbnb and Uber examples – they both found ways to turn the tough times into their favor. But it wasn’t just the recession that drove their growth. Increased use of mobile devices was huge; they were able to tap into a vast network of individuals all across the world very quickly with their innovations.
When I think about a company that has a somewhat decent idea but in the wrong time, I think about Kozmo. Kozmo was a VC-backed company that offered one-hour delivery of food, books, music, etc. Think about it… it’s basically like Uber Foods or Favor or Instacart. The problem? It was a decade ahead of its time. The lack of mobile devices with tracking integration, made consumers less excited about the product, whereas now, companies with almost the exact same idea (though perhaps less diversified) are booming.
As an entrepreneur with “revolutionary” ideas, making sure that consumers are ready and that the technology is sufficient for optimally using your product is absolutely important. It’ll take a lot of surveying and product testing to gain consumer feedback, but it’s also important to remember that (at least in my opinion) the best products or services are the ones customers didn’t even know they wanted. People may say the timing is wrong, but maybe it’s actually just right, so don’t dismiss your idea too easily.
Upasana – great post! As a 26 year old, even I (due to the public perception versus the facts that you point out) have felt that my “prime” to found a company is beginning to pass. Thankfully, you made it clear that I still have hope .
I completely agree with your point that our goal should be focused on gaining first-hand experience versus playing the waiting game for that “great idea.” The experience can serve multiple purposes – not just to understand how to be a CTO or a product manager or what have you, but it also allows you to determine whether or not the startup life is for you. As a former consultant who has always thought about entering that space, my beliefs about startup life are solely based on the stories of others, versus my own. By jumping into the startup world, I’ll be able to determine whether or not it makes sense for me long-term. And if it does, well at least from a VC and co-founder standpoint, I’ll be a much more attractive candidate, as my experiences can help scale the company further and perhaps provide better negotiating leverage when it comes to fundraising.
Thanks for this post! I completely agree with you that there needs to be a balanced between both optimism and skepticism. You need to believe that your product will succeed, but you also need to survey individuals to ensure there is a need in the market and that the timing is right.
By surveying trusted advisors, particularly in the entrepreneurial space, I would assume that you’d be talking to the “innovators” and perhaps some of the “early adopters” in the adoption curve. If you want to scale to a much larger product, however, it will be very valuable to get feedback from the individuals who don’t immediately gravitate to new platforms. These are the ones who can provide some feedback around what adjustments may make them want to use your product or service.
Above, Guylaine mentioned that she “would try to get advice [from] as many people as [she could],” however, I’m not sure that’s the optimal solution. I think it’s more about who you survey (vs. just focusing on volume). It’ll be important to surveying/capture feedback from people who fall into different categories of the adoption curve (perhaps there is some minimum volume of individuals that would help).
With that said, don’t immediately move away from or give up on your idea if the feedback you hear is not positive. Henry Ford once mentioned, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” The reality is, sometimes people don’t know what they want. In these instances, I feel like it’s best to develop the MVP for customers to experience; this is when you’ll really understand how customers feel about your product or service offering.