Are you pecking away at startup success or diving into failure

Photo credit Jon Roig - http://www.flickr.com/photos/runnr_az/

 

It’s all very frantic this startup world in which we live.

  • Must be first!
  • Must launch now!
  • Somebody somewhere has the same idea I have and they probably have 20 developers killing it and building my dream!
  • Must secure funding!
  • Must close the deal!
  • Must be lean!

I get it and I do it everyday and so do my clients. It’s not just the startup world that’s frantic, it’s the entire business world(we just take it in the startup world to the extreme of extremes). I get it, the market demands it and we all want the big score, but at what cost.

Are you diving into a world of failure?

Even first movers with a huge venture capital backing can die a rapid death. Take Vine, the brilliant and addictive app built its own very active community and a huge following and was acquired by Twitter and then just a short time later, Instagram added video and BAM, the incredible success dropped off a cliff. Now, Vine isn’t dead, but it is a recent example of first equaling last.

Our firm spends a lot of time helping startups launch their products and web sites and we’ve recently acquired interest in some companies that need the design, marketing, and development skills we can offer, but for the last few weeks I’ve been pecking away at an idea at lunch for 30 minutes every day when I don’t have a meeting. It’s also an idea I sat on for 3 years. No one has done it yet and this could mean its a really bad idea, its an idea still ahead of it’s time, or its so unique and original, that it hasn’t been thought up by anyone else. Whatever it may be, because it is something I need and that I believe the world can use I continue to peck away at it.

So, what’s the point? Sometimes you don’t have the time available to plunge right in, but you should continue to work through the ideas that stick with you. If you are anything like me, you have dozens of ideas you’ve written down and brainstormed over the years and a couple of those continue to pop up as something you need or someone else says something to remind you about the idea. That to me is a good sign that you should continue pecking away, because you may get the concept ready for launch right on time.

I can also tell you from cold hard experience, that sometimes the ideas you have are way ahead of their time and launching them may just result in extreme failure. In 1997 my partner and I had the idea for a web service that would let small businesses rent the applications they need to run their business, but completely from the web. We noodled away at the idea for 2 years and then joined a company that had a very similar idea that they were starting to build. They had the resources and backing we needed to succeed in building the concept out for launch and we built it. We were the world’s first small business Application Service Provider (ASP) which is now known as SaaS. Despite 4 years of work, we were still way ahead of our time. 12 years after the demise of Interliant which was also the 3rd largest hosting company in the world and a Lotus Notes ASP, web-based applications for small businesses are the norm. We had the right idea, but our execution on the concept was way ahead of its time and the willingness of users to adopt a concept. We can see that everywhere we look today, as so many of the failures of dotcoms from are today being resurrected in new businesses. It makes you wonder sometimes whether there’s anything new coming out, but the fact is there is plenty of innovation to be had.

Even some of the best ideas are just barely ahead of their time and can prove a model or market for a company upon which incredible success can be built. The idea that first is best is not always right.

  • Excite, Alta Vista, and others all had significant success in the search engine space and were significantly superior to the tools that came before them, but Google figured out a better way and left them worthless.
  • Friendster, Bebo, MySpace, and many other achieved amazing success in the social networking space, but ultimately there was one dominant winner.

Keep pecking away with the little time you have. If you have the time and resources to jump in and you can see that the market is willing to adopt what you have, then go for it, but if you don’t and you are working a full time job or just have too much going on, keep pecking away, your timing may be better than you ever imagined once you are ready. Then you can plunge right in to success.

Photo credit – Jon Roig

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