The biographies of every successful entrepreneur will throw up one recurring theme, and that’s timing. From Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg to Jeff Bezos, all will mention their immaculate timing when bringing their products to the marketplace. But for every successful business, there are those who fail to capture the zeitgeist, with innovative, revolutionary products and services that don’t appeal to the public at that precise moment in time. Sometimes they are behind the curve but often they are visionaries, seeing something others just can’t see, yet.
In the late ‘90s, I worked with an exciting American start-up called Decorwala. Their concept was to provide an interior design service for those undertaking home renovations, but in a virtual marketplace. By supplying your room dimensions, you could choose your furniture, wall and floor coverings, and lighting, all from multiple suppliers, and try them out together, in your own virtual environment. The items could then be ordered in one place and delivered directly to you from the individual manufacturers.
The concept was revolutionary, bringing multiple products and vendors together in one marketplace made so much sense, and I loved the idea, becoming a seed investor in the business. I also advised on the design of the product helping them launch the pilot. If this method of shopping sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Sadly, Decorwala didn’t capture the imagination of the consumer, and it wasn’t until Amazon launched its online marketplace after 2000 that this powerful method of selling really took off. Decorwala were ahead of the curve in concept and execution.
History is littered with near misses. As the leading phone manufacturer at the time, Nokia famously brought the first smartphone to the market in 2006 with modest sales. However, when Apple launched the iPhone is 2007, it captured the imagination of the public, revolutionising the market. Back in 1973, Xerox built the first Graphical User Interface (GUI) for their desktop, but it was only in 1979 after they shared their vision with a young Steve Jobs that the concept was embraced by Apple to create the Macintosh operating system.
Getting the timing right is not just about luck. One way of gauging whether your innovative product is likely to hit the timing sweet spot, is by reviewing the Gartner Technology Hype Cycle. For the digital market, Gartner produce an annual report ranking the progress of technologies on their patented Hype Curve. This gives a clue as to the perceived market readiness for your product or service.
It’s also worth mentioning that if at first you don’t succeed, don’t bin your product. Being ahead of the curve doesn’t mean you can’t retry the market at a later stage.
Bringing innovation to the market needs:
- An understanding of your market and a knowledge of competitors products and services
- Insight gained from research and advisory organisations like Gartner and McKinsey
- Patience, perseverance and belief in your product, to re-try the market at a later stage
- A little good fortune!
About the Author
Ashok Suppiah is co-founder and CEO of the Mitra Innovation Group, a global technology provider specialising in digital transformation, product incubation and integration services. He has been a leading light in the tech industry for over 20 years. A serial entrepreneur, Ashok has started more than 10 technology companies in the USA and UK, notably as a member of Virtusa Corp which sold for US$2Billion in 2021 and as Chief Architect for eDocs which sold to Oracle for US$115Million in 2004.