In his TED Talk, Bill Gross – founder of IdeaLab, singles out timing as the single most crucial factor for startup success by ranking hundreds of startups based on five key factors (the other four being team, ideas, business model, and funding).
Timing is crucial for startups because it is crucial for innovation in general.
Few people would disagree that Charles Darwin was one of the greatest thinkers and intellectual innovators in human history. Yet, he wasn’t the only naturalist thinking about evolution in the 19th century.
Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, a French naturalist, had his own (albeit different) theory in the first half of the century before Darwin published his greatest work on 24 November 1859.
Alfred Russel Wallace is another naturalist who was thinking on the subject and had a very similar theory of his own. In fact, after 20 years of thinking and gathering evidence, some people think that Darwin decided to finally publish his theory after his correspondence with Wallace exactly because he was afraid that Wallace would publish something very similar before him.
Darwin was one of many thinkers riding an intellectual wave that resulted in the greatest discovery in the field of biology.
He was the one who cracked the code first, but you could make the argument that evolution was in the air in the 19th century. If Darwin didn’t exist, then it is fairly likely that another naturalist (or a group of people) would have thought of evolution by natural selection anyway, and even in the same time period.
The same laws apply fully to startups in any innovative field. For example, Tesla’s success was to a large degree possible by the huge improvement in battery technology brought about by the smartphone market as well as a favorable regulatory environment for green technology because of the wave of environmental concerns.
Timing is crucial. As a founder of an innovative startup, you are riding on the waves of market forces. It is a big mistake to try to choose a market in which there are currently no great waves happening.
Of course, good timing is more of an art than a science. Yet, there are still ways that can increase the likelihood you are in the right place at the right time.
It’s important to be on the cutting edge of a booming technological field and in a place where innovation is happening. As evolution was in the air in the 19th century, in the 21st AI, blockchain, genomics, etc. are some of the fields in which a lot of economic and technological energy is building up.
Being involved in these fields is by no means a guarantee of success. However, it would significantly increase your chances of connecting the dots and coming up with new solutions to newly arising problems.
By being on the cutting edge of a new trend, you are positioning yourself in front of the wave. This is the right place to be if you want to catch it.