Sometimes missing your flight can be a blessing – just sit back, grab your favorite coffee and reflect. Also take solace in this:
Way back in 1997, I read an article about sixdegrees.com in The Economist. I was a socks manufacturer then and chuckled at the thought that everyone in the world is connected to each other by six degrees. I remember thinking ‘I wonder if I can connect with Bill Clinton via six people’. The site heralded the first movement in social networking but closed down in 2001. There was poor adoption (the Internet had barely begun and people were smitten by e-mail and browsing).
Sixdegrees had taken the first flight out and arrived in no traction land.
Being early sometimes is a big punishment. - especially in the Start-Up and Entrepreneurial world.
Slow moving Clock
The story of the movie Avatar is well documented. The highly acclaimed film maker James Cameron waited for 10 years to present the magic that we see today simply because technology in Animation, Editing and Special effects had not caught up with his vision of what he wanted to do.
Take Out - James Cameron could wait forever (10 years!!) given his stature, reputation and Billion US$ in funding, but most Entrepreneurs in Start-Up mode cannot.
It’s best to look at the current situation and what can easily be tapped into (technology, infrastructure and other basics) and try and figure out value creation with what exists rather than ‘hoping’ that the external world will evolve.
Simply put, you normally can’t create a business and hope that the external world keeps pace with you to create a valuable business.
Just don’t attempt climbing the Everest without your clothes on.
Clapping with One Hand
In 2000, one of my most admired Digital Entrepreneurs – Jay Zaveri of Club Greetings raised a round of VC from eVentures and began ramping up his consumer entertainment business.
He had mastered the art of creating International Class e-greetings and his vision extended (beyond the massive success of clubgreetings.com) to MMS and Mobile Platforms in India. The mobile move was justified since mobile adoption had begun to explode in India.
I don’t remember anyone doing more tech R&D and creative engineering than Jay. The challenge however was Mobile Operator tariff pricing and the cost of sending MMS in India. It used to take forever (The Clock was very slow then) and the MMS was priced atrociously higher than SMS.
We were all ‘assuming’ that mobile pricing would be rationalized eventually, but it never happened. The Telecom Industry was in its infancy and the operators were figuring out how to correctly price their offering. In such a steep learning curve process, rarely do business models reduce pricing quickly.
The impact was felt by entrepreneurs such as Jay, who had world-class products waiting to be deployed, but was strangulated by impractical infrastructure pricing by partners. He had to rationalize his business severely.
Take Out – If your business depends on an external partner whose services or products still seem out of bounds (even though available) to your eventual customers, don’t expect your partner to become as sensible and rational as you expect him to be. You can’t clap with one hand.
A few years ago, I began receiving lots of invitation messages to join hi5.com and Friendster.com. Post a few mails, I went up to the sites and was disappointed by what I saw. The sites seemed cheap and smelt of random dating with sleaze thrown in. I never registered myself on either.
The challenge I think was that while hi5 and Friendster had the first mover advantage in Social Networking, they were so caught up in the adoption of their business that they forgot to curate WHY and WHAT people were doing on their platforms. If they had simply ‘steered’ the site into a more meaningful purpose, Facebook.com would have been a Company really late to arrive.
Take Out – Don’t jump with joy if your business begins to get traction. Deeply examine what is going on inside and make sure that it’s what you intended the business to be. If not, quickly make the right corrections rather than waiting for the business to sort itself out.
I strongly believe in the adage ‘the first impression is the last impression’. Make yours perfect.
Filling Potholes – seen and unseen.
When I heard of Gmail a few years back, I sneered and said ‘C’mon Google, don’t be crazy’. I never understood that Google had actually spotted invisible potholes in the path of how I was using E-Mail then, and was actually filling them up for me!
I used to use Microsoft Outlook and it sucked. It often crashed and jammed and was so tightly married to my physical machine. God forbid if my Laptop crashed, my mails and addresses would be lost forever. Backing up, compressing, defragmenting, etc, etc, made me feel like I was a Geologist rather than a Gaming Entrepreneur.
Gmail not only solved all the physical problems by taking the entire solution to the cloud (so I could read my mails at airport lounges via free Internet machines) , but Google did something brilliant – they allowed Companies like mine to actually operate their employee domains using Gmail and as a result, Alok could be email@example.com and NOT firstname.lastname@example.org!! Best of all, gmail, even for Corporate clients, came free!
Take out – There are so many potholes and problems in existing Companies and the way they do business, that billion dollar businesses are waiting to be created in just improving what exists today, rather than creating anew!
Just map your frustrations on a chart and attack the ones that make you pull your hair out the most!
Meeting the married couple on their Honeymoon
So what if you missed your flight and never made it to the wedding? You can always barge into the newly married couple on their honeymoon somewhere and make small conversation?
Sorry. Bad idea.
It’s important to accept and understand when it’s ‘too late’. The Rockmelt browser of Facebook is one such example in my humble opinion. Hey – I love Facebook and that’s my ‘personal browser’. But why bother creating a browser when Chrome is just fine! What’s the big deal? I tried it for a few minutes and then forgot about it. I think the world behaved in the same way.
Take out – I often say that some entrepreneurs like to create problems to solve rather than solve problems that really exist.
Quit chasing the married couple and remember to attend the next marriage on time.
Now, contribute by commenting below!
Timing is really vital, specially for Entrepreneurs, Big Business houses can attempt to push a product even when market is not ready for it, but an Entrepreneur cannot.
One has to be on time, neither Before time nor After.
Innovation is necessary but more importantly one has to check if the time is right. If time is not right you can wait for right time or if your product is late then better abandon it.
Above snap is of a mobile charge which I invented in 2008, it is similar to Coin Box PCO, wherein you will have to insert a coin and you can charge your phone. Until 2008, charging a cellphone was a big issue during long train or bus journey, So the idea was to install this device in mail trains, buses, Railway stations, etc. It would hv been a win-win situation then, people could have easily charged their mobile and organizations could have made some money.
But around 2008, Railway installed free charging ports in almost all the mail trains and hence this device couldn't find a market, it was bit late, and the idea was shelved for ever.
Nice idea, I must say. But it was based on a lot of assumptions about the future. But you have learnt your lesson. Good luck ahead. :D
Excellent piece of article. Jay's story should be an eye opener for many entrepreneurs. Reminds me of Tanla Solutions.