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Timing — as Important as That Great Idea You’ll Get Millions For

The “when” is as important as the “what” when launching a product


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Pavle Marinkovic

3 years ago | 4 min read

A couple of months ago, a friend opened an Esports academy. The first one in Latin America, he said. As you may have heard, the Esports business is booming. It’s expected to have a 9% annual increase rate until at least 2022.
My friend was counting on the potential of this young market, but things got out of control.

A national-scale social protest began to spread by the second half of 2019 and it kept going for months. Small business took it the hardest and many simply had to close down. My friend’s business was also hit, but somehow it managed to survive this first wave.

To make matters worse, then came the whole worldwide pandemic, and he had to close the business once again. Now they’re trying to survive by giving online courses, and more challenging times await.

Basically, the idea and execution were great but the timing was awful.

Other similar cases throughout history tell us that it’s not enough to have a great idea and even launching it successfully. Sometimes the time is just not right.

White Castle, 1921

This is where the fast-food industry actually started back in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas. Ingram and Anderson opened a different kind of restaurant with just $700. They had a specific and highly efficient management system. Hamburgers were always cooked by the same guidelines in each of the restaurants they had. Their system was faster and cleaner than the competition.

Photo by Joel Stice in Mashed

Not only did they excel with this cooking system but they also got people to love hamburgers, which were considered unrefined and even dangerous to eat at the time.

They conducted a study with the University of Minnesota to change the public’s opinion on the matter. A medical student would eat their burgers for 13 weeks straight, eating between 20 and 24 burgers a day, and they would check for any health-related problems. This volunteer remained healthy and thus concluded that burgers weren’t harmful to our health.

They were able to change the public’s view on burgers. Yet no one seems to care that the med student (who continued to eat burgers for his entire life) died at the age of 54 from heart failure. A mere coincidence.

But this innovative system didn’t take off as McDonald's or Burger King would decades later. People were used to eating their meals at home. Their income was not enough to go and eat outside so they’d rather stay at home.

These food habits changed after the second world war. When wages increased, people started dining out and looked at it as a form of entertainment. Fast food became more popular and many of today’s large fast-food chains were born in those post-war years:

  • McDonald’s in 1948
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1952
  • Burger King in 1954
  • Pizza Hut in 1958

and so on…

Although White Castle is still in business today, it wasn’t a huge success at the time. As being practically the inventors of the fast-food system, you’d expect them to be the leading company in the industry, but it isn’t. The timing wasn’t on their side. Maybe it was too early for the American people. Plus, it certainly took time to get them to like hamburgers.

Great invention, not so great timing.

Microsoft Tablet

Back in 2001, Bill Gates had a new device for the world to see: Microsoft’s Tablet PC. The size of a notepad, half the weight of any PC at the time, run on Windows XP and as powerful as a desktop computer. He was so sure of its success that he said:

“It’s a PC that is virtually without limits — and within five years I predict it will be the most popular form of PC sold in America.”

And this is how it looked:

Photo from Wikipedia’s article on the Microsoft Tablet PC

Many critics had remarks about the user’s experience: lack of touch screen, unnecessary use of a pen, elements out of scale, high price ($2,000 at the time of launch), and the list goes on.

The iPad instead broke from the stylus tradition (they had learned from their Newton Message Pad), and enabled a wide variety of easy-to-use apps. It was smaller, lighter, had longer battery life, but above all, it was more attractive and it had a broader scope of possible uses than the Tablet PC.

And the iPad didn’t come for another 7 years (released by January 2010)!

The Tablet PC had its flaws of course, but it was a new approach to the concept of desktop and laptop computers. They could aid the health care sector by making it easy to collect patient’s data.

Other businesses could benefit from collecting surveys through digital means. From what we saw with the Ipad afterward, the possibilities were endless.

Once again, a revolutionary product with bad timing.

Takeaway

An idea can be amazing and relatively easy to implement, but it’s not enough for its success. There are many examples of good products that failed because of bad timing. Success also relies on getting the broader picture. Having a vision for both the forest and the trees.

So when you fail at your enterprise, you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself (unless you were lazy, that’s on you). Consider that there are certain factors out of your control and no matter how much you invest in it, it’s not entirely up to you to succeed in that particular thing.

Or at that particular time.

Your time to shine might be just a little further ahead.

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