Success In The Nick Of Time

December 28, 2020
Silvan Krähenbühl

On the Swisspreneur podcast we have by now interviewed over 100 people, and there is something that — whether directly or indirectly — always gets brought up: the importance of timing. Specifically, the notion that a start-up, even with the best idea, the best product, and the best team behind it, can only be successful if the timing is right.

Timing is like Surfing

As our founder famously said on the very first episode, timing is kind of like surfing, in that it is like riding a wave. All you have to do is make sure that you catch the biggest wave possible, at the right time, and with the proper equipment. That is a crucial concept that needs to be understood.

You see, you can’t control when the wave will come. What you can do, however, is try to anticipate it, and try to figure out how big it will be when it does come. Truth is, the wave comes whether you’re ready or not, so you best make sure you’re ready at all times.

Hopping on the Wave

For me, this is a point of reflection that can sometimes be difficult to fully grasp. Looking back at Gymhopper, I have to admit that we were very lucky in regards to timing. Independent gyms (AKA our customers) were under enormous pressure from large gym chains, so they were all searching for solutions which could help them level out the marketing game — allow them to take on the big guys, so to speak. Our solution was perfectly tailored to their needs, and we came up with it at the right time. We weren’t really aware of this back then — it’s hard to sense the winds of change when they’re blowing right through you.

Of course we had our fair share of challenges: the business model, internationalization, the internal team structure — all of these things kept us very busy, but timing was on our side: independent gyms were coming down from a gold rush style phase and were now under severe pressure from larger chains. And this was the perfect fertilizer to allow the Gymhopper seeds to grow and flourish.

Market Unpredictability

There’s another thing I’ve recently realized, regarding a startup I currently support: they’ve been working on their product — a software solution for agile teams — for over six years, and despite it being perfectly functional, they somehow never had much success with it. That was — until the pandemic hit. From that point onwards, everybody switched over to remote work and home offices, and suddenly their tools for remote teams were like water for thirsty desert dwellers: they were bombarded with such a high demand that they’re currently barely able to handle all the inbound requests.

It’s crazy, if you think about it. They changed nothing about their product or business model, but circumstances evolved in such a way that — suddenly — they were at the right place, at the right time, with the right solution, for a problem that used to be niche but is now ubiquitous. This allowed them to capitalize on the uncertain and disruptive nature of the Corona virus pandemic, which in turn has led to them attracting and winning over new customers. They were, and still are, surfing that wave, and this goes to show that you can’t foresee when the wave will hit, but if you’re ready when it arrives, you can ride it for a very long time.

Something similar happened with Swisspreneur. We’ve had a steady growth since the pandemic started, growing double digits over the past few months, and consistently hitting new monthly records. And as the pandemic developed, we’ve attracted new listeners by continuing to produce high quality content and by focusing on getting interesting guests on the show. It’s a no-brainer: since people are spending more time at home, they seek out new podcasts, and inevitably find us! Our preparation has led to a hockey-stick growth, something every startup aims for.

Closing Thoughts

The point I’m trying to make is that you shouldn’t overlook the importance of timing. That’s a mistake plenty of people make. They think they can just focus on the product, on the team, and on the market, but in doing so they sometimes completely miss the mark by overlooking timing. There’s no two ways about it — every entrepreneur must have a very solid answer to the question: “Why is the timing for this product/service right at this very moment?” If you find yourself lacking a good answer, then it’s probably not the time to be launching said product/service.

Going back to the example I gave with Swisspreneur and the Agile Software, you also need to consider that sticking around for long enough (while keeping your burn rate as low as possible) allows you to test many different things. First and foremost, it gives you a higher chance of getting lucky, because longer exposure time means that potential clients have more time to find you. By staying competitive and relevant in the market, you maximize the chances of being at the right place, at the right time, ready to capitalize on the coming of the wave.

If you give up after the first attempt doesn’t go your way, you’ll never succeed. This doesn’t mean that you should “ride a dead horse”, but it does mean that you need to think critically about what you’re doing. There are many moving parts to the puzzle, and timing is perhaps one of the most important ones. So don’t be afraid of aiming for the unimaginable — after all, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

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