“I had that idea, if only I had…” Is regrettably a common lament among founders. But it’s important to remember that the timing of the execution can be as important as the execution itself. (Update: this Onion article is a pretty good tongue-in-cheek perspective!)
Granted, the evolution of the market is almost completely outside of the founder’s hands, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have a strong grasp of what it means for his company and product. For example, a coder could have developed the coolest high-res, high-quality video streaming site on the internet back in 1998, but have ignored that the vast majority of the potential users were still on dial-up connection speeds.
The point is, you absolutely must have a strong grasp of the drivers for your product’s adoption. What is the most important KPI for your growth or revenue generation? Now: what is the most important external driver of that number? You won’t be able to influence that driver itself, but what can you do to influence its impact on your product. This is critical for product planing.
For example, at hfield the biggest external threat to our long-range WiFi product was the evolution of faster cell connections. Cell providers were rolling out faster and faster connections, but mostly in urban areas. Through better marketing we were able to target the product on poor cell signal areas and we discovered to our surprise that our most lucrative market was campers and mobile-home owners!
Another example is Shazam, the music ID service. Founded in 1999, it was really first in 2008 that their growth exploded with the launch of their iOS App. The premium SMS service was nice, but nothing compared to the App. Here it was important to realize the potential of a new market driver (smartphones) for the service and plan for it. As the most important driver to growth, the key insight here was the maturity of the driver (market penetration of smartphones).