June 22, 2022

Sticking around long enough until the world is finally ready for you


Sometimes the technology isn’t ready yet for your ideas, and your product fails.

Nintendo, the video game company, once developed a virtual reality application back in the nineties. Virtualboy was the tabletop portable video game that was marketed as the first console capable of displaying stereoscopic graphics.

It claimed to totally immerse players into their own three dimensional private universe.

Sadly, because of its high price, monochrome display, unimpressive effects, lack of true portability, and numerous player complaints of painful and frustrating physiological symptoms from using it, the console became a commercial flop.

Now it’s a footnote at best, and a punchline at worst.

But hey, at least they tried, right?

Here’s another example of technology not being ready.

Simon made headlines as the world’s first smartphone, also in the early nineties. It was this lightweight computer and personal digital assistant, with its calendar, notepad and other cool features.

However, compared to the smartphones the world would use a decade later, this product was basically a dinosaur. It cost nine hundred dollars, weighed over a pound, had no stylus, only had cell coverage in fifteen states, had a sixty minute battery life, terrible screen resolution, connected via a modem, and only had one megabyte of storage.

Apple erased the memory of this product more than a decade later.

These are merely two of the thousands of examples of ideas that were too far ahead of the technology. The global economic countryside is littered with the carcasses of products that thought they were going to be the next big thing, but the technical execution couldn’t support with the creative vision.

But on the other hand, sometimes tech is almost ready for your idea, and you just have to hang in there for a bit until the world is finally ready for you. Case studies like these are more interesting and inspiring to me. Because they require greater patience.

Poshmark is an example, the social commerce marketplace where people buy and sell new or used clothing, shoes, and accessories. Their shopping and discovery platform initially launched in the early aughts, as smartphones were just starting to earn adoption by the mass market.

A few years later when high resolution screens became the norm, their mobile experience was perfectly positioned to take off. And they earned hundreds of thousands of users in a very short amount of time. Now they have three hundred employees and two billion dollars of revenue.

What do these stories mean for your company?

One, building anything is a risk. Particularly if you’re trying to innovate through the strategy of category creation. If you’re launching something nobody has ever seen before, then the potential for reward is way higher, but so is the probability of failure. Make sure you’re devoting as much time evangelizing the problem as you are selling the solution.

Second, if the available systems are not up to par with your creative vision, wait. Use your unique talents to earn trust and attention and the interim. Focus on the generic way that your company creates economic value, agnostic of technology.

You don’t want to kill yourself trying to deliver on a brand promise with a product that’s totally daunting from a technical perspective. It simply might not be the right time for you, and that’s okay.

What matters now is assuring your idea is solid. Things like hardware, software and infrastructure will come in time.

Remember, regardless of whether your product dominates the market, invents a new market, flops spectacularly, or never even makes it to the market at all, there’s one undeniable upside.

You can still learn from every innovative effort. That’s the part nobody can take away from you.

Devote yourself to having good process, and the rest will fall into place.

Even if’s not according to your ego’s timetable.

Will you still be around when the world is finally ready for you?