I Might Come Second

Timing seems to be potentially a make or break factor in business

With millions of others I see Apple launching the iWatch last week. Apple’s foray into ‘wearable’ technology begins. It’s funny how they get so much press, there is so much anticipation from trade and consumers compared to other companies, companies who are competing with Apple (I apologise for using Apple as an example so much in this blog, it’s just they’re a rather good case study in many respects)

There have been loads of companies launching ‘wearable’ technology over recent years so why did Apple wait? Samsung have had a watch out for some time, Pebble watches have been arriving (my brother was one of those who backed them on Kickstarter, helping them to raise upwards of US $10m and has just received his watch, it looks fantastic) and there are many more, Garmin have been around for ages for example.

I suspect Apple waited because they wanted to others trial and error, learn from their mistakes but crucially, gain an understanding of what the customer wants (even if the customer doesn’t know it yet). As they learn they design something which looks great (design being at their very core) and what they know customers will desire, they’re very good at creating what I call the ‘Oooohhh , Ahhhhhh’ affect.

I’m sure the iWatch will ship millions. They waited until they knew for sure they’d got it right. Being first isn’t always best, not when you have a powerful brand to back you up. It’ll be interesting to see the reaction of traditional watch brands, are they waiting even longer? Will this be too late for the consumer market?

I remember back in 2005 working for a large and well known on line travel agency in the UK. At that point they had some full time employees working on mobile, they saw it as the future but during my time there (I left in 2007) they pretty much stopped R&D into this area. What a shame!   They could have been ahead of all other OTA’s in the sector and taken hold of the mobile space, they were just a few years too early.

I see so much opportunity for travel companies regards wearable technology (local offers when overseas buzzing up, flight time reminders, transfer confirmations, boarding passes, car hire confirmations, the list goes on and on) it shall be interesting to see the moves various companies make and who will be first to market. One might argue Tui seemed late with their mobile app but you know they’ve thought it about during that time and understood what they want it for. The app as a product is good, really good. Again, not being first to market made no difference, they delivered something useful to their customers. It’s a good example of putting the customer first and immediate commercial gains to one side.

I think about timing with my new company. I want to get it to market ASAP but of course, I want it to be as close as I can get it to the vision I have before launching. There has to be a balance, I can’t wait and wait for perfection because perfection will never come, improvements can always be made and the market moves on. I have to think of my customers and users first, what I am doing is all for them.

I read The Lean Start Up by Eric Ries who talks about launching the Minimum Viable Product, that is to say, launch the minimum you can get away with so that a) customers aka: early adopters use it b) you generate enough data to iterate and c) you do not, ever, damage the brand you’re trying to build. Easier said than done. Books make it all sound so easy. You have to take a chance on what is the ‘MVP’ and hope you don’t get it too far wrong. For what it’s worth, the book itself is very good.

I have dates in mind when I want to launch but there are an awful lot of variables. I no longer have the big bucks behind me from a large company, I have to go back to the beginning and be creative with the little cash I have. Timing is going to be crucial. This requires much thought, imagination and probably favours. It is definitely not so easy.

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