Discover more from Words, By Mat Sherman
Wait to Win
Sometimes to win a market, you need to play it slow
One of the best posts I’ve ever written is called How To Pick a Good Startup Idea. One of the three main points in the thread is that a great startup idea needs a certain amount of cultural acceptance that market is ready for change. The more cultural acceptance there is, the wider open the window is to innovate, for everyone. The less cultural adoption there is to an idea or market changing, the higher the chances the founders come off as crazy. This is also what many call “being early” to a market. The greats raise capital somewhere in the middle of those two points.
Over the past 4 months, I’ve applied a heavy amount of force trying to push my new ideas for venture into the ecosystem, thinking that the market was ready. Due to COVID, SF being disbanded, and sheer chaos happening all around the world, I thought this would be the perfect time to shake things up and introduce a system that is perhaps better than the network driven system that venture currently uses. 4 months into fundraising, I have to report, I was wrong. I got the timing off. The startup world is not ready for systemic change yet.
This was a hard lesson to learn. I put myself out there. Went all out. I thought I could force the startup world to get over the hump and see a better future. Unfortunately, I didn’t take my own advice. In my effort to force a better future for everyone, the culture wasn’t yet ready for my ideas, so I still come off as crazy (or worse, an asshole). It doesn’t mean I am crazy, just like the true makers of the iPhone weren’t crazy. We were just early.
This reminds me of the hardest part to get right with startups; Timing. It’s the one element not in our control, which makes startups so damn hard. If we put force on a market that isn’t ready to change, the only person it hurts is us. I hurt my reputation on Twitter the last few months trying to force new ideas. The market isn’t ready for them, and that’s okay. I still have cash in my bank, I still have revenue coming in, and now all I need to do is wait. Sounds ironic. Startups are supposed to be a game of speed, skill, capital allocation, etc. Well, sometimes, they are a game of just waiting until it’s your time. For me, that’s the game I’m playing now.
So what does that mean for me? It means I am building a lifestyle business as of today. And you know what? That sounds pretty damn attractive to me right now. I could use a bit of a break. One day 6 months from now or even 5 years from now, my market senses will tingle again, and I will aim to build a venture scale company to solve this massive problem we have in the world of network driven decision making. Until then, we slow down.