Apple’s iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player – by quite a bit. Where many other companies raced to be first in the market, Steve Jobs waited until the broadband penetration was high enough that buying and downloading songs from iTunes wasn’t an ordeal but felt seamless and “magical.”
It is a story which repeats itself over and over again – with new technologies, it is typically not the first to market to take the (long-term) crown, but the one who gets the timing just right – the moment when all the relevant factors come together and create the perfect storm.
Steve Jobs once said:
Things happen fairly slowly, you know. They do. These waves of technology, you can see them way before they happen, and you just have to choose wisely which ones you’re going to surf. If you choose unwisely, then you can waste a lot of energy, but if you choose wisely, it actually unfolds fairly slowly. It takes years.
He is right.
What this means is that we have to consider market timing much more than we might typically do. We have to pick the right technologies and trends to build on (which is an art in and of itself) and then we have to consider all the factors which need to come together for the technology to work.
A good example where way too many companies jumped head first into a new technology way too early (and will likely flame out – unless they have the discipline to wait out the market) is pretty much anything blockchain and crypto-related. As Steve said: “It takes years.”