You heard the old lore that “every overnight success is a five to ten year journey” in the startup world. Recently, I was reminded of the saying by Eric Migicovsky’s blog post on the “Success and Failure at Pebble” (Pebble was the first real smartwatch company which had a spectacular launch on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter).
You might remember us from 2012 we launched Pebble on Kickstarter and raised over $10m from 68,000 people around the world. This was our first breakthrough (a classic 5-year overnight success!) Over the next few years, we sold 2 million watches and did over $230m in sales.
I will let you in on a little secret: The fact that stuff takes time (a lot, usually) is your secret superpower as a startup! If you have the persistence, endurance, and tenacity to weather the ups and downs which are inevitable with any startup, you can outcompete most incumbents. Incumbents (especially the big ones) have one thing going against them: they are not built for persistence when it comes to new endeavors.
The average tenure of a Fortune 500 CEO is only five years — and declining. Worse, the average time a high potential employee stays in a position is somewhere between two and three years until they get tapped to move on and up. Which leaves incumbents with a tough challenge — how do you ensure persistence in a new endeavor when you switch out leadership before the baby had time to learn to walk? Especially as we expect the new, incoming leader to “leave their mark” — which typically means: A change in strategy.
It is one of the more perplexing issues besetting incumbents, and one which gives those of you in a startup an interesting advantage. One you might want to lean into.