Timing is the Key to Success? Do You Agree?

Here’s food for thought. Idealabs founder Bill Gross analyzed several hundred startups, from big successes to big failures, looking for the most important startup keys to success.  He considered idea, team, business model, funding, and timing. This is his TED talk sharing what he found.

YouTube video

Here’s some of his reasoning, in detail:

The number one thing was timing. Timing accounted for 42 percent of the difference between success and failure. Team and execution came in second, and the idea, the differentiability of the idea, the uniqueness of the idea, that actually came in third.

Take a wild success like Airbnb that everybody knows about. Well, that company was famously passed on by many smart investors because people thought, “No one’s going to rent out a space in their home to a stranger.” Of course, people proved that wrong. But one of the reasons it succeeded, aside from a good business model, a good idea, great execution, is the timing.

So what I would say, in summary, is execution definitely matters a lot. The idea matters a lot. But timing might matter even more. And the best way to really assess timing is to really look at whether consumers are really ready for what you have to offer them. And to be really, really honest about it, not be in denial about any results that you see, because if you have something you love, you want to push it forward, but you have to be very, very honest about that factor on timing.Timing seems random to me, too much luck, not enough execution. And although I apologize for disagreeing with somebody who has the track record Bill Gross has, the reasoning seems to be based too much on after-the-fact accommodation.

Timing seems random to me, too much luck, not enough execution.

And I’m curious about his analysis. It reminds me of some work I’ve done with spreadsheets – and I love spreadsheets – trying to put subjective judgments into a numerical scale. This hasn’t worked well for me because I end up unconsciously double counting my opinions as I go from concepts to numbers. I’d like you to think about that as you watch this TED talk. Is that what his analysis is doing? Are these really the startup keys to success?

What do you think?


  • Arno says:

    This totally validates my experience and what I have come across in research; timing is the major factor in success.

    Of course, this turns totally and utterly everything upside down; even if you have the greatest idea, vision and determination if you’re in the wrong place and time, you will not succeed.

    Now what I, and actually Bill Gross validates, is that it is not complete luck but that timing means determining how to use creation/innovation to play into current demand.

    • msn Msnsa says:

      I am working on this topic for an assignment at School of Entrepreneurship at NTNU, Norway, and I would really appreciate it if you could cite the research you mention about timing.

  • Yatit Thakker says:

    Timing definitely affects the success, but I think its role is overemphasized. I would switch the execution and timing, with execution being more important.

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