A great idea and hard work are obviously essential for startups. Even more important? Timing.
We recently spoke to Roman Stanek, the founder and CEO of GoodData, who previously sold NetBeans to Sun Microsystems in 1999, and Systinet to Mercury Software/Hewlett Packard in 2006.
His first company succeeded because he was able to act as a gatekeeper for American software coming into Eastern Europe as his native Czechoslovakia came out from under communist rule. Netbeans sold the right kind of software just as the internet was becoming widely used.
“At the end of the day, I was lucky with the timing. ’97, ’95, you know the first bubble. That put me on the map.”
Communism ended at the right time, and then the internet came at the right time?
“It’s always like that. You look at any successful company, you always find a piece of luck. That’s the last piece that makes it perfect. You have to have all of that hard work and all of that preparation and so on, and that gets you to the point where you can leverage it.”
Roman illustrated the point perfectly with the story of how he took the below photo.
“Photography, it’s luck, isn’t it? The right light and so on. I was taking pictures of a rowing competition. As I was standing there, one of the rowers actually looked up at me while I was on a bridge. If she looked one second earlier or one second later, how do you stage that? And this was a race, she was not supposed to look up, she was supposed to be racing.
It was timing. It was luck. It was also me being there with a good camera, with the right light, all of that preparation, then the simple fact that she actually looked up at me. That’s the last piece, that’s the piece that separates the good from excellent.
That’s true for every startup, every successful company — look at Netcape, Mark Andreesen — you always find that timing, that they looked at it at exactly the month they were supposed to. You look at Facebook, all of those things that happened exactly at the right time, and people before them and after them failed because they didn’t have the right timing.
It’s the last 5 per cent. The rest of it is effort.”
Still, the importance of that last 5 per cent can’t be overstated.
Stanek gave the example of Facebook. The idea was great, as was the execution. But the timing was what made it a multi billion dollar company, because the company grew incredibly at the same time as a massive change in the way people thought and cared about privacy and sharing information on the internet. Other companies did the earliest, hardest work changing people’s perceptions, and Facebook was in the right place to take full advantage.
Photo: Roman Stanek
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