Doubting is also far easier – it takes more effort to imagine doing things differently. It’s called a ‘comfort zone’ for a reason.
Over the years many people have questioned various technologies, often ignoring or misunderstanding the shifting of the technological tectonic plates. ‘Will the world need more than five computers?’ ‘Is wireless communication pointless?’ In 1927 HM Warner, one of the co-founders of Warner Brothers studios, famously asked ‘Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?‘.
As funny as this seems today, similar debates about new technologies continue to rage – often with an entrepreneur on one side of the fence trying to prove the doubters wrong. Recent examples of these arguments, which entrepreneurs have conclusively won include: ‘Will people want to book restaurants online?’ (see Opentable) or “Who really believes those third party reviews? (see TripAdvisor.
Some of my personal favourites include ‘Can small and niche retailers ever successfully scale their selling online?’ (see Notonthehighstreet.com) or ‘Will people ever want to book their favourite health and beauty appointments via the web or on their mobiles?’ (see Wahanda). Incidentally, the answer to both is yes.
My sense is, while battling these constant headwinds can get too much for most people, great entrepreneurs thrive in these difficult circumstances. Really big companies are created when entrepreneurs find the right time and way to address problems competitors are too scared or don’t have the vision to contemplate – stuck in their comfort zones.
Funnily enough, once the problem is solved, the mainstream catches up and turns the revolution into business-as-usual. Think something like Twitter or online insurance.
So how can entrepreneurs make their dreams a reality and beat the doubters?
Focus on fundamental value-proposition
Does it make sense for this offering to exist? If it makes sense to you, and you are passionate enough to dedicate years of your life to solve it, then it makes sense. For Steve Jobs, the conventional wisdom on tablets was wrong – he persisted until his vision became conventional wisdom.
Iterate the product to make adoption easier
Sometimes barrier to adoption is in small details and the difference between success and failure is inches not miles – for example changing how you upload information or use a tool can sometimes make all the difference between being a niche opportunity that sinks and going mainstream – consider how relatively simple mobile apps such as Hailo or Uber are transforming the taxi/transportation industries.
Look at the data not sentiment
The great news today is that we can mine real, granular usage data to see how product adoption is evolving. For example, companies in the online gaming world (see Innogames) can track users’ every click and understand where adoption is plateauing or dropping off completely. This approach is far more insightful and informative than following a hunch or high level pre-conceptions.
Surround yourself with believers not doubters
In the absence of your own ‘reality distortion field’ à la Steve Jobs, the next best thing is to surround yourself with believers – a kind of support group. Your customers, employees, or board members are all good candidates to provide some much needed encouragement in the moments when changing the world seems like a pipe dream.
Build in buffers
In reality, it will likely take longer and will cost more money to get to your end-goal than you first imagine, so plan well ahead and get funded properly. Margins of safety will likely give you the necessary peace of mind that will allow you to take risks and push that much harder towards the ultimate goal – so make sure your investor gives you enough money!