About seven years ago, in a casual talk at Cubo in São Paulo, Joe Gebbia, one of the founders of Airbnb, told me that the success of the platform was only possible because the world went through a behavior change driven by social networks. That day, Gebbia assured Airbnb came at the right time because potential customers were able to understand the dynamics of its product.
However, Gebbia said that it was necessary to cross society’s cultural barrier. Without trust in the experience proposed by the platform, in the sharing of reviews with other users, and in the relationships built virtually, hosting a stranger at home and turning it into a business would be unfeasible. It would be unfeasible, especially for the US people, who, on average, have grown up with the perception that “stranger means danger”.
Realizing this change in people’s behavior was crucial in transforming Airbnb into a customer value business, and therefore a successful one. The launch of Airbnb represents a classic Time to Market (TTM) success.
Time to Market has been an ally of startups to catch the eye of investors. Although it has become popular, the technique only becomes real when a startup balances both the inside-out and the outside-in view of its business.
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When it comes to the inside-out look, the difference between startups that have set the TTM pace and those that are still struggling is in the ability to deliver a product or service that brings a return to the customer. These are the companies that have found their way to listen and relate to the consumer. On a daily basis, this return can be measured by classic indicators, such as revenue growth and low detachment between expenses and revenue.
Those who can deliver value for the customer and scale up that value, which is a big part of the secret of accelerated growth for startups, are in line with Time To Market.
Keeping an eye on market trends
However, building market value and getting proper returns from customers is not enough to achieve business sustainability. Getting the TTM right also requires an outside-in look, that is, the ability to be aligned with market trends, such as economic cycles and changes in society’s behavior. More than setting this holistic vision, it is necessary to connect the dots based on experiences.
To ensure the success of the business, the Airbnb founders also turned to the concept of product review, popularized by Amazon. The critical product review stimulated by Amazon was adapted for host review, the perception of host behavior.
Although adapted, the concept was already well-known to users, and it would have great chances of getting followers and, above all, credibility. If there had not been a movement prior to Airbnb, people would probably not share their opinions on social networks, nor would the behavior of trusting strangers have changed.
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Airbnb founders have put into action a quote from one of Apple founder Steve Jobs‘ most famous speeches. In June 2005, while attending the graduation ceremony for students at Stanford University (USA), Jobs, then CEO of Apple Computer and Pixar Animation Studios, emphasized the importance of connecting the dots through hindsight.
In the vision of Apple’s founder, it is necessary to connect the dots to trust that they will be connected in the future. According to Jobs, the key is to “trust in something – your gut, fate, karma. It doesn’t matter.” In his Stanford speech, Jobs told how, when he dropped out of college, he started picking classes and one of them was calligraphy. About ten years later, the calligraphy classes helped shape the aesthetics of the first Macintosh.
Startups and more mature entrepreneurs have realized that they must value customer feedback. This group has also understood that it is imperative to launch the right product at the right time for the right market and, consequently, for the right customer. But it is also necessary to be aware of the changes in the external scenario. Keeping this broader view is fundamental to the success of the time to market.