Multiple factors can contribute to the successful launch of a startup. Whether it’s the product, market, team, funding, or business model, founders want to ensure that they maximise their opportunity for success. One key variable that is typically addressed less, but founders ponder the most over, is timing. When devising a go-to-market strategy, the topic of timing prompts thought around optimising when it is the right time to launch and if the market is ready for the idea at a certain time.
The short answer about assessing timing when devising a launch strategy is that there is essentially no right time to launch a startup. Timing is particularly not clear cut for every startup, rather it is dependent on the business and market around the idea to determine when the timing is right.
If we first look at times when it is obviously not the right time to launch your startup idea, an obvious one is if there is no demand for your product at that particular moment. Before launching your product or service, you need to understand if the market is receptive to your idea and if your potential customers are ready to purchase.
That said, it is necessary to start working on your idea before launching your product, such as testing your product and finding potential customers. Some founders might even say that if you wait to launch your product, there is the potential for competitors to come into the market before you and take your potential market share. Others might argue that it is better to launch later, with more preparation, and then surpass the performance of your predecessors.
In terms of assessing the macroeconomic climate to decide when to launch, some people would advise that in times of hardship like economic recession and the ongoing pandemic would be a disastrous time to launch a startup. The risk and volatility during a recession expose founders to more risk. During times of strong economic growth, there are favourable conditions for starting a business and potentially more external incentives that could support growth like more access to funding and grants. Consumers and businesses are also willing to increase their expenditure and try new products.
Thta said, crises are times where consumer behaviours are more susceptible and willing to change. There are various reasons why crises are the best times to launch a startup. If we reflect on the previous global financial recession, we saw that it gave rise to new technologies and startups that are now household names like Airbnb, Task Rabbit, and Uber. These new startups have also gone on to radically change consumer behaviour. Particularly with the aforementioned startups, they came to create the concept of what we know now as the gig economy and respectively the sharing economy. The gig and sharing economy took off after the global financial crisis when unemployment was at an all-time high, disposable income was at a low, and consumers were more cash strapped. Gig and sharing economy startups helped consumers that were out of work to start jobs in an app with just a few clicks and pieces of information to onboard themselves to these platforms. People who were interested in earning supplementary income were also able to do the same. Businesses also evolve how they do businesses in times of crises as well. Innovation is accelerated in times of need. As we saw in the Covid pandemic, businesses that traditionally depended on a physical presence like financial services, real estate, and retail had to quickly digitise their offerings.
It’s also worth noting that the time of year when you launch your startup should be taken into consideration. Depending on your target audience, certain months or even specific dates may be either advantagaegous, or even disadvantageous, for a launch.
For example, in societies that celebrate Christmas, launching a physical product that could be sold as a gift in the run up to the holidays could be beneficial. On the flip side, launching the same product in January when many of your potential customers are low on disposable income could negatively affect your sales.
Similarly, the distinction between seasons like summer and winter could offer benefits for your company launch. Remember that weather seasons are opposing on the other side of the world, so summer in Europe, is winter in Australia and other regions. Keep an eye on the seasonal experience and challenges of your users, in order to be atuned to their wants and needs, and therefore readiness to buy your product or service.
A delicate balance
Ultimately, there is no exact ‘right time for startups to launch’. Startups need to listen to their customers and potential market before launching. Despite that, if we are atuned to the ‘fail fast’ and ‘lean startup’ methdology, founders can also benefit by launching as soon as they are ready instead of waiting till they think it’s the ‘right’ time. By launching quickly, the most successful startups have refined their ideas, iterated, and even pivoted after launch because they realised the market and customer was not ready or interested in what they had to offer. Startups won’t ever know how to refine their ideas without launching and testing. The more time they wait to build their business, the more time is wasted that could have been spent growing it.