Early to Market Early to Rise?

I was ahead of the curve before the collapse… lessons learned in willingness to ‘ship’ to the right people at the right time.

Early in my startup career, I realized that any commodity-driven business was simply a world of transactional relationships waiting to happen. BOORING. I spent no time with clients or ideas that were not new, edgy, or most importantly, were not solving a problem that needed fixing. Timing is hard to judge; get your arms around it, you may still wake up the next day in bed alone. The market is a living, breathing, thing, changing more regularly than imaginable.

In 2007, we took our client, The Loyalty Concept, into every big-time bank and travel company, as well as  Motorola and Coke. We had a system that would replace the need for carrying loyalty cards and would move US Companies to the CHIP system. CHIP technology has been adopted by every civilized country in Europe and beyond . The most major benefit of CHIP is better fraud protection than former technologies like the magnetic stripe.

In the same year, CHIP began to be adopted in Canada, and it was clear that the fraud it was designed to prevent would find its way here next. 

As fate would have it, a full year before this market collapse, I met a man who ran a loyalty marketing company at a trade show. Surely he would be doing a touchdown dance when I showed him the demo!  Less than 5 minutes in, he stops me and says “I’ve seen enough.” I was astonished; this had to be the fastest close in company history!

Grinning from ear to ear, I await his certain offer. 

Then he looks me dead in the face he states, “Karin, you are two years ahead of the market. Do you know what you get when you are two years ahead of the market?

At this point, the grin on my face had all but disintegrated, as his New York accent and octave become more than a little intimidating. “No”, I said sheepishly, the fright and resignation taking the place of the former smile. 

“Nothing, Karin. You get nothing!

“Bullshit!” I thought, and pursued the market, until Citi, Chase, and Wells all told us they couldn’t entertain the idea anymore in 2008.

As we excitedly made progress with these relationships, the market started to collapse, and unfortunately, converting to CHIP was now a luxury these companies, especially the banks, simply couldn’t afford. As it turns out, that man was wrong. I was not 2 years ahead of the rest of the industry, it was more like 7. If you’ve traveled to the EU lately, you may have noticed that you can’t spend easily without a CHIP card unless you want to add 15-18% to your spend.

The old saying; timing is everything could not be more true here. What makes the right timing is often a perfect storm of scenarios most of which you have little or no control over.

Think about the founding teams’ levels of energy that go into every business that is launched. Most of it has to do with somebody trying to solve a problem that they have…. they think others have at the same level they do. Many outside forces have to harmonize for real disruption and change to occur in an industry. In many cases there were many industries that were “feeding” off of the existing systems. Your brilliant idea may put thousands out of work or it could hit the market right and save the day by introducing efficiency.

When enough demand occurs the dam breaks and things are never the same.

I wonder, don’t you...how successful would Airbnb or Uber would be without:

#1- the effects of recession
#2- millennial generation coming of age
#3-technologies that create a more transparent and sharing society 

What do you think?

Do you have a great example of scale or failure due to timing? Tweet & follow me @KarinBellantoni.