As much as one has to appreciate the urge of innovators to deliver a perfect product to the market – perfection can also kill an innovation. We all know the 80/20 rule (or Pareto principle) that the last 20% of a project will cost the most time and resources.
What therefore happens frequently is that start-ups get stuck in last, final details and loose precious time to go to market. Chances are that a similar technical development is already being worked on somewhere else in the world, because this is what happens when the time is ripe for a technology. If this competitor is faster, convinced that “80% is good enough”, then this gives them an advantage over others, who get bogged down by details.
Another factor that tends to cost start-ups their success, is the naïve belief that marketing and sales can be done “somehow on the side”. Especially engineering driven start-ups tend to think like that. It is always a painful for them lesson to find out that having a good technology is only one condition for success – taking it to the market in a professional way is the other one.
We have seen many examples of start-ups failing, because they spend too much time with technical detail, and are ignorant about the challenges of actually taking products to market. R&D is definitely a precondition of success – but so is marketing and sales.
So, if you want to maintain any technological edge that you have over your competition, make sure that you take your product to market as fast as possible. Or else don’t even bother with R&D in the first place!