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Launch Lessons: What You Can Learn From Tech Products That Failed Early

Opportunity is everywhere, and more and more entrepreneurs are deciding to take advantage of it. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2014 Global Report, 100 million new businesses launch each year.

Of course, not all of them are destined for greatness, and in the first five years, almost half will fail.

In tech, the success rate is even lower. Fewer than 3 percent of new goods will reach this status, and a large majority — 75 percent of them — will earn less than $7.5 million over the course of their first year.

Even giants can get stuck on the launching pad
It’s typical to imagine launch failures coming from underfunded startups that are fighting an uphill battle from the beginning. This is sometimes the case but certainly not always, as the following cases show.

In 2002, Bill Gates announced the product that would become the Smart Personal Objects Technology prototype. The device represented the first foray into smartwatch territory and offered features such as messaging, news and email notifications. However, timing is everything, and the project was ultimately sabotaged by steady improvements to mobile phones, which had far more users.

In 2003, Nokia attempted to create a phone with real gaming potential. The N-Gage entered the market in October of that year, despite the fact that Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance was already quite popular. Nokia ended up creating a device that failed to hit either of its targets. The version that followed a year later was a significant improvement, but the reputation of the N-Gage was ruined.

Lest these turn-of-the-millennium examples give the wrong impression, launch failures aren’t a thing of the past. More recently, one of the biggest and best-connected companies in the world had a disappointing launch of an anticipated product: Google Glass. The high price was the first hurdle when prototypes became available, but Google’s biggest struggle in launching Google Glass involved the safety and privacy concerns raised by this first-of-its-kind device.

Adding some rocket fuel
The fact that large, well-funded companies are prone to mistakes isn’t meant to frighten entrepreneurs. Instead, they should be even more determined to learn from past failures, whether their own or someone else’s. Just as failed launches have commonalities independent of product categories, successful releases require the following elements:

1. Balancing speed with precision
With the time it traditionally takes to bring products to market, having a groundbreaking idea can feel like the easy part. Fortunately, instead of hiring an in-house team to make your idea a reality, companies such as New York City-based Clevertech can use their experience to complete development and deployment projects in as little as 30 days.

Clevertech CEO Kuty Shalev explains the rationale behind acting quickly: “Timing is just as important as making sure your tech solves a concern. To stay relevant and competitive and retain customers, you must hit on the concern, yes, but also deliver on it, even as you’re building trust. If it takes too long to address a pain point, someone else may beat you to it.”

2. Never releasing a product with known issues
It’s possible that your current product actually arose from a pain point customers had with one of your competitors’ offerings. Ensure competitors can’t capitalize on your own product’s shortcomings by eliminating major issues prior to its release.

Rushing into a release, thinking problems can be fixed later, is a recipe for disaster. Often, the problems are indeed fixed down the road, but they’re replaced by a new and more serious one — a lack of customers.

3. Realizing that being the first mover might make you the worst mover
Companies obsessed with the first-mover advantage are often just paving the way for the competition. Fast followers can learn from their predecessors and make fewer, less consequential mistakes.

The tech landscape is incredibly saturated, which means products need to be refined and ready when they launch, or they simply won’t last. The important thing to remember is that timing is everything. Rushing into a launch before your product or company is ready is an act of desperation that rarely pays off.

At the same time, it’s equally futile to keep a product in the development stage for a decade. There’s no such thing as perfection, and while you’ve been chasing it, there’s a good chance that the entire market will have changed. Ultimately, being able to release a functional product in a reasonable amount of time will dictate how well it’s received by your target market.

Ten, nine, eight.…
Any successful product launch requires an element of luck, but as Louis Pasteur famously said, “Fortune favors the prepared mind” — or, in this case, company. By studying your competitors’ past successes and failures and embracing the elements above, you’ll increase your product’s chances of reaching the stratosphere.

This article was written by Rahul Varshneya from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

The information in this article is presented as-is and does not necessarily represent the views of First Republic Bank.

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