Timing is everything

Odior C Yole
2 min readMar 11, 2024

Timing Is Everything

The startup world obsesses over timing, and for all the right reasons. Let’s look at the contrasting tales of Webvan and Instacart.

Webvan, is everything it should have been yet it died. It delivered products to customers’ homes within a 30-minute window of their choosing. Its only crime was that it launched way ahead of its time.

Bright idea? Yes.

Logistics, team, execution, funding, great technology? Yes to all.

Right timing? No

It died in 3 years, filing for bankruptcy in 2001 because its technology was too premature for the time it launched, this countered its early mover advantage. Being first doesn’t guarantee triumph; timing matters more than excellent execution.

Then there’s Instacart, the late entrant that defied conventional wisdom. It thrived where Webvan failed because the market had matured. Payment systems had become stable, social networks were a norm, blockchain technology was a thing, and Amazon had demonstrated heavily in e-commerce and paved the way…so Instacart rode on the wave. Call it pure serendipity, or did it strategically wait for the right moment?

Here’s a fun fact about launching at the wrong time — competition doesn’t matter! Webvan floundered without serious rivals, while Instacart entered a crowded market, forcing it to innovate rapidly. Timing is everything.

For every Instacart launched at the right time, countless startups missed their window, doomed to obscurity. Timing is what will help you play at the rhythm of the market.

So how do you hack timing?

1. Fail fast: The fastest way to know if the timing is right or wrong is to get into the market and gauge the response. Launching fast, collecting feedback, and pivoting fast. This is the absolute best way.

2. Distribution: Let’s say you’ve built a time machine, and it turns out to be the most useful product the world needs right now — because in the hands of the right government, they’ll send someone back in time and fix stuff and we’d have a better society — and you’ve built it! But you don’t have a way to get it into the hands of the right people, you’ll fail. Distribution trumps development.

3. Leverage — You’ve got to keep money coming in. Money is the blood that powers the startup engine. Money is the leverage you need to stay in the market long and iterate until you find a winner. If Instacart had enough money to stay on the runway, they’d probably still exist today.

The dance of startup success intertwines timing, distribution, and leverage. Execution and fortune come as a result of getting your timing right.

Launching a product to a hungry, ready market is the biggest growth hack you can take advantage of now…and AI is ripe. I am launching “The Business of AI” course and direct mentorship with me for one year.



Odior C Yole

Startup founder. I’ll share my journey, processes, tactics, challenges and victories till we hit 3 billion customers worldwide.