It’s the story that we see over and over.
But sometimes, we just haven’t been at it long enough.
Your customers might have only just started to hear about your product and get ready to change their behavior but you’ve decided to rip your strategy off the shelf.
It takes a lot of perseverance to make people notice and understand how our value proposition fits into their lives.
It’s this persistence of vision that makes an “overnight success” possible.
ZERO PROFITS FOR THREE YEARS
Skype, Airbnb and Venmo are perfect examples. These are companies that supposedly have experienced a meteoric rise to prominence.
But the truth is, they all had to endure extended periods of zero profits before finding success.
Interestingly, for all three companies the dark, uncertain periods lasted almost the same length of time.
They each spent about three years in complete wasteland in pursuit of market acceptance, without any sign that they were certain to find the answer.
It took Skype three years to get to twenty thousand users.
For a product like Skype that depends heavily on the "network effect" - where the value of the network is exponentially correlated to the number of active users - this slow growth was grueling, especially in a world moving in "Internet time."
Jonas Kjellberg, co-creator of Skype, described this period in Skype's history, "We had no money. We couldn’t mortgage our houses anymore. We were fighting some of the biggest telcos in the world. I think we thought we would never get through; we would just get by another day and see where this takes us."
Airbnb had a similar path. After several years in the market, with multiple founders working full time, the site was only making around $200 per week in revenue.
At one point they needed money, and this was during the election between Obama and McCain, so they decided to design novelty cereal boxes with a cartoon Obama on them.