In the wake of Zite’s success and sale to CNN a few month ago, Zite founder Ali Davar made an interesting comment at the meshwest conference earlier this week when he said the company spent “five years in start-up hell” as it searched for a solution to take advantage of its technology.
For Zite, it was the emergence of the iPad that finally delivered the platform the window of opportunity. When asked how Zite was able to last so long before the iPad came along, he said having a low burn rate was a key consideration.
Having worked for a startup that fell into the “technology looking for a solution” category, Zite was lucky to have been able to hang on for so long until the iPad became its salvation.
For many startups, however, this scenario doesn’t work out as well. Instead, they spin their wheels for too long in the expectation it can develop a service that will resonate with users. In the startup in which I worked, this approach involved adding more features to provide the service with better usability. In the end, it didn’t attract enough users even though you could do a lot of things.
Putting Zite’s success aside, the reality about the “technology look for a solution” scenario is, for the most part, it doesn’t work. While the technology may be interesting and the entrepreneurs involved remain optimistic about its potential, it doesn’t matter much unless the technology can be leveraged in some way.
This isn’t to suggest this type of technology should be ignored or an attempt shouldn’t be made to capitalize on it, but startups need to determine fairly quickly whether something interesting enough can be developed to get the technology into the hands of people.
- A Smart Bear has a good post on how a bad idea can eventually resonate as it evolves into something people actually want to use.
- TechRepublic also has a post on the technology looking for a solution scenario. It suggests the solution is to “continually ask yourself what problem the technology is solving, and if the cure is better than the disease.”