Serendipity

Yesterday, if you were living in a cave, was the Superbowl. What interests me so much is how the National Football League became the NFL. The reality is that television and the rise of the NFL came at the same time, and football, as Seth Godin talked about in his post yesterday, was made for tv. In fact it is pretty clear that if it wasn’t for television the NFL specifically and football in general probably would not be as great as it is today.

Serendipity, luck, perfect timing. These are such important factors to get any business off the ground. Twitter was launched, in essence, at South by Southwest conference six years ago. It just so happened that SXSW was the perfect storm for Twitter: lots of people together who didn’t really know each other all looking for the hottest place to be. Twitter, with its indirect connection model, was perfect for that time and place.

Sometimes this timing doesn’t work out. It was the year before Twitter launched when we were on the verge of changing math education forever, except a fateful decision by Palm to stop making handhelds and abandon the education market killed the entire deal.

Yes, a company needs a good product. Yes, it needs to have all the pieces in place to take advantage of this timing. But the perfect storm of success needs to happen too. Rovio took years to have success and finally found it with Angry Birds on iPhone. Before the iPhone there was barely a casual gaming market. It’s rise made Rovio, as we know it today, possible.

Dropbox, too, owes its meteoric success to the small screen, or more exactly to multiple screens. Ten years ago most of us didn’t need Dropbox. We had a single computer and all of our files were there. In a world where we carry three or even four machines, though, keeping files on all of them, up-to-date, is critical. Dropbox launched at the perfect time.

This is why fortitude is so important. The ability to endure hardship, the pain that is believing in something even when the world is laughing, is critical. Serendipity happens. Being there at the right time with the right product is a huge part of success.