Most technology startups that eventually turn out be highly successful often begin with an idea or two and less than a handful of deeply committed, highly capable, inspirational and often brilliant founders. Product ideas at the initial stage are routinely “pooh-pooh-ed” by so-called experts as too far-fetched, half-baked, not scalable, and hence not “fundable.” But these ideas and the eventual focus tend to evolve over time, sometimes quite dramatically.
When Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook he was trying to provide a system for students at Harvard to stay connected. However, he later went on to connect more people on the planet than anyone else. When the Google founders started out, they wanted to make it easy to search and find “stuff” on the Internet. Then, they went on to organize the world’s content coupled with a clever way of making huge amounts of money through advertisements. When the company, Salesforce, was started, the idea of software as a service, where all software resides online, was not considered viable, scalable, secure, etc. But today, software as a service is widely accepted and believed to be the future. If the Internet and communication speeds had not dramatically increased, none of the companies mentioned here would have been raging successes.
The reality is that no one can predict the future. External forces like timing and circumstances play a significant role in fueling success. If there is one thing that is consistent across every major startup success, it is that there are people behind it who are deeply committed to relentlessly pursuing a dream that often appears ridiculous and foolhardy to most people.
In the political world, back in 2000, Barack Obama could not gain entry into the Democratic convention, because he was a virtual non-entity. But by 2004, he was a rising star. In 2008, he was able to forge a successful campaign comprised of highly committed, energetic, young people who had little interest in politics up until then. After 40 years in power, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt was brought down in a matter of weeks by an army of peaceful protesters strung together by the power of social networks. The entire Arab Spring has happened over a period of a few months. History is replete with examples for and against the success of fledgling movements.