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One quesion I always focus on when meeting new companies is why now. The reason being - I don't believe there are new ideas. Every idea has already been thought up and likely tried already too. The only question is timing. What has changed in the world that now makes this idea viable vs. at any other point in time?
The answer can be the difference between an ok company that was a slog and a great company that is up only. Yet given the importance I’m still surprised how often founders don't seem to have thought this through.
Take telemedicine as a category. One of the first entrants in this category is a company called Teladoc back in 2002. It was a sleepy company took over 13 years and had to raise over $100M to go public. And even after all that time and money, at IPO they still only had $43M in revenue and a $600M market cap. While that's not a failure, it sure sounds like a slog - a lot of money and effort for a so-so outcome. Directionally right, but wrong timing. There wasn't a a compelling why now back then.
Contrast Teladoc's story to today's telemedicine startups. There are now a bunch of successful telemedicine startups growing at insane speeds. Hims got started in 2017 and within 2 years got to $100M in recurring revenue and is forecasting $250M in 2020. It took them 2 years to do more than double what Teladoc did in 13 years. Roman, Nurx, Lemonaid have similar growth stories.
And it's because the why now is much more compelling for this cohort of companies. There are a bunch of reasons from regulatory, tech, demographic, etc. You can point to the proliferation of mobile, a new very online demo, the rising popularity of on demand & D2C services, etc. And this is all before covid, which now is pushing these companies to even greater heights. Solv shared that they grew 3400% over the last month and AliPay in China had over 300M patients use their service in March.
So it's worth really thinking through the why now. And this isn’t just for the investors. Be brutally honest with yourself about what is a real trend is and what isn't. There's only one Uber, but there are thousands of dead bodies that tried various Uber for X ideas. I'm sure their why now slides all looked the same. So spend the time to figure out what is really real for your startup.