The short answer is: a lot of patience and perseverance!
More seriously, this is one of the most frustrating aspects of entrepreneurship. High-tech entrepreneurs are supposed to be innovators, but, even more, they are supposed to be visionaries. They have to see the value that a certain technology can bring into the market.
The naïve approach when one gets to a technological breakthrough is to think that a new product will succeed because it is better. In the head of the entrepreneur, the added value, the competitive advantages, and the future use of the product are already clear. Then it takes one, two, five, ten years to make this clear to the market.
And this is just the beginning! Indeed, in the beginning, one starts convincing innovators about the technological superiority of the product. If this is confirmed, it helps convincing some early adopters, who often rely on the innovator’s feedback in order to decide to buy a new product. Similarly to entrepreneurs, early adopters are visionaries. They think they can change the world with the performance of the new product we are selling them.
The next phase, moving from early adopter to the mainstream, is again very challenging. The challenge comes from the fact that we move back to skeptic customers: the early majority. Indeed, after having the support from the innovators that helped getting to the early adopters, we have to convince the early majority, which do not trust the visionary profile of the early adopters. Early majority is composed of pragmatists. They care about the market, the risk reduction, the continuity. The want incremental, measurable, predictable progress. Entering this market is therefore a completely new story, one that Geoffrey Moore calls “Crossing the Chasm” in his bestselling book.
To enter this market, you have to make sure you minimize the requirements in term of infrastructure and process change, and you have to provide all the things necessary to make your product easier for the customer to buy (simple installation, support, etc.). This is often referenced as the Whole Product: Anything else needed to achieve your compelling reason to buy.
After 13 years with BlueBotics, we are getting to this phase. Just yesterday, I was talking with a shareholder, explaining that we were making great progress in moving from early adopters to early majority by developing the whole product while reducing the costs. He is a visionary and he commented: “I told you a long time ago that you had to do that in order to get to success.”
Yes, right — this is exactly the difference between visionary imagination and realization to the market: > 10 years of patience and perseverance!
… and it always takes also some luck!