In 2007, two broke roommates, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia realised that if they couldn’t raise enough money for rent on their San Francisco apartment they were going to be evicted. After learning that all the hotels in the area were booked, they decided to rent out a space in their living room for attendees of a nearby conference. Less than a year later, they founded Airbnb. Investors dismissed Airbnb on the basis that no one would want to rent out their homes to strangers – but they were wrong. The US was in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, and many were desperate to make ends meet. Airbnb proved to be an ideal way for ordinary Americans to earn extra cash.
For Airbnb, timing was everything. In his TED Talk “The Single Biggest Reason Why Start-ups Succeed”, Bill Gross identifies Airbnb as one of the many companies who owe a large part of their success to timing. Gross is speaking from experience. In 1999 he launched an online entertainment platform called Z.com – a website where users could create, share and watch video content. On paper the company seemed promising – they had plenty of funding and a sturdy business model. However, at the time broadband penetration in the US was far too low for the business to take off, and browsers were unable to support video content. The timing just wasn’t right and Z had to fold. Six years later, when broadband penetration was more widespread and browsers were optimised to support video content, YouTube was launched at the perfect time. Compared to Z, YouTube lacked funding, and its business model was non-existent – but the timing was just right. Two years later, Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion.
A rebel entrepreneur has to factor timing into their business plan in order to stay ahead of the curve. They get educated and stay in touch with the world. Companies like YouTube, Airbnb and Uber succeeded partly because their services aligned with the needs, wants and expectations of the consumer given the economic, political and cultural conditions of the time. A rebel entrepreneur is very aware of the trends happening in society, and if applicable, launches their product or service when they can ride that trending wave.