TED Talk Nails Startup Success Factors. Or Not.

Much as I like TED, and respect Bill Gross and Idealabs, this recent TED talk bothers me.  He analyzed several hundred startups, from big successes to big failures, looking for the most important startup success factors.

Startup Success Factors: Are These the Only Options?

He considers the idea, the team, the business model, the funding. I would never guess what he concludes. Before you watch his talk, what do you think? What is the most important startup success factors?

Timing? Seriously? I don’t believe it. I think it shows how you can analyze anything and come up with your own conclusions. What do you think?

Here’s some of his reasoning, in detail:

The number one thing was timing. Timing accounted for 42 percent of the difference between success and failure. Team and execution came in second, and the idea, the differentiability of the idea, the uniqueness of the idea, that actually came in third.

So take a wild success like Airbnb that everybody knows about. Well, that company was famously passed on by many smart investorsbecause people thought, “No one’s going to rent out a space in their home to a stranger.” Of course, people proved that wrong. But one of the reasons it succeeded, aside from a good business model, a good idea, great execution, is the timing.

So what I would say, in summary, is execution definitely matters a lot. The idea matters a lot. But timing might matter even more. And the best way to really assess timing is to really look at whether consumers are really ready for what you have to offer them. And to be really, really honest about it, not be in denial about any results that you see, because if you have something you love, you want to push it forward, but you have to be very, very honest about that factor on timing.

Timing seems random to me, too much luck, not enough execution. And although I apologize for disagreeing with somebody who has the track record Bill Gross has, the reasoning seems to be based too  much on after-the-fact accommodation.

I know that I love spreadsheets and analysis and I’ve done a whole lot of them. And, I confess, when I start putting subjective rating variables into a system – the 1-to-10 importance scale shown here, for example – it’s hard to keep my heart ahead of my head. I often end up with numbers echoing gut feel or opinion. Do you get what I mean? Is that what is happening here?

What do you think?