If You Are Too Early, You Are Wrong: Lessons from Entrepreneurship

As developer or manager, I had many projects that failed or foiled – but as in everything, the first one cut the deepest. For me, that was Hailstorm. It was just tiny bit early (that time people thought it would be impossible for someone to be willing to store documents, calendar, emails, etc in the cloud), but like many other projects (looking at you, Windows XP tablet edition) this was enough for it to be doomed.

In the world of entrepreneurship, timing is not just a component of success—it is often the linchpin. The adage “If you are too early, you are wrong” succinctly captures a common pitfall faced by many innovative companies. This concept is vividly illustrated by the story of Microsoft’s Hailstorm service, a cautionary tale of how being ahead of the technological adoption curve can lead to failure just as surely as lagging behind it.

The Vision of Hailstorm

Launched in the early 2000s, Microsoft’s Hailstorm was envisioned as a pioneering service that aimed to revolutionize how personal data was stored and accessed across the internet. It was part of Microsoft’s broader .NET strategy, designed to create a suite of services that would seamlessly integrate various aspects of a user’s online life. Hailstorm intended to offer a unified personal data store, accessible from any device, where information like contacts, calendars, and credit card details could be securely stored and used by third-party applications with user permission.

Timing and Technology: The Downfall of Hailstorm

Despite the forward-thinking nature of Hailstorm, its failure was attributed to several factors, with poor timing being paramount. When Hailstorm was introduced, the internet landscape was markedly different from today’s environment:

  1. Privacy Concerns: The idea of storing personal information on a platform controlled by a single tech giant raised significant privacy concerns. The public’s sensitivity to data privacy was not yet matched by a robust regulatory framework or a widespread cultural acceptance of cloud-based solutions.
  2. Technological Readiness: The infrastructure and average consumer technology of the early 2000s were not equipped to fully realize the benefits of Hailstorm. Broadband internet was not yet ubiquitous, and mobile devices lacked the capabilities they have today, making the service less practical.
  3. Market Adoption: There was a clear lack of readiness among consumers and businesses to adopt such a unified approach. The concept of digital identities and data interoperability was ahead of its time, with many potential users and developers hesitant to commit to a platform that seemed to monopolize personal data.

Lessons for Entrepreneurs

The story of Hailstorm offers valuable lessons for entrepreneurs, especially those innovating at the edge of technological capabilities:

  1. Understand the Market: Entrepreneurs must deeply understand not only where the market is currently but where it will realistically be in the near future. Innovations that are too far ahead can fail to find a market ready to adopt them.
  2. Build Trust: In ventures where customer data is involved, building trust is crucial. This includes transparent handling of data, robust security measures, and clear communication of user benefits.
  3. Adapt and Pivot: Flexibility in strategy is crucial. Microsoft, despite the failure of Hailstorm, leveraged its lessons to build more successful products later on, such as Azure and Office 365, which align closely with what Hailstorm intended to do but are adapted to the technological and market readiness of their times.


“If you are too early, you are wrong” serves as a powerful reminder that timing in entrepreneurship is as critical as the idea itself. Microsoft’s Hailstorm, with its ambitious vision yet premature launch, underscores the importance of aligning innovation with current technological capabilities and market readiness. Entrepreneurs must navigate the delicate balance of innovation and timing, ensuring that their groundbreaking ideas are introduced when the market is ready to embrace them.

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