Conventional startup advice is to 'move fast' and 'pump out features.' Are there any startups that created a great new thing that was growing and then failed because they were improving too slowly?
How slow is too slow?
If you believe that you should "move fast" you are probably gong to fail. Bring your product to market when you have something of value to offer customers and when you can make a profit by selling it.
The question is what is fast and what is slow. Compared to what? Normally a product introduction has a market addoption curve (testing, addoption, mass usage). It is difficult to move faster than the market can addopt your product (people try to find a way for viral marketing or for network effect in order to speed-up the product introduction), but it is not easy. Fast growth can kill you if you overpromise and do not deliver (due to lack of investment in working capital or in support staff, whatever your economics is). Slow growth can make you lose opportunities and provide space for the competitors to leverage on your initial investment in product introduction. The "move fast" advice is on developing and adjusting your value proposition, not that much on growing your company. You need trained staff, infrastructure, systems in place, etc., in order to support the growth. It is about management, cost and risk control, etc. You need to accumulate all these factors (and understand your market) before you start growing (fast or slow). It is more about building a solid business, not that much about the speed with which you do it. If you think the speed is your key competitive factor, then you are on the wrong path and you have no competitive advantage.
Pump out features is a software and electronic consumer goods. The result is a higher price. That may serve some groups of customers, but other customers do not want to pay for the bling. These customers have a choice of opening their pockets or closing their pockets and continue using the old product or do without. They do it because the can charge a large mark up for bling. But as price goes up sale volume goes down. So profits may actually be lower.
I have worked as a very new product development engineer for aerospace fortune 500, then a product design firm with a large variety of customers, and a fortune 500 consumer product OEM. Thirty years of experience has taught me that 'moving fast' is usually a disaster. Even with deep pockets and lots of experts moving fast still does not work even close to the schedule if at all. In a startup that I also experienced, the money and experts people are missing. Moving fast from my one experience was still a disaster.
I have concluded that the schedule was made by a manager that did not understand what was important and which important information was missing. Thus those following the schedule were told not to worry or they told themselves not to worry and drove right past to keep moving fast. Fortune 500 businesses have the deep pockets to go back when they hit a wall but a start up is finished.
Moving to slow occurs when the people working on the project really do not want to succeed. At least that is the conclusion I have come to for every case that I have witnessed of been involved in. Failure that may be considered due to slow motion is actually poor scheduling and insufficient capital. A to optimistic plan will always be moving slowly when it moves at the actual pace that solves the problems and issues.
Well, time is money after all. I think "too slow" can happen if you're spending money faster than you can afford. If you budget wisely and run the startup cheaply then you can last a long time without "failing."
It also depends on the type of industry your startup is in. For example, game industry is very time sensitive and moves quickly, so you can definitely fail if you don't release your products quickly enough. For SaaS type of startups, time is not your enemy.
I would argue the importance is value over speed.. you may need to test quickly to FIND the valuable feature your customers need. But if you are on the right track and growing towards building value for your customers then you are growing in the right direction!