First Mover Advantage is NOT Critical to Your Success

Racing Turtle

First mover advantage; being the first one in a market or to develop a new technology can be a huge advantage. At the same time, doing all that hard work also lays the foundation for someone else to step in and do it better.

So if you’re a first mover, great. If not, no sweat. All you have to do is find an edge that gets everybody talking about the new kid on the block.

Let’s look at some “second-movers” and see how they did so well …

1. Microsoft

First there was Apple, then along came Billy G and some new ideas. Big ideas. Where Apple has always developed their operating system and assembled the hardware, Microsoft opened the floodgates to thousands of other compaines by licensing their OS and letting others build and assemble the hardware.

If you can create opportunities for other companies and entrepreneurs to prosper with your product, you can take the lead.

2. Pepsi

Coca-Cola was a strong and growing company when Pepsi came along. Today, by some metrics Coke is still in the lead and by other metrics it’s Pepsi. But Pepsi came along after Coca-Cola was well established.

I don’t know if I’d call a $100 billion company an underdog, but being the “alternative” and having the drive to do better will take you a long way.

3. Google

Before Google, there was Yahoo. And even before Yahoo there was Infoseek. A strong combination of stick-to-your-brain branding and innovative technology will get people to use your products and services.

If you can be memorable and fun, and if you can make a task faster and easier, you’ll do well.

4. Research in Motion

The Blackberry (or crackberry if you prefer) wasn’t the first cell phone. They’re insane success comes from doing a little bit of everything …

If you can develop a strong brand, create an easier way to do something, and create opportunities in the marketplace (RIM builds their devices and the mobile networking technology they and other devices use), you’re going to do very, very well.

Being first helps. But it’s not critical to creating success. Most businesses don’t create anything new, they just take something that already exists; something that already has a proven market, and they make it better.

So, you can be first. Or you can be better than first.

2 thoughts on “First Mover Advantage is NOT Critical to Your Success”

  1. Hey Shane

    “You can be first, or you can be better than the first” – exactly the right sentiment to have. You know, lots of people come to my blog and say they can’t build a successful online community as there are too many of them out there already.

    I tell them that they simply need to work out what they can do better than what is already out there. What can they do that is different?

    There is plenty of room for more than just the ‘big boys’ – thinking that you can’t succeed just because you weren’t the first mover will get you nowhere.

    – Martin Reed

  2. Hey Martin,

    I’d even say that the “big boys” have certain disadvantages because they have a lot more to lose. Which can build an inherent lack of innovation because they don’t want to rock the boat or tip over the cash cow.

    You’re right, it really is about being different … if you take the same path, you’re always behind. But if you blaze your own, you’ll find unique things along the way that will give you an edge. And you just might find an undiscovered shortcut or two as well.

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