You Don’t Have To Be First. You Just Have To Be Better.

You probably already know that Google wasn’t the first Internet search engine. Neither was Bing or Yahoo.

The Archie Search Engine

The first search engine, Archie, was written back in 1990 by Alan Emtage. But most people haven’t heard of it.

Google wasn’t created until 1997 — a whole seven years later.

Fast forward today, and it has become the most widely-used search engine on the Internet. It receives over 3 billion online searches every single day.

And Facebook wasn’t the first social network.

Before Facebook, there was MySpace.

MySpace was targeted at the same audience as Facebook. It generated huge interest from the media, investors, and users, and it was on the market long before Facebook.

But that didn’t make it more successful.

Facebook launched a year after MySpace — and it absolutely crushed it.

The Six Degrees social network homepage

And before MySpace, there was Six Degrees. This was launched back in 1997, and it was the first social network that allowed users to create profiles and become friends with other users.

At its peak, it reached around three million members.

However, due to the lack of people who were actually connected to the Internet at the time, networks were very limited. It would be a few years until the Internet’s infrastructure would be able to catch up.

In 2000, YouthStream Media Networks acquired the site for a sum of $125 million.

Likewise, Apple didn’t make the first computer. And Amazon wasn’t the first online bookstore.

Is the First Mover Advantage a Myth?

The first mover advantage is the term used to describe the competitive advantage that a business achieves by being the first to bring their product or service to market.

In some cases, the benefits of being the first to market are significant.

For instance, first movers typically have increased brand name recognition. This increases brand loyalty amongst existing customers while drawing new customers towards the product.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Consider Coca-Cola, which was invented in 1896 by John S. Pemberton. It was already selling over a million gallons per year by the time Caleb Bradham came up with the recipe for Pepsi-Cola and moved into the market thirteen years later.

Pepsi has been trying to play catch-up ever since. Now, even over 100 years later, Coke continues to dominate the market.

In addition, first movers generally have more time to perfect or improve their product or service than its competitors who enter the market later on.

However, being the first mover into a market does not come without risk.

First movers are often unprofitable. The failure rate is high.

It’s also relatively common for employees from the first business to leave with the intention of setting up their own rival brands, hence taking some of the business’s intellectual capital with them.

When it comes down to it, second movers can often learn a lot from the mistakes of first movers.

Going First is Exciting — But It’s Often Not Profitable.

Being an ‘inventor’ — the first person to come up with an exciting, brand new idea — sounds cool.

Over the past few years, the advent of crowdfunding and social media have completely streamlined the process of bringing innovative new ideas to market.

It’s never been easier to become a successful inventor and create a brand new product.

But sometimes, creating something too early can actually be a disadvantage. You can be too early for the mass market.

You don’t always have to completely reinvent the wheel. Sometimes just tweaking it is enough. And sometimes the smallest tweak can make the biggest impact.

For every single product that exists, there is an opportunity for improvement.

You don’t have to think of it first. You just have to think of a way to do it better.

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