Fear: “I’m going to lose because someone else is going to beat me to market (or is already there).”
Truth: In business, there can be lots of winners in any niche. Look at how many shoe makers, Italian restaurants, and furniture manufacturers succeed. You can do well in a crowded field as long as you’re doing something that sets you apart from the pack. It can be price, style, substance, personality, positioning, or storytelling. There are tons of ways to establish your company as unique.
Don’t obsess over being first-to-market either. Successful businesses show up to the party late all the time. Google wasn’t the first search engine. VHS toppled Betamax even though it was later to market. There are plenty of things that are more important than being first.
TrendyGreenon 09 Nov 09
You given me the impetus I need to go ahead and complete my on-line project management app called Backside.
Justin Reeseon 09 Nov 09
Yes, and don’t assume that being first (or best) will keep you dominant forever. The companies that do well are the ones that stay sharp and don’t forget the Fall of Rome.
TrendyGreenon 09 Nov 09
...or The Ides of March!
Justin Reeseon 09 Nov 09
The Touch, The Feel of Cotton!
Robon 09 Nov 09
Even if you are the first to market you still have every other product the consumer wants to compete against.
Have the only computer with an ipod, projector, 3D keyboard and solar battery? You are first to market but you still need to compete for the customers money so they don’t buy a new BMW or a trip to Hawaii
Ryan Nayloron 09 Nov 09
Certainly a good reminder for starting out or for experienced businesses.
Andrew Bankson 09 Nov 09
Thanks for the reminder. That irrational fear can lead to haste. And doing things in a hurry often ruins things.
Nick Sergeanton 09 Nov 09
Sunil Shenoyon 09 Nov 09
There are lots of web application, business products I use which were not the first in the market.
Jamie, Baymard Instituteon 09 Nov 09
“There are plenty of things that are more important than being first.” sums it up perfectly.
Sure there is some value in being first, but it’s definitely down the list.
Ryanon 09 Nov 09
“First to market” = “Big red target”
Ed Tennanton 09 Nov 09
I heard the head of ESPN online speak last week and he said that competition frightens him because there is no cost to entry. If ESPN doesn’t feel safe, being first-to-market must not be that important.
Dennison 09 Nov 09
I’d like to provide little different perspective. Being first to market is extremely important. First mover advantage allowed me to grow my company from $120K/year to $550K/year in just 12 months.
Yes there are many competitors in my market but being first placed my company as leader in the market segment in mind of the customers and thus increased the profits without any marketing.
There is advantage to being first, clearly.
Dick Kusleikaon 09 Nov 09
This can be demonstrated by the “first/latest” game. What was the first search engine you ever used? What was the latest? From whom did you by your first book online? The latest? They’re almost never the same.
Neilon 09 Nov 09
“I heard the head of ESPN online speak last week and he said that competition frightens him because there is no cost to entry. If ESPN doesn’t feel safe, being first-to-market must not be that important.”
Really? Being first-to-market has never been a guaranteed – nor permanent – advantage as much as much as it has served as a preferred position over acting as a new entrant going up against an incumbent. Who wouldn’t enjoy the opportunity to enter any market with a short-term monopoly and the potential to make above-average returns over entering one where established competitors, likely with lower cost structures, that will make it difficult to just find your footing.
Dave Sparkson 09 Nov 09
I do believe ebay wasn’t the first online auction site. There is some value in being first but the bigger value lies in being better!
Scott Meadeon 09 Nov 09
“There are tons of ways to establish your company as unique.” is just another way to say “There are tons of ways to establish your company as first to market with a unique offering.”
Once a competitor copies your price, style, substance, personality, positioning, or storytelling; you are no longer unique—but you will always have been first. From a competitive standpoint, first to market is something that cannot be copied, and hence, it’s value.
In other words, I don’t see the difference between being “first to market” and in being the first to do “something that sets you apart from the pack”. In doing that thing that sets you apart, you are presumably doing it first… no? Else it wouldn’t set you apart.
David Andersenon 09 Nov 09
I’d rather be first to dominate a market.
Trevoron 09 Nov 09
I’m happy to own several brands of shoes. I am pissed if I have to use multiple todo apps. Or issue tracking apps. Or project management apps. Or IM clients. etc
andjuleson 09 Nov 09
a bit ironic from a company who was launched to fame for being a first (office 2.0 company, simple online project management, etc)
also, while later competitors can sometimes carve out a profitable sub-niche, generally speaking, whoever is dominant is dominant by a lot. there will be other competitors but not enjoying run-away success. See Seth Godin’s ‘the Dip’.
the other thing to note is that when an upstart displaces a dominant incumbant, it is usually at a massive price discount (e.g. Microsoft Project’s per-seat licenses vs. Basecamp)
David Andersenon 10 Nov 09
“the other thing to note is that when an upstart displaces a dominant incumbant, it is usually at a massive price discount (e.g. Microsoft Project’s per-seat licenses vs. Basecamp)”
Do you really think these two product target the same market?
Maher Araron 10 Nov 09
If all entrepreneurs understood well what Jason is talking about they would not even need to approach VCs who keep repeating this mantra regarding “first-to-market” advantage. I am almost half-way reading the Getting Real book: it is a must-read for all entrepreneurs who want to succeed in business.
Anthony Brownon 10 Nov 09
Don’t forget the iPhone!
Leo Kubaon 10 Nov 09
There is another concern being first on a market/niche: – It’s too expensive, specially for a small business, to market a new product in a new market. Sometimes it’s better to wait a competitor create the culture and demand for a niche, and then, take benefit of the demand created.
Michael O'Brienon 10 Nov 09
If you can’t be best, be first / If you can’t be first, be best. Being early has advantages, but they don’t last.
Deltaplanon 10 Nov 09
True, but isn’t it quite the same thing as saying : “being the first to do that particular thing that sets you apart from the pack” ?
I think the problem about being first on a market is really overseen. Most of the time, companies pretend to be the first on their market simply to impress their customers, because they know it is often really hard to find a 100% competitor if you position yourself on a niche that you’ve delimited just for being the first one on it.
But the truth is, most of the time, you don’t even know if you are the first on the market… I’m doing a lot of consultancy missions for companies that are applying for state R&D funding, and it’s the major problem for which they call me : they are legally requested to demonstrate that they are the first on the market, it’s mandatory that what they are doing has never been done before anywhere in the world, otherwise they won’t qualify for the subvention. But it’s where the difficulties come : finding a perfect match among the competitors’ products is humanely possible, but proving that there is noone else on the market is – almost – impossible. All you can do is say something like : “see this list of well-known competitors, we’ve investigated their products and come to the conclusion that they aren’t doing X or Y”. But who can tell if there is not an obscure company somewhere in the world who has developed a products that does that exact functionality for which you are bragging you’re the first on the market ?
So I think the main reason why the “first on the market” argument is mainly irrelevant, is that it’s so easy to pass as a lier just because you thought you were the first, but in fact you weren’t. Moreover, the customers will often consider some company to be the “first on the market” not because it was really the first, but because it was the first to have succeeded – at their eyex.
Berserkon 10 Nov 09
It is seldom the first comment to a blog post that is the best, but everyone reads it.
(No offence to TrendyG.)
Brian Moriartyon 10 Nov 09
I believe the issue of being first to market requires some context that is missing….degrees of brand development and product distinction.
Consider Under Armour. They truly created a new category,yet above and beyond that they created a strong and aspirational brand. By the time Nike responded, Under Armour had already begun to establish itself as a meaningful and strong brand….which would ultimately transcend its initial product line.
Lesson learned….first to market can be a huge advantage if you simultaneously establish a strong brand. Most products can be copied….the brand can help establish long-term loyalty.
David R. Albrechton 11 Nov 09
Matt’s right. Say what you will about Microsoft, but they’re still making cash hand-over-fist coming late to the game since Excel displaced Lotus 1-2-3. Office, Xbox, Windows, SQL Server, etc…Microsoft has literally made a business of moving late.
chrison 12 Nov 09
lipitor was about 7th to the market in the statin category of cholesterol drugs. it is now the number 1 statin and number 1 selling drug in the world because it has a differentiated profile. first to market may confer advantages. best in class always has advantages.
Curtis K Gwapoon 12 Nov 09
Thanks. This is great advice. No more obsessing over being first.
Martinon 12 Nov 09
I think this myth comes from the way successful business’s are covered in the media and by the company’s PR department. Most people will come away with the impression that they were the first and succeeded because of their brilliant original idea. That makes a better story I guess. Once a company has become dominant, most of their old competitors may have been bought out or given up and people will just assume the dominant company was the first.
I sure most people think eBay was the first auction site but really it’s just that the earlier ones were just bought out or slowly died and forgotten.
MBNon 13 Nov 09
Outside the topic, just wanted to let you know that I just ran into this blog from the article that came out on Inc.com . I think that you guys are doing a great job, I went through the list of top blogs and this one is definitely the one that caught my attention the most. Just wanted to share my thoughts.
This discussion is closed.