I watched a short Stanford entrepreneurship lecture on Udemy.com today given by Steve Blank, a serial entrepreneur. In the second section, Steve comments briefly about ‘first mover advantage’ and why the difficulties of being the first mover can hinder, rather than hurt your startup. This is for reasons like having to spend a lot of time and effort creating the market and educating users, and learning hard lessons when testing assumptions that no one has ever tried before that don’t end up working (which slows you down). Instead, Steve suggests that being the first mover might not be as good as being the first best executer:
It doesn’t mean you never want to be the first mover, but the historic Stanford ‘first mover advantage’, I think, over the last decade or two, has found out to be a divide by zero problem; It’s just wrong. You don’t always want to be the first mover. In fact, you typically want to be the first fast follower. And if we take a look at all the companies that presented here this semester, you’ll find out that they were all incredibly great fast followers. Was Amazon the first mover? How about eBay? How about Google? Were they the first movers? No. None of these guys were first movers. They were first best executers, but they certainly were not first movers. – Steve Blank
I’ve heard seasoned entrepreneurs offer the advice that, as a founder, you should assume that, at any given moment, there are 2 or 3 teams out there working on something close to, or exactly what you’re working on and that execution is the real differentiator that determines success in the end, which is why execution matters so much. For a variety of reasons, I find Steve’s words very comforting.