A head start is not a head start

A head start is not a head start

Most people agree that Mosaic was the first browser for the World Wide Web, but it was actually preceded by ‘WorldWideWeb’ and the lesser-known Erwise and ViolaWWW. Netscape didn’t invent the browser, but it did see a commercial opportunity, and room for improvement while it was working on Mosaic.

Google wasn’t the first search engine, that surprises nobody. It also wasn’t the first to base its search results on the relationships between websites and also wasn’t the first service to charge advertisers per click. This is news to some people.

YouTube wasn’t the first online video platform (I’ve heard estimates about there being 1700 competitors to Youtube when it was started), Twitter wasn’t the first microblogging platform and Facebook wasn’t the first social network.

Being first is seldom a good thing. That head start you think you’ve got means you will have to create a market, educate customers and invent everything yourself. Why not let a competitor do all that and then waltz in steal the spotlight with a better product?

When you realize that this is what usually happens a few things become clear.

If you are working on a plan and you are regularly saying these things:

  • Nobody is doing this yet.
  • We have no competition.
  • I can’t tell you our ideas or someone will steal them.

Then you now know that you should change those lines to:

  • Several people are doing this, but we know a better way.
  • We have competition but we will outperform them.
  • I will tell you our ideas because that will improve them.

A head start just means you are paving the way for your competitors. And that’s a noble but not very profitable thing to do.

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