Debunking The First-To-Market Myth

Many people are afraid to startup a new business because they believe they need an original idea in order to get started.  They are discouraged by trite startup mantras like, “if you’re not first, you’re last,” or “being first-to-market is EVERYTHING.”


Let’s look at some products and services that were NOT first-to-market:

  • The iPod was not the first MP3 player.
  • Google was not the first search engine.
  • Skype was not the first video chat service.
  • Microsoft Excel was not the first spreadsheet program.
  • WordPress was not the first blogging platform.
  • The Kindle was not the first ebook reader.
  • Pandora was not the first internet radio service.
  • And, no, Facebook was not the first social network.

So, tell me again why it’s so important to be first-to-market?   And why is it so important to be original for that matter?  Being first-to-market and having an original idea are both overrated in terms of their contribution to successful businesses.

For example, Apple and Microsoft are different from each other.  When we think of  “windows,” we think of the Microsoft Windows user interface.  Microsoft, however, got its “inspiration” from the Apple Macintosh user interface.  But Apple did not invent it either.  Apple was “inspired” by a Xerox computer.

When was the last time you bought a Xerox computer?

Think of it this way.  If someone has succeeded in doing what you are thinking of doing, doesn’t that only provide proof that you have a viable, sustainable, and profitable business idea? And, if there is room for more than one player, why not get into the game?  Sometimes competition can be a good thing.

Take for example personal fitness trainers.  One fitness trainer might offer boot camp training, whereas another trainer might only work with professional or competitive athletes.  Neither ideas are original.  And neither are certainly first-to-market.  But the two ideas are, however, different in terms of audience.  What will make them successful, in the end, is how well they run their business, and how well they produce results.

What matters is that you have a good idea, and that you execute your idea better than everyone else.  What matters is that you run your business well, and better than your competitors.  Good business is good business. As long as you’re not outright stealing someone’s idea, does it really matter if you didn’t come up with it first?

If not being “first-to-market” is discouraging you from starting your own business, you have no business being an entrepreneur.  The only people who are obsessed with being “first-to-market” are people who want to be famous – who want to be known as the person who came up with idea XYZ first.

And if you are obsessed with that – with being known as the guy you invented XYZ first – let me ask you something: who invented the first MP3 player?

Exactly.  Enough said.

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