Recently I’ve been listening to some audiobooks on startups and startup growth. I find that it’s helpful to, from time to time, brush up on what some of the real thought leaders in the startup world are thinking for a couple reasons: 1. It pulls me out of my own space and forces me to look at ideas I’ve either never looked at before or look at current ideas in new ways and 2. It’s a great way to learn from people – like the book by the MIT professor I’m currently listening to – without having to pay MIT prices :).
As I’ve been going through this current audiobook, (Disciplined Entrepreneurship by Bill Aulet), he mentioned something that resonated with me. Something that I’ve known and discussed among my peers for a long time but haven’t really thought about in a while:
First is Not Always Best
So often we look at products, services and companies as better than others simply because they were first. As we start our own companies, this mindset can actually become relatively dangerous because just because you’re first doesn’t mean there’s not someone coming up behind you who’s going to do exactly what you’re doing just a little bit better.
In my experience, the “I was here first” mentality carries with it two major weaknesses of which your competitors can take advantage:
- Complacency. It’s pretty easy to get yourself into a position where you’ve broken open a new market with an innovative new product or service, have built your market share up to a place where you feel pretty comfortable in your control over it and start to relax. Think it would never happen to you? Tell that to Blockbuster Video, they ignored a partnership opportunity with Netflix and now where are they?
- The Bullseye Effect. Let’s face it, people like to target the big guys. Doesn’t matter who they are or how small they are, competitive entrepreneurs (is there any other kind?) all want to figure out a way to bring down Goliath. And sooner or later someone’s going to do just that. The Blockbuster/Netflix example works here as well.
There’s no finish line in entrepreneurship or innovation
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been around. It doesn’t matter how big you’ve gotten. It doesn’t even matter if you’re the one who invented the industry, you can not stop moving forward. “Innovate or Die” has become a relatively watered down phrase in the corporate world but it’s never been more true than it is now.