The tired old business cliche suggests “we must be first to market”. While this has its benefits, it isn’t always the most important factor. Not being first to market offers the benefit of leverage, which is a constraint those with the well known first mover’s advantage don’t have.
It is the benefit of hindsight.
Being the second means you can watch and learn from other people’s mistakes. And you’ll quickly hear about them; they built their product on the wrong platform, they didn’t have enough staff, they mismanaged customers, or misinterpreted what customers wanted.
It’s your golden chance to jump in and do it better.
This is the philosophy for companies like Amazon (with Prime), Apple (with the iPhone), and Microsoft (with Azure).
I spoke to journalist and author Alex Kantrowitz on my podcast recently (listen to the podcast here). Alex interviewed everyone from Mark Zuckerberg to programmers at top tech companies as part of his book “Always Day One”.
As an example, Mark told me how Microsoft was dedicated for a long time to Windows due to its success, prohibiting their staff from working on othr projects.
They ended up not being able to compete with Apple devices and famously missed mobile.
Conversely, under the leadership of Satya Nadella (Microsoft’s current CEO), Microsoft shifted their focus to cloud and took on Amazon to become the world’s largest cloud service provider.
This revived Microsoft, and they were third to market (after Amazon and IBM).
Always Day One: How the Tech Titans Stay on Top
Alex told me how inside Amazon, Jeff Bezos has the expression: “always day one”. The mindset here is that if you take your foot off the accelerator, you’ll be left behind.
You might come second to market, but if you treat your tech like it’s always day one, you can overtake the person who started first.
Alex told me their mindset is to constantly “invent as if it’s its first day”.
Whilst being first can be important, starting the race late doesn’t mean you’re going to lose.
If you treat every day like it’s the first, and make a conscious effort to learn from what your competition did first, coming second won’t be a hindrance.