The Innovative Race to First

There is a much-loved term in the world of entrepreneurship called “first mover advantage.” The first mover advantage is the head start that is gained by being the very first person to enter a market or create a product. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak had the first mover advantage in the consumer PC market when they created the Apple computer. Swiffer had the first mover advantage when they introduced their take on the disposable mop.

There are pros and cons to being the first mover in a market. Obviously, competition doesn’t exist, so pricing and expectations are yours for the making. But mistakes are yours for the making as well. There is a saying that goes, “the first bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.” There are numerous examples of second movers taking advantage of the discoveries and developments of first movers, and then surpassing them. The Amazon Kindle was by no means the first e-reader, nor was the iPad the first tablet. Both learned from the failures of the unsuccessful product launches before them and made improvements.

So how does the concept of first mover advantage affect you as a Biz Kid? Anytime a new market opens, the earlier you react and create products or answers for the market, the more likely you are to draw attention. Many teens wrote apps for the Apple app store when it first launched, and were quick to gain a customer base before there were thousands of developers to compete with.

Fast Company Magazine recently published an article about a new product that has just entered the consumer market, a 3-D printer called the Solidoodle. This is a printer that can act as a miniature factory in your own home. From missing parts for electronics to on-demand toys, the uses for the product are yet to be determined. Let’s use the Solidoodle as an exercise for the first mover advantage. A machine has just created a new opportunity for product design. How would take advantage of being one of the first entrepreneurs to own one? What would you make?