Wednesday, 11 August 2010

2nd is 1st

Alfie told me to blog about this, so…okay.  I never tag Alfie, cause I think a:  everybody knows her and 2:  my friends should keep some small shred of their privacy when I blog about them.  Oxymoronic ironic, I know.

I’m not sure if this is my idea, or if it’s original, or when I first thought it, however, my notion is that it’s often better to come second, in linear time, than it is to come first.  By better, I mean more profitable and more able to influence.  In a market sense, it is often best not to be an innovator, but an adaptor.

That is to say, it’s “better” to be Bill Gates than Steve Jobs, Starbucks than Peet’s and Elvis instead of an authentic blues musician.

Better in terms of capitalization.  I suppose it’s a form of imperialism.  Bill Gates saw what Apple was doing, adapted it (poorly), dressed it up (badly), and convinced users it was the solution to all their problems (it wasn’t), by charging them less.  Now, that’s my personal opinion about MicroSoft.  I believe Apple has a more user-friendly, better-designed and more durable product.  I know it’s more expensive.  Market share has always been with MicroSoft and MicroSoft-based machines.  As a software and computer technology leader, I think Gates is less than many other people, but he is a leader among entrepreneurs.  I’m also particularly partial to his second act – The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – which I do think shows a true trailblazing spirit, independent thinking, grand commitment, and tremendous desire for facilitating change.

To me, Peet's is better coffee, a much better experience, and yet there’s not a Peet’s on every corner.  The guy who started Starbucks learned how to roast and brew coffee from the founder of Peet’s.  And so it goes.  However – was Peet’s vision as a company ever to be ubiquitous or was it to maintain a high quality of product and service?

In light of the Skype IPO – do you buy in?  Or wait for the next round?  Yahoo ---->;  Google.  (Remember Jeeves?  No?)  Betamax ----> VHS.  Across the board, people loved their Betamaxes, but that didn’t stop a simpler format from taking hold.  Recently the industry tried to cut this off at the pass with the Blu-Ray discussion, but I think they talked so long that that enhanced DVD format is already destined for the cultural graveyard in light of streaming video.

Over-saturation makes market dominance, and unfortunately, that is what drives the stock market and profits.  A lot of people say Lady Gaga is just biting Madonna, but my feeling is that it’s more than that, and a quick glance at her bio will show you she knows what she's doing.  Madonna, like Apple, like Peet’s, created the hunger for what would be a new form of mass market appetite.  Lady Gaga benefits from the globalization of entertainment that Madonna pioneered along with a few other artists.  Starbucks benefits from the high-end coffee audience created by trailblazers like Peet’s, and MicroSoft benefited from the sexiness of the Mac, which made regular people want to own computers.

Is Tesla the next Tucker?  (I think not, but I know I’m out on a limb on that.)  Who’s gonna beat out Hulu – they do have a lot of licensing agreements…

And then there’s Amazon and Netflix – paragons of seeing it, getting there first, and staying on top. 

Me, I like to be first.  I like to pioneer.  It’s probably a character flaw, and up to now, it hasn’t been all that profitable.  But I’m learning about timing, and slow-building and I think it may all work out.

I’m sure you’ve got your own examples.  Go ahead and shout out in the comments below or disagree or just say hi.

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