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Fast-Follow beats First Mover
2 min read

Fast-Follow beats First Mover

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Facebook was not the first of its kind. There was orkut, Bebo, Friendster, Myspace and then there was Facebook. In fact some of these were much much bigger and expansive in vision than Facebook was (Facebook was limited to select University campuses for a long while) - Myspace even had celebrities on its network with massive virality going for it, yet it didn't last. What gave Facebook an edge was the culture of micro-experiments.

B2C is a long game.

If you look at any of the B2C players - be it Google, Netflix, Linkedin, Facebook, Amazon - they are all where they are today after nearly 20-25 years since they started. How do you build for something 25 years out?

B2C is a game of experimentation.

Netflix started off with DVD Rentals. Linkedin started off as a Outlook plugin to synchronize contacts across devices. Facebook was a social network within colleges. Amazon just wanted to sell books.

The only way you can get to 25 years - with everything that is changing - is by constantly experimenting and evolving. Along the way you also keep widening the tent, so to speak.

Moat gives you staying power.

Almost 20 years later (apart from DuckDuckGo), there is no one who has really challenged Google in search. Why? Because of their deep moat that their patents give them. Even the likes of Microsoft have tried and retired.

That is not to say that patents alone can help you - companies like Riya (visual search engine), Pebble etc have perished even with having patents. So it does seem like Patents + strong user base is the winning ticket.

Every emerging new channel is an inflection point.

If you are building the next-gen of whatever exists and are delta 4 better than them, the inflection point is in waiting for a new acquisition channel to emerge - and there is one every few years. It was tiktok last year, and whichever new platform takes it place post the bans. Sharechat maybe?

Getting in early on a emerging new channel, gives you a disproportionate advantage - and if your content is interesting and edgy, stands out and gets you attention. It is the economical (hustle) alternative to raising a boatload of VC money and burning them to get attention.

If you are going to go after one of the existing players, it will do very little to go after them with a feature - in fact if you even manage to garner a little bit of attention, you will simply be helping them one more input in terms of a feature to include in their product roadmap.

It does seem like it takes a certain kind of entrepreneur who would thrive in an B2C startup. What has become clear to me is that it isn't for everyone - most will burn out barely before the games begin. You can go the problem-solution route with B2B startups and build a decent revenue but with B2C it oftens seems to be the case of going big or going home with no middle ground in between. If you like waking up everyday with the rules of the game changing constantly (with a love for micro-experiments), you might even enjoy building a B2C startup.

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