Is it better to be a first mover or a fast follower?

November, 2019

The rewards for successful first movers may be substantial, but it’s also obvious to see why fast followers often have the edge over first movers. The latter is inevitably working with only a limited understanding of their market, of the full potential of their tech, or their optimum business model. Their potential customers are on a steep learning curve. Fast followers, on the other hand, can learn from their mistakes and from the reaction of early adopters. They can enter into a market where the product is already known and evolve its functionality.

Nigel Filer is CEO of Rimo3, who helps businesses adopt new technology faster through their automated application testing solution, and offer a new approach to managing their IT and application estate. ‘The transition to Evergreen IT is the utopia of every business. Complex legacy systems and manual processes replaced with automated, frequent IT updates and adoption that take less time, budget and resource. But this journey is a challenge for many organizations, especially when faced with industry deadlines such as Windows 10.

At Rimo3, we have developed solutions that focus on helping businesses automate, accelerate and adopt Evergreen IT.  We are fast followers, rather than pioneers, as we take the automation technology that already exists, but use it in a different way, offering both an experienced approach and smarter way of doing things’.

It is this advantage of following rather than leading – at a very early stage – that Nigel believes is critical.

He illustrates his point by reference to the Gartner hype cycle, a regularly updated, graphic representation tracking the maturity and adoption of emerging technologies over time.

‘The art of entering a market is making sure that you jump onto that hype cycle at the right point,’ he says. ‘If you’re too early – if you’re really a first mover – you can end up investing a hell of a lot of money before the market’s ready and before you start to monetize whatever it is that you’re producing. If you define a first mover as someone who really creates the idea when it’s embryonic and takes it through, then I would say I probably wouldn’t want to be a first mover in a market, but I’d want to be a very fast follower.’

Too late is almost as problematic as too early, he says. ‘If you jump on too late and the tech or the idea is on a downward curve, you have no competitive advantage, you’ve got no differentiation in the marketplace, and you’re not going to monetize what you’re doing very well at all. But if you jump on when the curve is on its way up, you can take someone else’s idea, tweak it, make it better, deliver more value to your customers and actually then monetize that in a much more effective way.

‘For example, our own ACTIV platform solves an age-old problem of managing change in a new and unique way. We are able to deliver huge business improvements, not as a first-mover as some could argue, but as a fast follower to our own original AppDNA product.’

A great idea, then, is nothing without timing. ‘It doesn’t matter how great an idea is if the timing is wrong,’ says Filer. ‘There have been so many brilliant ideas that have failed because either the market wasn’t ready, or the infrastructure wasn’t there to deliver against it. Take boo.com, at the end of the dotcom bubble. They had the idea of 3D clothes. It was an amazing idea and all the fashion retailers do such things now, but at the time the bandwidth and the compression technologies just weren’t there.’

Read the full BDO UK article ‘Is It Better To Be A First Mover Or A Fast Follower > click here

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