What most startups lose sight of for the majority of categories and products with the notable exceptions of Big Pharma and prescription drugs, later entrants to the market often times have a much greater chance of success, profitability and even market domination. A primary example is Apple.
Apple, arguably the most valuable company on the planet with a 2016 Market Cap exceeding $600 billion built its reputation on a list of iconic products, including but not limited to the iPod (MP3 player), Macbook Pro (portable computer); iPad (tablet) and its most successful and profitable product, the iPhone along with the App Store that makes those gadgets so damn useful… however, while all those products totaling hundreds of billions of dollars in sales were built encompassing an untold number of patented components, not a single one of those products was invented by Apple.
Not only that, but even Apple’s greatest success and its most profitable product, the iPhone, was seriously late to the party.
As crazy as this sounds, the iPhone was preceded by a patent dating back to 1908 where it is entirely possible, that not a single adult who was alive at that time has ever had the pleasure of even seeing Apple’s first iPhone which was introduced to the market almost a century later.
NOTE: The first modern mobile phone was originally mass produced by Motorola way back in 1973… more than 30 years ahead of Apple’s creation.
And while Apple may be one of the most prominent examples of companies that have become dominant in a product niche, they are by no means an isolated example. In fact, we’re constantly surrounded by examples of products and companies that have achieved tremendous success but were clearly not the developers of the original patent, product or process that gave birth to its industry.
Ford, in 1921 was the first American company to mass-produce automobiles but ten years later it was surpassed by General Motors. Today, the largest automobile maker in the US isn’t even an American company… it’s Toyota, a company that didn’t sell its first car in the US until 1964, more than four decades after the first Model T rolled off Ford’s production line.
And “first to be second” (or even third or fourth) isn’t just limited to manufactured products. Facebook, the most successful social media company of all time with more than 1.6 billion users, was preceded by Myspace (2003) and Myspace was preceded by Friendster (2002). And while Facebook is just 12 years old, as a social media company it can trace its roots to Internet Relay Chats (IRCs back in the 1980s or to the first truly recognized social media site, Six Degrees, which was created in 1997… which is like a century ago in Internet years.
All types of examples exist in just about every field and they’re too numerous to enumerate in this one article but the data is easily attainable and verifiable with a simple Google search. And speaking of Google, even it can trace back its most successful product, AdWords, a pay per click (PPC) product, to a company called Goto.com in 1998 that later became Overture and was eventually acquired by Yahoo! AdWords wasn’t developed until late 2000, giving Google a lot more time to introduce a superior and ultimately more successful, make that much more successful product than the original created by Goto.