Christopher Columbus and the First Mover Advantage

ChristopherColumbusIt’s the Columbus Day holiday here in the U.S. and it got me thinking about the “first mover advantage” myth. We posted back in 2007 about the first mover advantage myth and have spoken about it to our audiences. Christopher Columbus is a prime example of this myth.

Columbus has been celebrated for over 500 years as the person who “discovered America.” We know this is not true in that others were here first, most likely from Scandinavia. Who were they? I don’t know, but I could look it up on the Internet. Doesn’t really matter because Columbus gets all the attention and the press. Why is that? Two reasons:

1. There was follow-up from the Columbus expedition that resulted in a “tipping point” (see I get lots of buzz words in my posts).

2. Columbus had venture backers with deeper pockets who could fund the follow-up and network with their friends (and competitors) to capitalize on what he found. Queen Isabella had lots of money and better connections than the people who “funded” the first visits.

There may also be a third reason: The others were too early. There are countless ideas that don’t make it the first time, but which subsequently pay off. Sometimes it is too early to get it right (the Apple Newton vs. the iPhone for example), and sometimes the world just isn’t ready yet.


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