A friend asked me this in twitter:

What to do when you’re launching a company and competition launches 3 months before you ?

Build on top of what the competition is doing. Slipstream. Let them pave the way, let them break the ice, and you follow along with a different angle, or different spin. I’ve had personal experience with this problem. It was a couple of decades ago, but it’s perhaps still valid. I was consulting with Therese Myers of Quarterdeck Office Systems in the early 1980s  when VisiCorp came out with VisiOn just a few months before Quarterdeck’s release. VisiOn and VisiCorp failed within a year or two, but Quarterdeck succeeded and was acquired by Symantec in 1987.

That’s in a post on my main blog, titled Second or Third Mover Advantage. My conclusion on that one was:

So yes, being an original is much more satisfying, and if you can seize that advantage and keep it, it’s great business. But being second or third works well too. It’s sometimes easier to explain.

And just in case you think I’m inventing this consolation idea to make you feel better, I posted The Myth of the New and Only Idea on this blog earlier this month. It said:

I say, so what? Is there still a need? Has it been done right? Is that one existing company serving the entire market perfectly, so that nobody else can jump in? Apple wasn’t the first personal computer company, Federal Express wasn’t the first courier/delivery company, and Google wasn’t the first search engine. Microsoft wasn’t the first personal computer operating system. So?

That’s pretty much the same case here. Don’t worry. Go for it.

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.