If you want to come in first, aim for second

second placeMy partner on Weblogs, Inc., Brian Alvey, wrote a solid blog post about me being a “fast follower” with a lot of the products in my career. It’s a fair assessment of not only me, but of the long list of folks who are a magnitude more successful than me!

YouTube, Facebook, and Google were the 10th to 25th iteration on video, social networks, and search. Does that take anything away from Chad, Zuck, or Larry/Sergey? Not in my mind.

Getting it *right* is what matters, not getting there first.

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Even the mighty Apple was considered the laggards who didn’t get the phone, tablet, watch — or now, apparently, car — out first. They just did those first two a lot better than everyone else (we’ll see on the watch and car what happens).

I’m reminded of this because in our first “The Incubator” class (aka The LAUNCH Incubator) — which Brian Alvey is part of (#loyalty) — we have seven startups that are all taking on huge verticals with existing players who have done really innovative products.

Yet, there is more innovation to be done!

You’ll see the “Magnificent Seven” next week, debuting on March 2nd in the afternoon (watch live at the LAUNCH Festival):

  1. One is a better Sprig or SpoonRocket
  2. One is a different take on Kickstarter
  3. One is a fresher look at Instagram
  4. One solves a problem FourSquare hasn’t figured out
  5. One is a fresh take on Netflix, but in real life
  6. One is a better Priceline
  7. One is a better version of itself — we call that our “sophomore selection”*

This group of startups did so well over our 12-week Incubator that I decided to take them to see two of my favorite VCs. They were both blown away — even though the startups were building on themes we all know, they were unique and vibrant.

However, one of the two VCs said, “Jason, this is the best overall group I’ve ever seen … how much are you putting into each?”

I replied, “I’m putting $250,000 into each.”

“I’m in. I will match your $250,000,” he said, punctuating it again with, “Best overall group I’ve ever seen.”

Wow.

I’d love to tell you who it is, but in my business we keep power moves like this in the shadows. It’s illuminati stuff — you’ll understand some day.

Bottom line: the first one up the hill gets the arrows.

Or, remember that episode of the Walking Dead back when it was, well, vicious:

“I don’t have to outrun all them zombies … I just have to outrun you!” ←- imaginary line.

In summary: don’t worry about being first. Just study the market and build on top of the good work you see all around you. However, don’t be a thief. Don’t just photocopy what you see, but do take what you see and be inspired to take it to the next level.

best @jason

PS – The LAUNCH Festival is seven days away. If you want to support the Festival and our mission to support founders and inspire innovation, buy a VIP or Super VIP ticket (the 10,000 Builder tickets are sold out!). A Super VIP ticket will give you access to some incredible LAUNCH Festival Parties, including: the March 1st Sunday Night Angel Dinner, the March 4th Wednesday Night Winners’ Dinner, & more.

2/ We are taking over Fort Mason, SF, with stellar content on the main stage (Herbst Pavillion) and the Product Hunt / AMA stage (Festival Pavillion). You can check out the latest up-to-the-minute updates here.

3/ LAUNCH Hackathon (Feb 27-March 1st): There are a few slots left! Still time to be part of a once-in-a-lifetime chance to build something epic, meet new friends, and win some cool prizes — life-changing ones in fact!