Being first is insufficient.
Google wasn't the first search engine. Facebook wasn't the first social network. Apple wasn't the first home computer, phone or smart watch. Amazon wasn't the first online bookstore.
In 2004, Dan Lovy and I launched a device that could take the music on your hard drive and play it through your stereo. And some other stuff, too. You certainly don't own one. We were five years too early for early adopters and ten years too early for the beginning of the mass market.
I've jumped the timing before.
You can see the same thing happen to inventors of online shopping carts, ad networks, auction sites, ad formats, file sharing, crypto applications, all of it… Even non-profits and musical styles.
I've embraced that pattern for years. Going first. It's thrilling. Not particularly profitable, but thrilling.
Too often, we come to believe that there's some sort of idea race going on. While some need the froth and magic of the new, it turns out that culture is changed by persistence most of all. Be an inventor if you choose, but don't expect that you'll be the one driving the bus once the masses decide to get on.
[The third episode of my Akimbo podcast is out today. It's about VF 145: The Square Tomato. The podcast is now one of the top 100 in the world, thanks to you.]