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先发制人新解

Brad Feld 2011年08月09日

先发制人并不一定需要率先想出创业的点子。

    敝人曾就职于多家公司,其中有些公司是细分市场的领头羊,他们和少数竞争者短兵相接,不断追逐市场的龙头企业,争夺市场的主导地位;有些公司则开创了全新的细分市场。因此,我花了大量的时间去思考和探讨竞争这个话题以及激发竞争活力所需要的战略。

    所以在此谈谈我对 “先发制人”的看法。

    许多投资者喜欢投资“后起之秀”(敝人是个例外)。有一个老生常谈的说法,早期的领头羊很容易辨认,因为他们是众矢之的。我深知此中寓意对于公司战略和一般创新来说都很有指导意义,然而我所投资的领域瞬息万变,因此看问题的角度也会有所不同。

    我所说的先发者并不是指广义上的“市场”先发者,而是某个“门类”或“领域”的先发者。在我最近给路透社(Reuters)所撰写的文章《给企业家的谏言:你的点子毫无新意》(Note to entrepreneurs: Your idea is not special)中,我指出“付诸行动造就了产品和公司的成功”。

    “谷歌(Google)?并不是第一家搜索引擎。Facebook?并不是第一家社交网。Groupon?并不是第一家团购网。潘多拉(Pandora)?并不是第一家音乐网站。这样的公司不胜枚举。即便是软件行业的鼻祖:MS-DOS——也不是第一款操作系统。Lotus 1-2-3——也不是第一款电子表格软件。”

    所以,我所说的先行者并不是“第一个想出点子的人”。我的意思是,公司在将商业计划付诸实施的时候,必须在创新周期中的当前阶段先发制人。尽管Facebook不是Web2.0时代的第一家社交网站,但他们以迅雷不及掩耳之势先声夺人。2007年,当他们首次参加F8 开发者大会并发布Facebook平台时,他们就已经确立了先发优势。iPhone并不是第一台智能手机,然而一旦它确立了首部高度整合应用程序的口袋式计算机的地位,其他对手便难以望其项背,直到安卓手机的出现才打破这一格局。

    回顾创投公司Foundry Group的投资组合,我认为我们所投的很多公司都是各自领域的先发者。有些公司则正与少数对手争夺主导权,因此,先发者地位的归属尚不明朗。在这种情况下,我鼓励我所投资的公司立即先发制人。处于杆位(主导地位)争夺战中企业面临的选择如下:

    1.如果认定某一领域将确立公司的领导地位,加大在这些领域的资源投资力度。最基本的做法是双倍押注。

    2.并购其中的一家竞争对手或一家业务互补性强的公司,藉此实现跨越式发展。

    3.转行,通常的做法就是重新定义所处的行业细分市场。

    如果你不是先进者,而某位竞争对手已经一骑绝尘,将你远远抛在了身后,转行往往是最有效的做法。我的时间表一般是6个月,而不是5年。假定市场和产品的更新速度很快,你会有大把的机会来转行。但是,如果已经明确确定了要走的路和投身的竞争领域,转行的能力就会有所不同。即便如此,也要勇敢地探索不同的领域,寻找有机会成为先进者的细分市场。

    在我的世界里,终极先进者还要数史蒂夫•普雷枫丹,他是我心目中的英雄之一。这个家伙总是一马当先。早些时候,他的导师,也就是体育用品公司耐克(Nike)的合伙创始人,泰斗级人物比尔•鲍尔曼,曾鼓励他“改项”,也就是跑3英里赛(5公里)而不是1英里赛。普雷很少失手(一般只有1英里赛除外)而且总是表现优异。他从起跑开始就一路领先,挫伤了竞争对手的锐气。

    以上仅为一家之言,还请各位不吝赐教。诸位如有任何不同意见,敝人愿洗耳恭听。

    布拉德•菲尔德(@bfeld)是一位企业家,同时从事创投已有20余年。在合伙创建Foundry Group之前,他还合伙创建了风投公司Mobius Venture Capital,在这之前,他还建立了一家名叫Intensity Ventures的公司,帮助软件公司进行营建和运营。布拉德还是创业孵化公司TechStars的联合创始人,他的博客地址是http://www.feld.com/wp/

    I'm involved in a lot of companies, many of which are either the market leader in their segment, fighting head to head with a few other companies for clear market leadership, going after an existing incumbent, or creating a new segment entirely. As a result I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about competition, as well as executing a variety of strategies to address competitive dynamics.

    So I want to address the topic of being a "first mover."

    Many investors that like to invest in "fast followers" (I'm not one of them). There's also a well worn cliche that you can identify early leaders as they are the ones with arrows in their back. While I understand the convention wisdom around this, especially in the context of corporate strategy and general innovation theory, I take a different approach, especially in very fast-moving markets like the ones I invest in.

    When I talk about first mover, I don't think of being a broad "market" first mover, but rather a "category" or "segment" first mover. In an article I wrote recently for Reuters titled Note to entrepreneurs: Your idea is not special I made the point that "the products and their subsequent companies became great because of execution."

    "Google? Not the first search engine. Facebook? Not the first social network. Groupon? Not the first deal site. Pandora? Not the first music site. The list goes on. Even when you go back in time to the origins of the software industry: MS-DOS – not the first operating system. Lotus 1-2-3 – not the first spreadsheet."

    So, when I talk about being the first mover, I don't mean "being the first person to come up with the idea." Rather, I mean that when you begin executing your business, you need to aggressively be the first mover in the current phase of the innovation cycle. While Facebook wasn't the first social network in the Web 2.0 error, they out-executed everyone else dramatically, and cemented their first mover advantage when they launched the Facebook platform at their first F8 developers conference in 2007. The iPhone wasn't the first smartphone, but once it established itself as the first real computer in your pocket with a tightly integrated app economy, there was no looking back until Android started to challenge it.

    When I go through our portfolio at Foundry Group, I consider many of the companies we've invested in to be first movers in their current segment. Others are fighting with a few other companies to be clear leaders, and, as a result, first mover status is ambiguous. In these situations, I encourage the companies I'm an investor in to Do More Faster, right now. If you are in a fight to be in the pole position, you have a few choices:

    1. 1. Invest targeted resources more aggressively in areas that you think will put you in the lead. Basically, double down on your bets.

    2. 2. Buy one of your competitors or a complimentary company that will leapfrog your business ahead.

    3. 3. Change the game, usually by redefining the segment you are playing in.

    If you aren't the first mover, and one of your competitors is steadily leaving you behind in their dust, changing the game is usually the best approach. My measurement window here is usually six months, not five years. Assuming the markets and products evolve rapidly, you have a lot of chances to change the game early on in your life. That ability changes when you've clearly defined your path and competitive universe. But don't be afraid to weave around as you are looking for the segment where you can become the first mover.

    In my little corner of the universe, the ultimate first mover was Steve Prefontaine, one of my heroes. The dude always raced from the front. Early on, his coach and Nike co-founder, the amazing Bill Bowerman, encouraged him to "change the game" by running the 3 mile (5k) instead of the mile. Pre rarely lost (usually only in the mile) and always put in an amazing performance. In the process of running from the front, he demoralized his competitors.

    These are my ideas and I'd love to hear different perspectives. Challenge me on anything you disagree with.

    Brad Feld (@bfeld) has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur for over twenty years. Prior to co-founding Foundry Group, he co-founded Mobius Venture Capital and, prior to that, founded Intensity Ventures, a company that helped launch and operate software companies. Brad is also a co-founder of TechStars, and blogs at http://www.feld.com/wp/

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