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A popular notion in business is that being pioneers means one can start capturing the market before the competitors do. According to the first move advantage theory, those in the business first can establish a foothold in the market, making it difficult for others to penetrate.

This is not always the case. Apple’s iPads are not the first tablet computers around as there were many others before it. Neither was Jack Ma the pioneer in online shopping. In fact, Jack Ma had very little knowledge of the Internet when he first started venturing into the area.

But today, the iPad and Alibaba are giants in their respective fields. I believe that because they were not pioneers, the people behind Apple and Alibaba were able to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors, improve on the products and services and fill in the gaps to meet market expectations.

 

The Japanese had been doing this for a long time. After World War II ended, the country leapfrogged from being the vanquished, to an economic powerhouse in a matter of decades by improving on foreign technology and delivering products that meet market needs, such as cars like Toyota and Honda. China is now taking the same route in areas like nanotechnology to Artificial Intelligence.

I try to apply the same formula in my businesses. I have always been known as “Johnny comes lately” where I study the shortcomings of those in the market first, look for gaps, and try to fill those gaps.

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