first mover definition

In the business world, a first mover is a company that aims to gain an advantageous and perhaps insurmountable market position by being the first to establish itself in a given market. Since the arrival of the World Wide Web, many new companies (called "start-ups" until their IPO) have established themselves as first movers in their respective marketplace on the Web. Perhaps the quintessential example of being a first mover on the Web is Yahoo, which provided early Web users with the first popular directory and search engine. Although Yahoo has competition from Alta Vista, Google, and several other companies, its well-entrenched position as the one that got there first along with its easy-to-remember brand name and aggregation of content combine to make it difficult to compete with.

Other examples of first movers include (books), Travelocity (airline tickets), and eBay (online auctions). Although each of these has encountered competition, their early arrival and commitment to becoming the predominant owner of their market has seemed to assure their success.

One of the usual creeds of companies who attempt to be a first mover and command a market niche is "go big or stay home (GOBOSH)." Once a first mover has become established, the fact that someone has already arrived becomes in itself a barrier to entry for prospective competitors.

This was first published in September 2005

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