The Early Bird Gets the Worm, But the Second Rat Gets the Cheese

Are you an early bird or a rat? Do you have great ideas that propel you to make a move right away or do you wait in the background to see if the innovative idea can be improved upon and then make your move? There is no right or wrong answer.  The world needs creative innovators who are hungry to give the world a new idea. These early birds can capture the attention of the masses with a truly thought leading proposition if they can listen to the market and not let perfection be the enemy of accomplishment. The world also needs those rats that come along after the initial opportunity has been presented so that they may add to or modify a brilliant idea. A second rat can learn plenty from the mistakes of the early bird and wind up with a tasty chunk of cheese. 

Rat Defined


As an innovator and a consultant to technology investors, I meet a lot of rats. Rats are the people who are curious and hungry creatures seeking opportunity in new and sometimes odd places. You may have referred to these people as innovators, first movers, or thought leaders. Many times they are wild visionaries who are 15 years ahead of their time. They are creative and daring, but often fail because they fall victim to their own creativity and uncontrolled courage.

The innovator or first mover is like the daring rat who comes first upon the cheese and in trying to secure the reward for his exploration, trips the spring and winds up with a snapped neck and no cheese. Sadly, the very next rat to appear on the scene gets the cheese with little or no risk of his own.

The rat that waits and watches often gets the best of both worlds; He risks very little while reaping what he didn’t earn.

I see this scenario often. First movers don’t always receive the reward equal to their risk. Too often they run out of resources trying to make it to the financial finish line. Capital runs dry, or even worse, they spent money advancing the thought process or innovation only to be quickly surpassed by a technical iteration that changes the value landscape permanently. I love being the second rat as an innovator. Significant value is received by learning from the mistakes of the first mover. Just like a strategic distance runner who waits in the middle of the pack for his chance to win at the end, the second rat allows the first to take risks many times greater than the second.

Getting the Worm


So who is this “early bird?” Is there a time when the first mover has an advantage? The answer is yes. There are times when the first mover is like the early bird. If a first mover can complete and launch before iterative advancements make the early mover’s work obsolete, then the early bird “gets the worm.”

The key to early bird success is two-fold:

1) Don’t let perfection be the enemy of accomplishment. By this I mean, don’t waste all your time and money adding extras no one cares about. Be 15 minutes ahead of your time, NOT 15 years. 2) Get to the market with ears wide open. Your launch should be dynamic and ready for adjustment.  Listen to the market.  But most importantly, get out there! The key to a “land grab” in business is to “GRAB THE LAND.”  Take market share while it is available to take.

A smart innovator launches with 25% of their startup capital in reserves. A brilliant innovator has reserves and capital in the waiting to grow rapidly once the concept is proven and iterative adjustments are realized.

Ask Yourself


Think on these scenarios and apply them to your business.  Are you able to grab market share with a truly thought leading proposition? Or are you able to watch others and leverage their work for your advancement? There is no right or wrong. This is only the optimum solution for a specific situation at a specific time. Meditate on these words until they are part of you and you just might wind up with the cheese.