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Ride the Second Wave

The second wave. Logically, it comes after the first wave, after someone else has shown the way and smoothed the ride for those following behind.

It’s not necessarily the inventor who becomes the dominant force in a new technology or business opportunity. Even if you didn’t come up with the original idea, you can still benefit from the initial concept, improve on the original and be a pioneer in the field.

Google out-searched Yahoo.

Yahoo launched in 1994 and quickly became the web search engine of choice for many users and was a dominant force in the market. It was not until four years later that Google launched. Can you believe it was only 20 years ago that the world existed without Google?

While they weren’t the inventors, Google was most definitely a pioneer, dominating on a scale rarely seen in other markets. Today Google is an enormous, multi-faceted company and an advertising powerhouse, with an annual revenue of US$110B and a market capitalisation of US$730B, making it the fourth most valuable company in the world. On the flip side, Yahoo effectively no longer exists, having been acquired for US$4.5B in 2017.

Facebook was a more social animal than Myspace.

In mid-2018, Facebook had more than 2.2B monthly active users, an impressive second wave indeed! Facebook didn’t invent social media, but it can certainly be described as a pioneer, although it wasn’t always that way.

For the four years between 2005 and 2009, Myspace was the biggest social networking site in the world. At its peak in 2006, Myspace was ranked first as the most visited website in the USA, but in 2018, Myspace did not even make the world’s top 4,000 websites (as measured by total web traffic).

This is certainly quite a fall for a first wave trailblazer, who were completely obliterated by Facebook, today’s proverbial 800-pound gorilla of the social media landscape.

Boeing flew past the Wright brothers.

Many people would have a fair idea that the Wright Brothers ‘invented flying’. At Kitty Hawk in 1903, the famous brothers Wilbur and Orville successfully completed flights with the first powered aircraft. But the men did not become as successful or wealthy as might have been expected, considering the enormous impact of their world-changing invention.

While not the inventor, the Boeing aircraft company is well and truly a pioneer in commercial aviation. Formed more than 100 years ago just a few short years after the Wright Brothers took to the sky, Boeing is today a multi-national giant that in 2017 was ranked 24th on the Fortune 500 list and in 2018 is scheduled to complete a brand-new plane every 11 hours. Not too shabby for an aircraft manufacturer that didn’t actually invent the plane in the first place.

George Stephenson – The Father of Railways.

Known as ‘The Father of Railways’, Englishman George Stephenson was a pioneer of the rail industry but did not invent the first locomotive. Richard Trevithick is the man credited with that honour when he moved a steam locomotive on steel rails way back in 1812.

It wasn’t until two years later that George Stephenson had his first locomotive success, but he then went on to produce a rail gauge that still bears his name to this day (‘Stephenson gauge’) and is the standard for most of the world’s railways.

Along with his son Robert, George Stephenson built the first commercial rail line to take passengers and then went on to great commercial and financial success, developing many railways in Britain and internationally.

Can you be a pioneer?

With these stories in mind, look long and hard at your business or a potential area of business you could explore. Are there inventions or original ideas in this space that have not been exploited to their full potential? Could you introduce a tweak here, an adjustment there or innovate a new application of that idea?

The world is full of very smart people with great ideas, but many of them do not have the commercial acumen to bring those ideas to market. An idea is simply that – an idea. There are an awful lot of dots that need to be connected to create something tangible and marketable out of an idea.

This is not about stealing anybody’s inspiration or not being creative yourself, but rather it is about applying your knowledge, skills, experience and perspective to a concept to create something more powerful than the original.

There are many opportunities available for you to become a pioneer in the technology and business world by thinking outside the box and looking at things from a fresh perspective.

And remember, even if you missed the first wave, you might still be able to catch the second wave and ride it all the way to the beach!

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