Tech myths: “Does it better will always beat does it first”

The tech industry may be the domain of pragmatism, but it’s not without its myths. One of the more problematic tech myths you’re likely to come across is: “Does it better will always beat does it first.” Coined by Aaron Levie, the adage has since become commonly spouted amongst the technical community – tweeted, quoted and referenced across the internet as undisputed fact.

But let’s rewind and reassess for a moment. Does it always follow that ‘does it better’ trumps ‘does it first’? Well, not necessarily. Let’s take a closer look at this popular misconception.


Not black and white

Tech myths such as ‘does it better will always beat does it first’ create a false pretence that business is all about the product. It makes sense that a superior product would be preferred –  a better product is more valuable, logically speaking.

But reality isn’t that black and white. In the complex tech landscape, there are more factors to consider than just product alone. While a young new product may have a killer feature set and instant likeability, that cool interface could be masking an experience deficit.

Worth in experience

When it comes to the SaaS scene, there is worth in experience. Being time-tested means that a tech business has proved itself to be workable, useful and accepted over a long period of time. It means that the vendor is operating on a foundation of proven proficiency. Without that foundation, it’s harder to show off any product, quality or otherwise.

While newer start-ups might have a strong product, they don’t necessarily have the whole package. For example, a younger SaaS vendor may not have expertise in global implementations or complex deployments. Or, they could lack experience of difficult marketplaces, dealing with technical issues, and responding to unanticipated complications.

Part of the bigger picture

Now, this isn’t to say that a start-up software company automatically sucks. Far from it – all the great tech companies were once just starting out. But this spotlight on experience does highlight why ‘does it better will always beat does it first’ is one of the hazier tech myths that requires unpacking.

Product is just one part of the bigger picture. Even if the product seemed great, a larger corporation probably wouldn’t feel comfortable partnering with a vendor that had no experience integrating or orchestrating within a custom or challenging environment.

The RFI problem

Let’s say a corporation is looking to implement a new ecommerce solution. They are considering several vendors, all of which have great (but ultimately rather similar) products. So, they send out an RFI, or request for information.

When it came down to an RFI or RFP stage, a somewhat flashier product won’t sway decisions. Let’s face it: no product is truly unique anymore. What typically wins the deal is the combination of product, people and proven experience and expertise. In a situation such as this, the veteran ‘does it first’ companies are likely to have the edge over the green but slightly ‘does it better’ product.

Tech myths: If you build it, they will come

Business success all comes down to trust. A time-tested business has built trust with their customers and partners, while new start-ups simply don’t have this level of trust yet. Unless people can trust the brand and the company, they won’t buy the product. (Even if it does look brilliant on paper.)

The ‘if you build it, they will come’ belief is yet another misconception when it comes to tech start-ups. Tech myths such as this ignore the need for customers to have trust in a company’s brand. This trust can only be built over time with a combination of great customer experience and customer service, early product success that weathers storms, and the demonstrated ability to grow with emerging tech developments.

From this trust comes a customer base. The ‘does it first’ companies already have this base by the time potentially ‘does it better’ start-ups enter the scene. Without customers to sell to, any great tech product will fail to make it in the big wide world.

Knowledge and expertise

A business’s knowledge is its foundation for success. But building this strong knowledge base takes lessons, legwork, and a long time in the game. Tech myths like ‘does it better will always beat does it first’ forget the need for this hard-earned knowledge base.

A knowledge base can cover everything that a business needs to stay ahead, such as:

  • Knowledge of customer needs and wants, and the targeting methods that work most effectively
  • Market knowledge of competitors, where they are or aren’t successful, and the current market popularity of the tech product you’re offering
  • Common market trends
  • Professionals and suppliers that are good for supporting your business

Product IS important

Yes, the product of a tech start-up is important, but it isn’t ‘all that’. Don’t let tech myths cloud your judgement. A customer base, a defined brand identity, a strong knowledge foundation and talented employees are the bread and butter of successful businesses. Without them, a great product will never leave the production line.