The rewards for solving hard problems
are not that great any longer...
The path from being highly innovative to commonplace has been shortening every consistently. A hundred years ago if you had created something new and innovative, it would have taken a lot of time and money for the rest of the world to catch up to you. That no longer remains the case.
When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007 he said “boy we have patented the hell out of it”. Even so, it did not even take the rest of the industry even a decade to catch up to Apple and produce similar devices. Apple’s only competitive moat today is its processor technology into which it has poured several billion dollars. The only thing keeping them ahead is the amount of money that they can pour into R&D. Xiaomi with no R&D or background in phone manufacturing got into the business in no time!
Aether Energy started as an electric scooter manufacturer from IIT Madras. It took them more than half a decade to release an actual product that could be bought. Today, Aether Energy has not even begun penetrating the market and you hardly see any of their bikes on the roads. Even so, companies like Ola and Bounce are already on the verge of releasing hundreds of thousands of bikes into the market. The technology, knowledge and supply chain that Aether took years to build was far easier to replicate for its competitors.
Years ago, when Flipkart had launched e-commerce in India, logistics was a minefield. Especially trying to collect money through cash on delivery. This forced the company to invent its own logistics and supply chain. Today, it is possible for anybody with an assortment of products to get started because all of the aspects of e-commerce have been modularised and made easily accessible.
Every business is getting modularised.
The rewards for solving hard problems are shorter-lived. For the first movers, this means that they need to be able to take advantage of their innovations in a very short period of time. Scaling needs to be far quicker than it once used to be.
In other words, no matter what you do; if you are successful, competition is inevitable.