slow and steady loses the race.

January 7, 2011

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Slow and steady wins the race. The tortoise beats the hare. For our entire lives, even in our childhood stories, this idea has been ingrained into our consciousness. In reality however, especially in the competitive world of software, this is very rarely a good philosophy. In fact, it’s often a primary cause of startups going bust, or indie developers failing to make the cut.

Lets face it, the software world is a cut-throat business. Whether on Windows, Mac, iOS or other mobile devices, there is very rarely just one developer with a product in a specific niche. Consequently, there is an ever-present struggle for supremacy in the business. Whether it be in having the most features, the best UI, or otherwise, every developer is trying to raise their app to a level above the rest. To succeed in a saturated software niche, or in a new niche, speed is essential for two main reasons:

First in Wins: In any market, it is very often the first product to arrive that is the most successful. Now obviously that is a very generalized statement, and there are hugely successful companies which beg to differ (Facebook for example) but as a general rule in the modern-day game it works. If you have a revolutionary idea, the first to market with that idea will have the best chance at success. Major news publications will write about the first with this great new product, but rarely the second: and media coverage is everything in the software world. Consequently, slow and steady will very rarely win the race to profitability: Even if your product is of a higher quality than those who release first, it’s going to be very hard to catch up in terms of user numbers. First in wins.



React or Fail: In an already saturated software niche, as a developer you are surrounded by competition who are constantly trying to ‘one-up’ other developers. That means fast reactions in terms of features or functionality is essential. If you, for example, release an app that makes farmyard noises, and the next developer releases a similar app which makes farmyard and jungle noises; you better react fast to implement that feature or your market share will crumble. Who would buy an app with just farmyard noises, when you can get both farmyard and jungle for the same price? Now obviously thats a ridiculous example, but the central point stands: reacting fast is everything, the tortoise will lose.

Forget this particular childhood philosophy, and your chances of success will be far greater. Release quickly, update quickly and innovate quickly, and you will succeed.


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