first-mover advantage
n. The advantage a company gains by being first to market with a new product or service.

Example Citations:
“It’s absolutely true that nothing can make up for first-mover advantage, and the proof is that Yahoo! remains where it is today and eBay remains where it is, despite the entry of many other companies into those vertical categories,” said Lucas Graves, a Latin American Internet specialist at high-tech research company Jupiter Communications in New York.
—Dorren Hemlock, “Mass Production Hits the Web,” Sun-Sentinel (Florida), December 3, 1999

“Thrunet is the key way to play this sector,” Mr Sarathy said. He recently put a three-month price target of $ 100 a share, 50.94 per cent above its closing price last week.

The company had a first-mover advantage in the broadband market and was the first Korean Internet company to list on Nasdaq.
—Stephen Seawright, “Wired-up Korea may offer rich pickings,” South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), December 28, 1999,

Earliest Citation:
It may be very costly for an imitator to backward-engineer a new central processing unit or a digital widget. When this is the case, the innovator protected by property rights and the first-mover advantage can appropriate much of the social benefit from his investment — and maybe even more.
—Janusz A. Ordover, “Economic Foundations and Considerations in Protecting Industrial and Intellectual Property,” Antitrust Law Journal, October 11, 1984

Notes:
Rumor has it that the phrase first-mover advantage derives from the board game Monopoly, where the first person to "move into" a property with houses, hotels, etc. has a big advantage (especially on the more expensive properties).

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