One of the first questions that you get when you tell anyone your startup ideas is “has anyone already done it.”
Usually the implication is, if someone has already done it, that you aren’t a “first mover,” your idea isn’t unique, and you are most likely doomed to fail. This discourages a lot of people. It shouldn’t.
In fact, the opposite is often true. If no one has tested out an idea, you are shooting in the dark. You need to build market awareness, test market demand, prove there is a viable business model, A/B test, determine popular content, figure out what websites to advertise on, test ad copy, figure out which backlinks are achievable, and learn from your own mistakes instead of others… all from scratch.
It’s also interesting that people tend to subject only startups to this way of thinking. No one usually tells someone opening a pizza shop that it’s a bad idea because there’s millions of pizza shops all over the country. No one tells a patent lawyer that he should probably close up shop because he didn’t invent the field of patent law.
Often, when you actually examine a lot of the most successful startups, they weren’t actually the first movers. Facebook was not the first social network. Myspace and Friendster paved the way for their success. Google was not the first search engine. Yahoo and Alta Vista came before. It’s possible that if Google and Facebook were the first of their kind, that they wouldn’t have reached the heights of success that they did. If you are forced to figure out too many of the basics on the fly, it is difficult to focus on building unique advantages in product or execution.