Is it accurate to say that there is no such thing as first mover's advantage, and the only advantage is to be the first to Product Market Fit?

Product market fit is more important (than first mover advantage), but being the first mover can be an important advantage getting to product market fit faster.  

Whether or not you are the first mover, your best chance of finding product market fit is getting a product to market quickly.  The only advantage of being first is that it puts you in a position to respond the fastest to the customer feedback loop.  You still need to be better at responding than your competitors and hopefully have other advantages up your sleeve (like access to more capital).

As others have pointed out, even after initial product market fit is achieved, it's still very important to continue being responsive to customer feedback (acting on the most relevant emerging problems and opportunities).   The original opportunity is not a static finish line, but rather a constantly evolving opportunity.  It is never permanently owned by any of the movers.

What factors make success difficult to achieve for startups that compete in the same product space as those startups backed by the Paypal Mafia?

1. They are likely not going to fund you.
2. From point 1 – it leads to distribution, introductions, talent acquisition, et al.
3. Their network may have also already invested in your competitor – or have heard of your competitor and benchmark non-PM against PM startups.

There's still chance though! Localize it in Germany or become one of a thousand clones in China.

What are examples of markets where the second (or other later entrant) won? People often say that there is a first mover advantage in many industries, especially ones with network effects. And why did they win?

  1. Per Chris Dixon's count, Google was the 11th Search Engine.
  2. If you consider Facebook a social "network," it trumped both Friendster and MySpace.
  3. LinkedIn has displaced or is displacing Monster, CareerBuilder, HotJobs.  In fact, I believe LinkedIn's valuation now exceeds that of Monster.com's.  LinkedIn also displaced Plaxo, at least in part.
  4. YouTube launched significantly after Google Video.
  5. Yelp has surpassed CitySearch in traffic and reviews, and should supplant CitySearch in revenues sooner, rather than later.

Is Quora competitive with Gerson Lehrman Group?

I used GLG's resources when I was a management consultant.  I think there are several main differences for why you would choose one over the other:

  1. Type of question.  If you just have a one off question about a topic, Quora is the best place for open forum discussion.  If you're really curious about a topic, and need an expert to walk you through the concepts, GLG is probably better because you can schedule an hour long interview with an expert.
  2. Vetted backgrounds.  This is a mix, but when we consult with someone from GLG, we always assume that someone has conducted due diligence on their background, and they are who they say they are.  In Quora, you have a mix: self proclaimed experts, people who are C-level in their companies, etc.
  3. Personal stake/biases.  For the most part, when you broach a topic with a GLG person, you have a pretty good sense of why they're answering your question (payment for expertise, and sometimes you can deduct biases from their background write-up).  The people who answer your Quora questions are a self-selecting group, they are personally interested in this topic, are sometimes interested in promoting a company, etc.

Can founders of competing companies realistically be friends?

Yes.

What it comes down to is respect. If you have quality competition that keeps you on your toes with marketing and product features that are clever and cutting-edge, you'll be on your best game. I'm friends with James Byers and Aaron Levie  – both of whom run services that periodically vigorously compete for business with my company. I cheerfully call these people "nemeses" and not enemies because you don't want them to fail or to crush them; you just want them to do not quite as well as you and to earn their respect in turn.

It seems pretty similar to the concept of "sportsmanlike conduct" – you respect those that you're playing against, even as you want to win.

Who wins in the long run — Chatter or Yammer?

Yammer is a startup and Chatter is, basically, a Salesforce.com feature. Organizations using Salesforce.com who want an easier way to keep tabs on Twitter and Facebook will favor Chatter. Groups that have lots of non-sales people that shouldn't be burdened with learning to use Salesforce will favor Yammer. Yammer costs less, Force does more (than most users need).

Is Quora more of a "relationship-discovery" engine rather than a Q&A site?

Quora's main purpose, as its name suggests, is Question or Answer. That was what it was originally designed for, though many things can grow beyond their original intentions.

The very nature of Q & A utilizes the complexities of language and relationships. We must use language in certain degrees to explain complex ideas to others, who can then read it and hopefully learn. In another part of this relationship, we can be eager to learn about a certain topic, subscribe, and read the answers provided. Thus (while this might sound obvious), in order for a person to read answers, another person must write them. This creates a complex social relationship between those asking questions, those answering questions, those commenting, and those reading.

This, in turn, can quite certainly lead to 'relationship discovery', as I have certainly found many incredibly intelligent and passionate people that I would certainly like to talk to in person. I have talked to these people through the use of following topics, following questions, following people, and reading answers. Some answers I agree with, some I do not. Regardless of my response, I still am creating some instance of a relationship.

Hence, I believe that 'relationship discovery' is simply a part of human nature, regardless of the social network, and is not the main aim of Quora. It would be somewhat similar to asking, "Is Facebook more of a game platform than a social networking site?" (though, obviously, not quite as pertinent because one can use Facebook without playing the games etc).

Instead, it's becoming is more than simply Q & A, and more than simply relationship discovery; Quora is, in essence, becoming a central repository of meaningful discussions, answers, and specific, subjective knowledge on the Web.

Facebook (product) is becoming a central repository of our social relationships.
Twitter (product) is becoming a central repository of our short-message discussions, thoughts, and so on.
Google Maps, Foursquare, & SCVNGR are becoming central repositories of places, businesses, and consumer habits.
Last.fm is becoming a central repository of our music listening habits and tastes.
YouTube is becoming a central repository of video communication around the web.

When one asks Google (company) a question (that is, they search for a result of an answer), they are presented with a series of websites which hopefully contain the answer. Bing also does this, and is getting much better. Wolfram|Alpha was released to a lot of buzz, as it was the idea of a 'decision engine' instead of a search engine–instead of finding a page, one was simply presented with the answer. Wikipedia has a series of articles which explain hundreds of thousands of topics, but never go into depth about specific topics.
Quora, however, is essentially going after the same result as Wolfram|Alpha and Wikipedia, except it is using social communication in the form of Q & A to create this.

Wolfram|Alpha is difficult to create, as it requires an incredible amount of data and algorithms that must be constantly computed in order to find results. This allows it to be malleable (such as a graphics calculator) and used in different contexts. Wikipedia, however, is designed to follow an encyclopedia-style of site, which can be edited by anyone. Subjective events, such as opinions, are meant to be kept out of Wikipedia's writing as much as possible.
In contrast, Quora has details on many opinionated and subjective questions that a site like Wolfram|Alpha simply cannot attack using data and algorithms alone, and Wikipedia simply cannot go into detail about–people drive Quora's content, algorithms drive Wolfram|Alpha's content, and referenced knowledge drives Wikipedia's content. All three want to store the world's knowledge but using different methods.

In the future, instead of Googling a question, you can simply see if someone has asked it on Quora. If they have, then your answer should be right there. Hopefully, if the site's community is capable of self-regulating (which is the purpose behind Upvotes, Downvotes, Improvements, and Edits), the top answer(s) should be just as, if not better to read (as they involve a humanized aspect) than – as an example – Wikipedia's equivalent article on the same topic.

See also

  • Is it bad to ask questions on Quora that could easily be answered via a Google search?
  • Why do people use Quora to ask questions when Google or Wikipedia would be sufficient?
  • On Quora, can you answer your own question? Is it bad form to answer your own question? ("Think about Quora as an accumulating database of knowledge.")
  • Will Quora replace questions you ask on Google?
  • When will Quora open up its content to be indexed by Google and other search engines?

tl;dr Quora is more about knowledge accumulation (through Q&A) than relationship discovery, though the relationship discovery aspect has certainly helped it propel forward in terms of users and content.