Start Up Blog

Shifting advantage & contrarian actions

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on January 26, 2009

Once upon a time savvy surfers would get down to the beach early. It was the way to get smooth, uncrowded waves. To step into the ocean at dawn and share the tranquil waters with a few other dedicated salty skin brethren.

This was such an advantage that more and more surfers adopted this method of soul (and sole) surfing. Until the point arrived when there were more people in the line up before there was any daylight. You could often arrive at your favourite surf break only to find the largest crowd of the day was between 5am and 8am. It got ridiculous, the crowd had caught on.  There is now zero advantage in getting up early to go surfing.

crowded-surf1

I got so annoyed with the crowds, that I decided to sleep in on surfing days regardless. Why get to the beach early and be greeted with the largest surfing population the day has to offer? It wasn’t worth the effort. So I started heading down the coast at either 10am or 2pm. I still avoided midday, but shifted my surfing times to mid morning and afternoon.

Next thing I found was that my ‘contrarian’ actions had resulted in a boon. Uncrowded waves and a sleep in! Turns out most people rarely surf for more than a couple of hours. So even the early morning laggards start to exit the water mid morning.  My current example, was two days ago: I went surfing in a very popular location near Torquay, in 37 degree c warm weather, had perfect waves and only one other person in the water at 2pm. No surfer would believe this is happening.

uncrowded-surfing

The point for entrepreneurs is; Like the waves, positioning advantage is constantly shifting. What is an advantage this year, will certainly change next year. But we will never know this if we always accept conventional wisdom of ‘where to be and when’.

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2 Responses

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  1. Ross Hill said, on January 26, 2009 at 11:51 pm

    I love this!

  2. Andre Sammartino said, on January 27, 2009 at 9:24 am

    It also reflects the unthinking “me too” behaviour of many new entrants to markets. They unquestioningly adopt the “common practice” on the assumption that it is the only way to “win”…


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