Coming in Second: When Being a ‘Fast Follower’ Is the Best Strategy

Maintaining Momentum

Despite research indicating that many first-to-market companies incur steep declines in customer demand, not all early movers suffer this dismal fate. To capture market share and retain this
leading position, early movers must continually innovate.

“Once you set your technology as the industry standard, you must make it increasingly difficult for followers to catch up,” says Sungkyunkwan University’s Gotsopoulos. “You do that by making your product or service increasingly more responsive to customer needs.”

“We’re in a constant mode of asking ‘What do you need, what can we do better?’.”

BlackLine, the market-leading provider of integrated financial close automation technology, fits this profile. Launched in 2001 with a handful of employees to automate a single client’s account reconciliation process, the company was the pioneer in the soon-to-burgeon financial automation market.

Today, it serves more than 950 clients, from major enterprise-level companies through the mid-market tier, and tallies over 300 employees.

In between is a story of listening to client complaints about their other time-consuming, manual processes to close the books, and then acting upon this information. “We’re in a constant mode of asking ‘What do you need, what can we do better?’” says Therese Tucker, BlackLine founder and CEO. “Much of our functionality derives from customers expressing an issue and us working on ways to fix it.”

For instance, when corporate accountants grumbled about having to manually file journal entries, BlackLine developed an automated solution taking the drudgery out of the process. When they carped about having to manually reconcile and settle intercompany transactions, and manually identify deviations in the balance sheet and P&L statement, two additional functions were added to BlackLine’s growing platform. The technology simply kept getting better, innovation after innovation. Accountants were liberated to focus on value-added tasks, their CFOs acquired enhanced visibility into business data, and controllers gained more control over reporting and compliance.

Not only has BlackLine been able to maintain its market lead over second-to-market competitors like Trintech, but its growing solutions platform also encouraged Gartner to create an entirely
new category of financial technology—Enhanced Finance Controls and Automation. “We’ve learned that to stay on top, you have to be more creative than your competitors,” Tucker says. Or as Gotsopoulos puts it, “Never leave room for seconds.”

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