When Early Adopters Don't Adopt

Individuals who naturally adopt a new technology early are important for influencing whether and how the technology diffuses more broadly among later users. Such natural early adopters (NEAs) may influence the difference between successful diffusion of new technology and failure. Yet the factors that most influence how and why NEAs engage with new technologies are not entirely understood.We asked, "What if natural early adopters are not able to adopt early?" This paper is the first to measure the counterfactual diffusion curve that occurs when NEAs are not allowed to adopt early. The results suggest that NEAs can stifle broader diffusion of a technology if their usual ability to be first—and to derive value from being first—is compromised. Small changes in the initial availability of a technology among different types of users can have a lasting effect on its potential.