First is a monopoly

I have stated this before and will reiterate: FIRST operates as a monopoly and exhibits behaviors typical of one. Unfortunately, we don’t see other programs like FRC because, if we did, FIRST would have to change how it handles its operations. A prime example of this dynamic is FTC, which faces competition from VEX. Would FTC be as user-friendly without the pressure from VEX? I don’t believe it would.


Can you give examples instead of just saying that FRC is a monopoly?


Would you mind elaborating on this? It’s hard to take the contentious argument, “FIRST is a monopoly,” seriously when you provide no evidence.

Edit: david sniped me

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A monopoly exists when only one company can supply an essential product or service in a given region because of significant barriers to entry for any competitor. The barriers can be legal, regulatory, economic, or geographic. In the absence of competitors, a monopoly company can raise its prices, restrict its production, or safely ignore customer service concerns. Let’s look at some examples of monopolistic markets.

Using this definition, I do not see FIRST as a monopoly. Please provide examples of how you consider them a monopoly. There doesn’t appear to be anything from preventing another company from creating a high school level robotics competition.

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Nope, that’s a public monopoly, like your utility suppliers: What Is a Monopoly? Types, Regulations, and Impact on Markets

An organization can be a monopoly when they deal with non-essential products or services.

I still have no idea what OP is getting at.


A private monopoly occurs when a single privately-owned company controls a particular market niche to the extent that they wield significant power and influence over the market. A private monopoly is one that is owned by an individual or a group of individuals. These monopolies mainly aim for profits.

Hard to aim for profits when you are a non-profit.

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How about. You must buy your hotels though us. This is increasing costs on teams for no valid reason.

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Another example of how first acts like a monopoly. My old team ran off seasons we used the field from MAR and a rule was written forbidding us form including other STEM programs while running the offseason event. This prevented our team funds needed to complete in First.

I’m confused by a number of things in your post. To start, you say that FIRST is a monopoly but then use FTC (read: FIRST Tech Challenge) is a counterexample. Is your argument that FIRST as a whole is a monopoly but some of their programs are not? Or are you just using FIRST and FRC interchangeably?

Next, your examples (which you provided in later replies) don’t describe monopolistic behavior.

As a general tip for arguing your point: assume your audience doesn’t already know what you’re talking about and doesn’t already agree with you opinion and try to convince them. I’m not convinced.


For context in wherever this leads…


A non-profit can still monopolize a market (see United Way).

FRC enjoys monopoly status through the same mechanism as, for example, Facebook. The value of Facebook is almost entirely in the number of users. A startup in that space is of almost no value to consumers as it has no users.

It would almost take a state-level actor to generate the up-front userbase to compete (say if Michigan started its own Robotics competition separate from FIRST).


Also incorrect?

Non-profits still make profit, and aim to do so. They have to re-invest the money into the organization itself, not give it out to shareholders.

I’m not sure if you intended to refute my statement about monopolies being able to exist even when non-essential services are involved?

On the other hand, if everyone is here just to complain, I suppose I should stop trying to correct people on the internet who are wrong.


In the spirit of CD and summer CD, I’m going to try to engage with the ideas of the OP in good faith. My apologies that some of you will inevitably read what I have written after this. Take comfort in that I engage with this in the spirit of summer more than anything else.

FIRST is a monopoly” is hardly a new thought. Most people that post this as if it is some revelation seem to be doing so under the misunderstanding that it is somehow novel.

If we decompose it a little bit, we see in the present day a combination of statements that could be coming from or leading to a variety of conclusions. In this case, the statements of the OP are that:

1: FIRST operates and exhibits behavior of a monopoly
2: We don’t see other programs like FRC because FIRST would have to change their operations (I will generously read this as a misstatement, and read this not as the non-sequitor that it is, but as “If FIRST had competition, it would be forced to change its operations”
3: The implication of the repaired #2 being that FIRST would be improved by this process
4: FTC has already been improved by this “competition” from VRC

The context of #1 is borrowed from a lay-person’s understanding of economics, and the assumption that FIRST acts like a profit-seeking venture. This is not an uncommon view of non-profits (despite their name and nature) and their ecosystems, even if it is somewhat flawed and, the kids might say “terminally capitalism brained.” It informs the statement #2, which is similarly capitalism-oriented in its assumption that competition will lead to a better user experience. Using FTC as an example of “user-experience derived from competition” to me betrays a lack of involvement in and/or knowledge of FTC, a program that for years has been perceived by participants and opaque, mismanaged, and directionless. While this is an appealing through process to someone who is business-minded, I think it has a significant flaw, which is that it assumes an amorality and indeed malice that is inherent to a large business venture.It poses this as a zero-sum game-- FIRST exists to extract profit from me as an individual and my community as a whole. This is an adversarial view that is toxic to a long-term involvement in the program-- I am continually surprised by how many people seem to hold views adjacent to this and yet don’t play it out to its natural ends. To be explicit, in this view, FIRST (the organization) has changed how Champs hotels are run to extract more undue profit from teams. This is where I think this falls apart a bit— as FIRST is composed of people, they must have a way to extract this value from the company to themselves somehow, but publicly available evidence in the form of their tax filings does not suggest this is really the case. So I personally have a hard time buying this view, or seeing is as an adequate view of FIRST (the organization)’s overall behaviors.

I might instead propose a view I think is more convincing, though still quite flawed:

FIRST is a fundamentally evangelical organization. It exists to preserve itself and evangelize the process of learning STEM through its own programs. Decisions it makes are similarly oriented towards self-preservation first and evangelizing second. The cause does not exist to be examined, it exists to be spread. Critique, while natural to the many people who are a part of this community, is not necessarily natural or conducive to an evangelical organization. The excommunication and rejection of other false faiths is. While I believe there has been some movement away from this model, starting in the community and bleeding into the non-profit at the center of this all, I would posit that viewing and managing expectations as someone external to FIRST (the organization) is better and more productively served with the understanding that FIRST (the organization) wants primarily to preserve and propagate itself, and FIRST (the community) can and should be influencing it to do that in a responsible way, which is and likely will continue to be a process of communication and iteration. In this view, FIRST might be understood to believe itself to be acting in the interest of self-preservation or in the interest of furthering its evangelical directive to grow its programs by doing this. Similarly to the view of FIRST as a monopoly, it is immoral in taking this action, though organizationally it may believe itself (rightly or wrongly) to be in honest pursuit of its goals.

Lastly, out of a desire to not be terribly misunderstood, I present something closer to what I believe:

FIRST (the organization and community) is a combination of those things and more. The vast majority of people at HQ believe they are in pursuit of creating a better future through access to FIRST’s programs. Their actions, while often well intentioned, are subject to the restrictions of any non-omniscient being, and while they have the potential to do harm, and have done it in the past, and must be held accountable for this, any participating individual in FIRST (the community) has to weigh that against real and perceived benefit. I am not sure how or why people continue to participate in this program while apparently existing under the belief that it cannot, in whatever ways matter to them, be a net good. I certainly wouldn’t.

Again, I apologize to the reader for providing them with the opportunity to subject themselves to this sort of unproductive navel-gazing, and humbly submit my offering to the bloodthirsty deity that is Summer CD.


Agreed, just wanted to point out the fact as we continue to discuss. Their primary goal is not to make money, it’s to inspire young people and build the future.




I would argue that FRC is not a monopoly in all markets it is present in however. Example, in Türkiye we have the quasi-public Teknofest, which is massive, but it is massive because they don’t charge / pay teams to exist. Meanwhile, FRC costs an insane 6000$ and still grows rapidly, despite the difference in cost. But in my region we definitely have competition in the high school space. None of it is the same thing exactly as FRC, but lots of robotics competitions run in the high school space. (FLL also competes, WRO, VEX, etc.)


(fire post tho)



I occasionally forget that this term can apply to some of the most evil, misguided, and enabling groups in society.


I think the first question that you aught to be asking is “if this is a monopoly, is that a bad thing?”

An “enforced monopoly” where new entrants are prohibited from entering a space either by uncommunicative practices or government regulation (often as a result of lobbying) is what people generally think of when you hear “monopoly” used in a disparaging way. We recognize that steps were taken that unfairly disadvantage competition and often hurt the consumer. But an “enforced monopoly” is not the only kind.

The alternative is a “natural monopoly” which “occurs when a single company can produce and offer to sell a product or service at a lower cost than its competitors can, resulting in practically no competition in the market”. Though this still results in a lack of competition, it’s not because the organization took any particular steps to discourage new entrants into a market but simply because they can offer a better/cheaper product than anyone else. Likewise, in some markets, having multiple competitors just doesn’t make sense due to the logistics or startup cost of something, and an existing company may benefit from the effects of being “first-in, best-dressed”, which results in consumers preferring that company, even when alternatives arise.

I would argue FIRST (FRC) falls into this category.

We don’t generally dislike natural monopolies because the consumer often benefits from them, and the only thing stopping the breaking of such monopolies are simply things like having a better product, enough start-up capital, or the public “will” for a competitor to exist.


FTC is user friendly?