Bytecoin was a novel tech in 2014 but it had a shady launch. People were interested in the tech and wanted a clean slate so Bitmonero was launched, and it grew naturally. But even that didn't go without humps, and the project was forked away from the original dev.
There are many CryptoNote cryptocurrencies, but Monero became the biggest thanks to the strong community which formed around it, who had to deal with a lot of problems. During the years, the codebase slowly diverged from CN so much it's not recognizeable anymore. Just compare the options in the CLI wallet between Monero and any other CN-clone :)
It's worth noting that original Bytecoin miner was crippled, and it was exposed in part thanks to Monero.
In the early days, there was aslo a rather sophisticated attack on the network which was dealt with.
For most of the time, there was even no GUI, but devs were busy making things "under the hood" work better. One of the coolest things was migration to LMDB for blockchain storage (and recently also for TX-pool).
At the end, all these hurdles only served to strengthen the community.
Finally, Ring CT became a reality in Jan 2017, and now it's the main thing which separates Monero from the rest.
So, I'd say it's the people which make all the difference. People who care more about the project than their speculative gains.