As much as that's mostly true, Strangey, it's not really applicable to the early game.
The biggest difference between races in the early game is how many labs you need to place to get access to basic units. The most important ones are long range frigates and carriers. Long range frigates (LRF) are your damage workhorses. You get the most bang for your buck in terms of damage output from these guys in the early game, and aside from bombers and heavy cruisers they're also the best unit for attacking capital ships. Carriers allow you to bring out fighters and gain air supremacy. Fighters are the only hard counter to long range frigates available until heavy cruisers.
The long range frigates are one of the few types of units that appear at a different tech level for every race. The Vasari get them with 1 lab, the TEC with 2, and the Advent must wait for 3 labs. This makes acquiring them trivial for Vasari, and straightforward for TEC. The catch is Advent, which has two issues. First, three labs is starting to get a little too pricey for an early game unit, and secondly you cannot easily fit three labs into your homeworld. While this is a significant set back to Advent, they have two advantages to compensate. First, their long range frigate is without any question the strongest. Secondly, Advent get their carriers with only two labs, while Vasari and TEC must wait for three. Rounding out your early game unit selection are flak frigates, which are easily accessible to everyone. You typically need two flak frigates per enemy carrier (three against the more expensive Advent carrier) if you have no fighters of your own.
The light frigate, your basic combat unit that you have access to at the start of the game, isn't used that often. Its fast speed means that carriers and other support cruisers cannot run away from it, but otherwise it has little merit. Unless you need to chase carriers, there's not much reason to build light frigates at all. If you see large numbers of carriers, light frigates are a great pick. The key is to scout and know what you need to build. Aside from the fact that the Advent have cheaper and weaker LF, and Vasari have more expensive but tougher LF, there aren't a lot of differences until you research their higher tech level upgrades. They become useful support frigates at that point.
Aside from getting out the right units at the right times, picking your first capital ship is also a priority. For Advent and Vasari, there is an obvious right answer. The Evacuator (often called the "space whale", "space egg" or "death egg") for the Vasari has the ability to colonize planets without need of an expensive colony frigate, and its other abilities are some of the most powerful in the game. Nano disassemblers works wonders against enemy capital ships, particularly in conjunction with those assailants. The Advent have their mothership, which saves you copious sums of money with its colonization ability. It also has one of the best defensive abilities in the game (shield regeneration). You have to really know what you're doing to even consider anything but these two.
For TEC, you have some choice. The Akkan makes a good defensive pick. It can cheaply colonize planets and has good damage output (but it's a side shooter, so half that damage is always facing away from your primary target...), but the flipside is that most of its combat abilities aren't that useful in the early game. The exact opposite is the dreaded Marza, a powerful forward shooter with brutal combat abilities at its disposal. Somewhere in the middle is the Kol, a tough and well rounded battleship. Sova is occasionally picked first, but it's more of a specialized strategy.
Finally, the Hoshiko and Guardian are two support cruisers that often do come out in the early game. Because they have substantial prerequisites they usually come out after carriers, but this is not always the case. They both require three labs and several research prerequisites. Their powers should never be underestimated, as they have brutal defensive properties that can keep your fleet alive for a long time, as well as potent upgrades later in the tech tree that make them extremely dangerous. The Vasari support cruisers are decent, but not worth rushing.
Unless your playing a large map, it is usually foolish to pursue the civilian tech tree early on. The simple fact is that it takes several minutes for those upgrades to pay for themselves (at best...), but a quick rush with high tech military units pays off very quickly if you don't have adequate defenses. It should be noted that culture pays off faster than trade ports, even though trade ports in the long run will generate more cash. The reason is that one culture broadcast center can cover itself and every adjacent planet (for a small empire this is all you need), whereas you need at least two trade ports to even get started with trade. Culture is a huge boon not only to credit income, but also to extractor income, and this gives Advent a nice edge with only two labs. While TEC's early access to trade ports gives them a nice advantage if they're booming and are protected by allies, this is more situational and often times a TEC player simply does not have the time or opportunity to actually take advantage of his early access to trade.