In the startup space, competition is inevitable regardless of what product, service or industry you are servicing. Competition can be a healthy thing to fuel your ambitions and propel your startup even further. Or it can be a company’s downfall if it doesn’t stay true to its unique offering and business philosophy.
OnStartups.com recently wrote 13 Ways to Think About and Crush Your Competition. Here are a few thoughts we wanted to re-share with you:
You are your biggest competitor
You are often your biggest competitor. You should not completely ignore your competition, but the biggest battle happens inside of the four walls of your startup’s office. Startups come down to pure execution of a strategy on a daily basis and maintaining the faith for the long haul. Most startups don’t lose to competition, but because they lose the will to fight.
Copycats don’t have the roadmap
Before someone like Google comes along to compete with you, a slew of copycats will spring up. We recently had this happen with Onswipe as an unoriginal 100% ripoff popped up using our name to gain press with a shoddy product. Along the way, a copycat will constantly try to play fast follower by copying your latest and greatest feature. The problem is the fact that, copycats are always one step behind and often stay that way. They never started out creating the company as a problem they wanted to solve, but as a way to capitalize on the great opportunity that you shed light upon. The copycats will create confusion in the marketplace, which should be your greatest worry. Potential customers may ask how you are different than them. The way to combat this is to sell more than just the current snapshot in time, but the longer-term vision. Since the copycat does not have your startup’s longer-term vision, you can out sell them.
Focus on the normals
Pinterest has become a huge success and has grown tremendously over the past year. The largest part of Pinterest’s success story has not been its adoption by the inner circle of Silicon Valley or sex crazed college students, but those of women from Middle America. Most competitors will come into the market and try to create buzz amongst the early adopters of the tech community. Instead of falling into this trap, try to attract the normal users of the world ie- women in the Midwest or a teenager that wants to find new music. It’s hard to reach this audience and once you have a grasp on it, it will be hard for a competitor to come in and compete against you.
Avoiding the build versus buy problem
Many startups will not be competing with other startups, but with the internal development teams of their larger customers. Moveable Type lost the blogging wars to WordPress by not moving themselves towards being a fully flexible platform. Instead of having conversations that are a build versus buy scenario where it’s either your startup or your customer’s internal development team, you should be positioning yourself into a build OR buy scenario. In order to do this, your product needs to become a platform that others can build upon to meet their needs. This will let you grow overtime to meet the needs of any customer without sacrificing your own roadmap. This will often require you to sacrifice some short-term gains for long-term sustainability. Any and all changes you make to your software have to be applicable to the greater good of the platform. That means no custom development and no bending to the wills of customers’ crazy demands.