When I jumped into the startup world in 2000 with Blanketware, we truly believed we had an idea no one else had discovered. So, it was a shock when we stumbled on other startups also focused on the giving users an easy way to find and online services.
Despite our entrepreneurial enthusiasm, the idea of competition, while a reality, wasn’t something we had considered. After all, our idea was so unique and novel, and we were so smart, it was hard to believe someone else could come up with a similar concept.
At first, we were spooked. The open road with no competition had suddenly evaporated. Suddenly, we were looking at companies that were better than us or getting traction we weren’t experiencing. It put us on our collective heels.
In time, however, we recognized competition is one of the harsh realities of doing a startup. While you may like to think no one else has developed a better mousetrap, there are lots people working on the same idea.
I was recently reminded about the realities of the competitive landscape by a friend who has a startup making impressive progress. Over the past few weeks, he has discovered several competitors, including one that has attracted significant users and brands.
In looking at these rivals, my initial reaction was “interesting but not surprising”. To not have competition would be a concern because it suggests the idea may be ahead of its time, it hasn’t resonated with users, or there is no demand for your product.
Competition is healthy because it forces a startup to be aggressive, pro-active and focused on doing a better and/or different job to meet the needs of customers. A good idea will only get a startup so far, it’s how you develop and push the idea that matters.
Another important consideration is having an idea and starting a company is the easy part. In the scheme of things, it’s easy to develop technology, hire employees, create a slick logo and raise some money.
The hard part is execution, which involves the combination of technology, marketing and sales to create a viable business. This is where many startups with great ideas go off the rails because they can’t make the leap from idea to business.
For startups, it means while there might be rivals with impressive looking Web sites and customers, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re executing. At the end of the day, he or she who executes the best wins.
Bottom line: Don’t be afraid of competition. Recognize it, learn from it, leverage it…and focus on executing better.