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Don’t Worry About Startup Competitors

startup competitionI’m working with a startup, and every once in a while an email pops up from someone who has stumbled upon a new rival. The tone of the email is a combination of alarm and surprise: how could there be other startups offering the same kind of service?

While I usually take a look at these startups to see what they’re doing and saying, their existence shouldn’t change much aside from highlighting there are other players trying to solve the same problems and pursuing the same target audiences.

Competition is a fact of life. No one has a monopoly on a good idea, and if someone does come up with a good idea, it will, like bees to honey, attract many other companies trying to capitalize on it.

While startups shouldn’t ignore competitors, they’re better off focusing on their time and energy on their own business and how they’re executing strategically and tactically.

Given competition is a constant reality, startups need to outflank rival by having a better or more user-friendly product, meeting the needs of their customers, telling their story in a more compelling or interesting way, and establishing themselves as a viable option for potential customers.

So what should startups do about competitors?

They should definitely track who’s playing in the space, keep an eye on them and what’s been said about them. This will offer the competitive intelligence needed to stay agile and, hopefully, ahead of the pack.

What startups shouldn’t do about rivals is get spooked or distracted by their existence or the fact they’re doing something different. The danger is that spending too much time focused on what competitors are doing means time and energy is taken away from what you’re doing.

Any advice on what startups should do about competitors?

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  • http://twitter.com/evelynso Evelyn So

    Excellent advice, Mark. I recently encountered exactly that. While disappointed at first, I also felt great that my idea has been validated. The next step is to figure out how to keep to my original vision with similar (in this case, the same!) product out there.

  • http://abdallahalhakim.tumblr.com/ Abdallah Al-Hakim

    very good post. I do agree that focusing on building a great product  delivery and retaining customers should be taking up the majority of time at a startup. A startup that is focused and builds a strong product almost always wins. Still, make sure you do the homework about the competition is you are pitching to investors because that question will definitely be asked.

  • http://twitter.com/eBeancounter STBeancounter

    I agree Mark. Know who the other players in the space are, and keep an eye on what they’re doing to gain a competitive advantage (if necessary). But maintain your focus on building a “better mousetrap”. After all, competition is a fact of life.