You know the feeling when someone scratches a chalkboard? I get the same thing when a startup entrepreneur declares their company has no competitors or no direct rivals. This is usually accompanied with a nice looking graph with lots of check marks for them, and either blanks or X’s for their rivals.
Whenever this happens, the alarm bells go off. It means the startup hasn’t done its homework, it’s ignorant or oblivious to rivals, or it’s guilty of doing a really bad job of trying to pull one over on people.
Truth be told, 99.999% of startups have competitors, no matter how much you want to splice hairs or attempt to position your company differently. The competition may be invisible or low-profile, or it may not seem to be a competitor but they’re, nevertheless, offering the same kind of products and pursuing the same customers.
This is a competitive reality. No matter how much you want to think your startup is unique, there’s somebody somewhere working on or offering the same product. In very, very rare situations, a startup creates a product utterly unique, innovative and fresh.
So rather than dismiss the competitors, be healthily paranoid about them. Drill down to discover who they are, what they do and how they’re better or different. Get a handle on who is going head-to-head, and who’s approaching the market from a different angle.
Spend the time to analyze the competitive landscape to figure out how to best position your startup. And then, even better, drive the business forward by outflanking the competition through better execution, pricing, customer service, sales and marketing.
In other words, kill the competition rather than ignoring or brushing it aside.
Startups who fool themselves into believing they don’t have competitors make themselves vulnerable to failure. It breeds complacency, a lack of urgency and the inability to keep pushing the envelope. It other words, it’s trouble.
So the next time a startup suggests they have no rivals, the automatic respond is “Yeah, right”…or something along those lines.