No Startup Has No Competition

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.

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  • Roger Chabra

    Even if a startup claims to have no “direct” competition (i.e. very similar or identical offering from another company in their industry), they still compete with status quo (the customer “doing nothing” or “not buying anything” option) and even more so with substitutes (“indirect” competition that is still competing for a limited share of wallet within a set of customers). Some of the newer e-commerce models may not have competitors who are directly employing the same model, but at the end of the day they are still competing with other online and offline retailers for a customers clothing budget / dollars.

    • Mark Evans

      Totally agree, which is why it’s puzzles me when startup entrepreneurs claim to have no competition. The reality is it exists even if you can’t see them…or you choose to ignore them.

  • Stephane

    I’d rather have a lot of competition than not at all. For example, how many pizzerias do you find in your city? On the other hand, the shoemaker doesn’t have a lot of competition… but I’d start a pizzeria before a shoemaker business :)

    Bottom line: No competition might mean no market.

    • Mark Evans

      I agree competition is a good thing because it drives innovation and products that meet the needs of consumers. Thank for the comment.

  • Amy

    so would you say that if there are no competitors than do not pursue the business at all? What if it’s a new concept – done in other countries but not the country you want to start-up in?