How to be David When There’s a Goliath

For most startups, being to market first with a new idea or service is a rarity and luxury. For everyone else, the market is usually dominated by one or two players, even if the market is still in the early stages.

It can be intimidating to have another startup with a strong foothold, not only with customers but in terms of awareness and media/blog coverage. It can look like an uphill battle in which a fledgling startup is scrambling to gain traction and credibility.

So, what does it take for a startup (aka David) to battle a Goliath, even if the Goliath is another startup?

At a high level, it means taking a different approach that can separate a new startup from the pack in some way. It could be better design, UI, UX, customer service, marketing or pricing (although pricing is a short-cut). It could be a matter of being more creative, flexible, agile or opportunistic.

One of the realities for many market leaders is the danger of complacency. With large market share and a strong brand presence, it can be easy to lose your competitive edge. This can open a window of opportunity for new player to move quickly to move the ball forward. The wins may be small but as long as they keep coming, they add up over time.

The most important thing for “David” startups is recognizing that having a good product at the right price isn’t nearly good enough. It gets you in the game but it’s table stakes. To battle Goliath, you need to be better, faster, more user-friendly and flexible.

At the end of the day, it could see David become a strong player but still be a David.  This isn’t a bad thing because it means you have a viable business that always has the potential to close the gap if Goliath stumbles, loses its competitive focus or stops improving and evolving its products.

The bottom line is not to be daunted or afraid of Goliath. Instead, focus on what you do best and then make it a mandate to do even better.

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  • Casandra

    I couldn’t agree more! Don’t be afraid of competition, but don’t ignore it either. What can you do better that will be meaningful for your customers? Focus on that.

  • Justin Keith

    Competition is only an opportunity to be better!

  • Chris Carder

    At ThinData we took down giants (in the form of the American Email Service Providers like Doubleclick) n a daily basis…it wasn’t features or price. It was LOVE. In the world of B2B often, the giants let their attention drift to only the latest greatest accounts they are pursuing and they take their eyes off their existing account base. When we won the single largest email marketing contract in Canada, it was because we stepped up as Founders offered to “wake up every morning” thinking and dreaming about what we could do for that client…whereas the giant might not return their phone calls the same day…don’t underestimate the power of being the President and the Founder at the table and the power of your promise to do something truly magical for that outstanding foundation account.

    • Mark Evans

      Thanks for the insight. I think the advantage that many startups have is a 100% focus on meeting the needs of customers, and the ability to be flexible, agile and a determination to succeed.