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.