January 12th, 2022 | By: Wil Schroter
Competition tends to be a distraction that's 100 feet taller than the reality.
As startup Founders, we've all had that moment when we thought our very existence was going to end because some competitor made some announcement that would crush us. We worry constantly that we're going to "lose to our competition" when in fact who we really lose to is our customer, and by way of that, our own product.
We need to rethink how competition really affects us, or in many cases, sorta doesn't.
We have this mentality that one company, whether it's ours or our competitors, will "dominate" the market and take all of the market share. We will be insane and penniless wondering how we ever succumbed to that evil genius and their henchmen!
But if that were true, then guess what — we'd only have one of every product on the planet. There would be one pair of blue jeans, one phone, one streaming service, one can of soda. And yet magically, we have more than one. Why is that?
That's because as crazy as it sounds, consumers have preferences. They choose their products and brands for a multitude of different reasons, from brand affinity to price to perhaps what they just see first when they go to make a selection. The winner may take some, but they almost never take all, which means there's plenty of room to compete and build great companies in the process.
As consumers, when we are thinking about products, in almost every case we compare them. But what we don't do is buy a totally inferior product and say "Oh this works great!" A shit product is still a shit product.
Our job is to produce a great product, regardless of whether or not we've got the same resources as some other wildly funded or market darling competitor. Let them hog the spotlight, let's just be heads down building a kick-ass product that our customers love.
We build great startups by staying 100% focused on what our customers want, and how we can delight them. We don't necessarily have to be the biggest now, or maybe ever. Uber was all the rage and yet somehow magically Lyft is a public company too.
It doesn't hurt to keep an eye on the competition, but too much focus is actually a step backward. Instead of trying to match them on features or create a bigger "market signal" we're way better off spending more time with our own customers, listening more closely, and supporting the hell out of them.
The most dangerous competitor is one who actually doesn't care about the competition. They are so intently focused on building what they believe is the best possible product that what their competition does is incidental to them.
It starts with us, as Founders, and where we put our focus. Our energy and dedication will be radiated across our company, and ultimately be felt by our customers where it really matters. That's how we make our competition irrelevant.
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Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes Bizplan, Clarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.