On Competitors

Note to future self…

Lately, I noticed that something changed in the way I perceive potential competitors. In the past, I would be bummed out whenever I found that another company is tackling the exact same problem that we’re trying to solve. This informed the projects that we worked on, our positioning, our business model and even our level of ambition.

After working on a couple of different projects over the last 9 months, my views on competition have changed dramatically. Here’s how:

  1. Competition signals demand: if no one is trying to serve the market that you’re trying to serve maybe it means that there’s no demand.
  2. Not all competition is created equal: maybe your competitors serve the same market as you do or maybe they solve the exact same pain point in the exact same way. Competition can be evaluated across multiple facets. Figuring out where you stand in relationship to your competitors and what makes you different is crucial.
  3. Competitors are the competition until they’re not: there are multiple cases where a bunch of companies tried to solve an obvious problem and no one was able to “crack it” until someone suddenly did. Ride-sharing is probably a great example of this. There were multiple companies working on ridesharing before Uber & Lyft. However, these two did something different and were able to “crack the problem”. If you were starting Uber back then, you might have been intimidated by other competitors that had a headstart or a lot more funding. In hindsight, none of that mattered.

Playing Devil’s Advocate

A counterargument to my views on competitors can be that competition doesn’t matter at all. If you can identify a huge problem that no one has solved and you know how to solve it, then your company will win. Similarly, if you can create something that people find incredibly valuable and/or entertaining, you will win no matter how many competitors can also do that.

Takeaways

Thinking about competition is only useful insofar it helps you move ahead. Understand where you’re fall on the map but remember that the map is not the territory(:

Now back to work…