Friends of mine share their concerns of competitors creeping up on their idea, stealing users and abolishing all their hard earned work. In the gaming industry this is quite common and we see many “copycat” games released soon after a successful game reaches market. There is also the possibility of having a competitor and not knowing it, which sometimes can be more fearful to have an unnamed enemy. I also have friends who have managed to monopolize a market quickly and done a great job of being one step ahead, but there is also the Silicon Valley tales of all the first-timers who got paved over. Some examples have merit, others exaggerated in start-up folklore.
For us (ConsumerBell) we have been a leader of sorts for what we do and much of our beginning was spent validating and creating an industry. In the early days we were crazy with a “small idea” and a year later people often asked if we are afraid of competitors.
After successful milestones and serious traction I get asked all the time if I am afraid of competitors and what I plan to do to combat it. My simplest answer is NO. Here’s why.
Nobody loves what we do the way we do. It takes a special kind of person to work on something 20hrs a day. Some entrepreneurs are in it to get rich or the glamour, most of whom get quickly weeded out when they can’t secure funding or adapt to what the market needs. If you don’t love what you do with every part of your soul its hard to keep the mindframe of users and most importantly the stamina required for building a company is over popularized in the media — its downright HARD WORK. On the most grueling of days I remind myself that if running a start-up was easy then everyone would do it. You have to truly love what you do.
If the love isn’t there money won’t help. As we look at the bubble and see every flip flop wearing kid secure funding it could easily inspire paranoia of competitors. I’m still not convinced capital is enough. Again there’s hard work involved and customers to attain. You could have a million dollars in the bank and fancy marketing promotions but if you don’t love your idea customers won’t either. Sure money can buy happiness, it cannot however inspire a team to work for you or make up for months of research and knowing every little detail of your space.
Competition is good. Its hard being in the lead and even better if you have an equal to compare yourself too. In other ways a competitor can help validate your business model and also create a well trained pool of employees to pick from. I’ve never encouraged “stealing” employees but if there is a well equipped group of people in your space and you happen to be a better, happier place to work then everything is fair game.
Always look forward. As a startup founder your job is to always be looking and thinking forward, if your concentration is on your competitors then you have already lost. Keep your eyes on the future and your body will follow. In the end the world does happen to be a really big place and most the time there’s room for several competitors to flourish and differentiate themselves.
There’s no doubt right now is an interesting time for startups both young and old. Acquisitions being announced weekly and new incubators being created daily. In the end you have to ask yourself if you love doing what you are doing. And if you do get wiped out by a competitor make sure your time spent in the process was well enjoyed. And stop wearing flip flops.
(This article is part of a series by our resident SocialTimes entrepreneur, Ellie Cachette. Cachette is the founder of ConsumerBell and also writes on topics covering Consumer Web. For more articles by Ellie, click here )