Why You Shouldn’t Care About Competitors

One of the more overwhelming entrepreneurial challenges is seeing someone else, someone better funded, better equipped, or with better name recognition than you, tackling the same idea you have. But imposing competition should never immediately discourage you from pursuing your startup. You need to be realistic about the challenges you face in relation to your competition, but bear a few things in mind to make sure you never psych yourself out.

No One Succeeds By Default

Just because a competitor has a lot of funding or name recognition does not mean that they automatically beat you. From the Wright Brothers to Amazon Local, funding and support is never the deciding factor. They certainly help, and it’s scary to think you might be going up against Amazon — but it’s not enough of a reason to simply give up before you get started. There are countless examples of underdogs absolutely crushing their competition, based on the amount of superior effort, belief, and more thoughtful approaches they put in. You can look at Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk on the Wright Brothers, or Malcolm Gladwell’s book on the subject for a series of case studies.

Fight On The Beaches

Where startups succeed or fail is, ultimately, in the execution. Whether it’s approaching the problem in the wrong way, going after the wrong segment of the market, wasteful spending, or simply lack of forethought, there are any number of ways a large, well-funded, secure-seeming team can fail. In any one of these ways, you can improve and innovate on what other people are doing, and that will give you an edge. So, if you take away nothing else from today, remember this: don’t give up before you put in the hard work.

Dr. Do-Your-Due-Diligence

But that hard work takes several forms. There’s actually running your startup, producing a product, or developing an app. Before even that stage, you need to do some research. The one hurdle that’s very difficult to overcome is when a well established company already has a very strong presence in the space you want to inhabit. If you have an idea for something, for goodness sake investigate what might directly or indirectly be addressing it. It’s highly likely someone else has or is already trying your idea. The fact that you haven’t heard of them is probably a good thing — it means they have broken through to get your attention.

Everything Is Not What It Seems

Remember, too, when you’re assessing competition. that you’re on the outside looking in. The way that a company appears to you is never the full story of how they’re doing. Companies can look incredibly successful one day and be gone the next. A big name shouldn’t necessarily scare you. What should, is if someone has figured out a viable business model and has a lot of traction. This, again, is where research comes into play. Take the time of doing a full critique of a company that failed to attack your idea, or has stayed pretty small-time. There might be a reason for it that has nothing to do with you or any other company. It might be the health of that particular market, or the viability of that particular idea. You need to figure out who’s already competing and what challenges, if any, are holding them back. Because those are going to be the challenges you need to overcome.

The Only Thing To Fear Is… Well, You Know

The point of all of this is that never let yourself become intimidated without hard facts and a firm understanding of your competition and their market conditions. Don’t let your fear of getting beaten prevent you from doing something that you believe is a good idea. That conviction — that your startup idea is worth doing — can carry you through the challenges which may cow bigger name or better funded players, not to mention all the incredibly hard work of getting a company off the ground. The game’s not over until it’s over. Just make sure you have a good idea of what you’re getting into, and what strategies you can develop or refine to help you succeed where others have failed.

12 Podcasts Every Entrepreneur Should Be Listening To

Podcasts are a great medium for learning about, well, almost anything — but they’re especially useful for learning about starting and leading a company. After all, most future entrepreneurs are super busy, so you need a way to digest information that’s easy, flexible, and accessible.

To help you get started, we’ve put together the entrepreneur’s podcast starter set.

These shows each meet the following criteria:

Actionable: Although theories are good, concrete tips you can implement right away are better.

Engaging: Unfortunately, it’s hard to pay attention to even the most fascinating interviews and conversations if they’re presented poorly. Each podcast on this list has high-quality audio and dynamic hosts.

Innovative: None of these podcasts will cover things you already know. You’re listening to learn, not to rehash the same tired lessons.

Focused: As previously mentioned, your time is valuable. If you’re listening to an hour-long podcast, it should have six times the information as a 10-minute one — not just six times the talking.

1. To learn how to start a startup…

How to Start a Startup

How to Start a Startup

Listen to How to Start a Startup. Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator, originally taught this 20-part series as a Stanford class. He starts with the basics, like how to create a team and build a product, and ends with advice for after you’ve achieved product-market fit. Altman is brilliant — and he also brings in many startup heavyweights, including Reid Hoffman, Marc Andreesen, Aaron Levie, and more.

You’ll learn:

  • How to develop a great idea
  • How to build a high-quality product
  • How to put together a winning team
  • How to execute on the first three

Start with:

Episode #1, in which Sam Altman gives an overview of the course.

2. To learn how to pitch to venture capitalists (VCs)…

The Pitch

Listen to The Pitch. This podcast is essentially an audio version of Shark Tank: Each episode, a different startup comes on to give their elevator pitch to a panel of investors and answer their follow-up questions.

After the investors have quizzed the founders, they’ll discuss whether or not they’d invest and why.

You’ll learn:

  • What goes into a good pitch
  • What types of questions VCs ask (and how to answer them)
  • What makes or breaks their decision to invest

Start with:

Episode #10, in which Dollar Beard Club founder Chris Stoikos pitches his startup to Marvin Liao, Howie Diamond, and Ryan Hoover.

3. To learn how to get traction…

Traction

Listen to Traction. Coming to you from NextView ventures, this show delves into the weird, inspiring, unexpected, and ultimately genius ways startup founders have made progress in the very early days of their companies. It’s a great antidote when you’re in the “startup trough of sorrow,” which is what entrepreneurs go into when they have a major failure.

You’ll learn:

  • How to pivot
  • How to ignore the disbelievers
  • How to forge on through the worst times

Start with:

Episode #7, in which Jay Acunzo talks to Kathryn Minshew, co-founder and CEO of The Muse.

4. To learn how to grow your business from an idea to an 45-person company…

StartUp Podcast

Listen to StartUp. In 2014, public radio veteran Alex Blumberg decided to start a new podcasting company. He also decided to record his entrepreneurship journey and produce it… as a podcast. (Very meta.) StartUp is now heading into its third season, and Gimlet Media — Blumberg’s company — has six podcasts in its roster, $7.5 million in funding, and 45 people on its staff.

You’ll learn:

  • How to write (and rewrite) your business plan
  • How to handle inter-company conflict
  • How to figure out equity, organization, responsibility, and more

Start with:

Episode #1, in which Blumberg pitches famous Silicon Valley investor Chris Sacca.

5. To learn more about the startup world…

This Week in Startups

Listen to This Week in Startups. Once a week, host Jason Calacanis and a rotating group of guest experts sit down to talk about their experiences, their future plans, and of course, the latest news in entrepreneurship. Calacanis has a blunt, straight-forward style, which means the conversations are usually extremely interesting and sometimes controversial.

You’ll learn:

  • What’s happening in Silicon Valley
  • How insanely smart people see the world
  • How to be more innovative

Start with:

Episode #423, in which Calacanis talks to Mark Cuban about which startups he’s excited about and why he still invests in new companies (despite having billions in the bank).

6. To learn how to be more creative and grow faster…

Seeking Wisdom

Listen to Seeking Wisdom. This show comes from David Cancel, a five-time entrepreneur and former Chief Product Officer of HubSpot. Cancel is a highly respected fixture of the tech community, and you’ll understand why once you hear his innovative leadership and learning techniques.

You’ll learn:

  • How to hire the right people
  • How to organize your teams
  • How to find awesome mentors

Start with:

Episode #4, in which Cancel discusses why you should give your employees more autonomy.

7. To learn what goes into an ultra-successful company…

Collective Wisdom for Tech Startups

Listen to Collective Wisdom for Tech Startups. Founder Collective is a well-known venture capital fund that’s invested in Uber, Buzzfeed, HotelTonight, and SeatGeek, among others. In this podcast, Founder Collective’s leaders talk to founders whose names you’ll definitely recognize: Phillip Crim, the founder of Casper; Sam Yagan, the CEO of OkCupid; Stephen Kaufer, the cofounder and CEO of TripAdvisor, and many more.

The wisdom is definitely useful, but this show also stands out for its digestible format. Each interview is available both as a full-length show and in roughly one-minute clips.

You’ll learn:

  • How to get tech reporters to cover your startup
  • How to set your own salary
  • How to build a culture that survives an IPO

Start with:

Episode #4, in which Scott Belsky talks about founding and growing Behance.

8. To learn how to be a stronger leader…

The Growth Show

Listen to the Growth Show. As you can tell from the name, this show is focused on growth — and because growth is such a broad topic, you’ll get suggestions on everything from designing a happier life to balancing innovation and competition.

The guests are equally varied. Although founders feature pretty heavily, authors, speakers, executives, and even a violinist have all appeared on the show.

You’ll learn:

  • How to grow almost anything (your team, your abilities, your brand, your idea, your business, etc.)

Start with:

Episode #52, in which HubSpot CMO Kipp Bodnar talks to Canva’s co-founder, Cliff Obrecht, and its head of growth, Andre Pinantoan.

9. To learn about design and product management…

Inside Intercom Podcast

Listen to Inside Intercom. In a unique twist, the guest and the host change every episode. The two things you can count on? The host will be an Intercom employee, and the guest will be a leader in product management, design, marketing, or startups.

When you’re fairly new to any (or all) of these worlds, it’s really beneficial to get first-hand insight into from some of the best, most experienced practitioners.

You’ll learn:

  • How the design process works
  • How to start and scale a marketing team
  • How to sell before you have sales reps

Start with:

Episode #12, in which Emmet Connolly, Intercom Director of Product Design, talks to Mike Davidson, former VP of Design at Twitter

10. To learn how to start, scale, and fund your startup…

Startup School

Listen to Startup School Radio. Every week, host and Y Combinator partner Aaron Harris talks to two guests to get their practical advice on running an early-stage company. His guests are always fascinating, intelligent, and wildly successful; for example, past guests include Peter Reinhardt, CEO of Segment; Suhail Doshi, CEO and co-founder of Mixpanel; and Solomon Hykes, CTO and founder of Docker.

You’ll learn:

  • How to launch a startup
  • How to overcome major obstacles
  • How some of the most successful entrepreneurs think

Start with:

Episode #35, in which Aaron Harris interviews Paul Graham, author and co-founder of Y Combinator.

11. To learn how to build an amazing culture…

Mission & Values

Listen to Mission & Values. Host Bryan Landers explores, as he puts it, “the ‘why’ behind startup work, and the ‘how’ behind their decisions.” In practical terms, that means asking CEOs questions like, “Do your employees have a shared characteristic — something that makes them a good cultural fit?” and “Can you tell me about your transparency value?”

You’ll learn:

  • How values impact the day-to-day of your startup
  • How to assess cultural fit
  • How to scale your values

Start with:

Episode #1, in which Landers talks to Zapier CEO Wade Foster.

12. To learn the best startup advice and latest tech trends…

a16z

Listen to a16z. You might not’ve heard of this podcast, but you’ve probably heard of Andreessen Horowitz, the VC firm that produces it. Some of the episodes cover tech news, others delve into trends, and the rest (and frankly, the most useful) provide how-tos. There are three to four episodes per week; we recommend only listening to the ones most relevant to you.

You’ll learn:

  • The most important industry news
  • Where the software world is headed (and how to prepare)
  • How to run a startup

Maintaining Healthy Relationships While Working at a Startup

The thing about putting your all into your startup is that, technically, then you don’t have anything left for the other important facets of your life. This week, Mattan tackles why maintaining healthy relationships are important, and how you can (re)structure your time to push your business forward without leaving your friends behind.

The universally acknowledged and unpleasant truth is that when you’re running a startup, you’re going to be working unbelievably hard. Harder than you ever thought possible. It’s tempting to see the huge time commitment you’re making as a binary choice between relationships and work. But that doesn’t have to be true. Maintaining a good work/life balance is just that: balance. Here are three tips to help you keep all your plates spinning:

1. Relationships Are An Important Investment

Don’t simply write off your relationships in favor of taking care of, er, business. While relationships require energy and attention, you’ll eventually get that commitment back in the form of support, help, introductions, and resources. Those outcomes shouldn’t be why you’re investing time and effort into family, friends, and significant others — but they are an inevitable benefit.

2. A Change Is Gonna Come

That said, with so much of your time taken up by a startup, something has to give or change in how you invest time and energy into relationships. Think of new channels and mechanisms you can use to keep in touch with people. Perhaps consider putting together a friend update newsletter. Even the gesture of shooting a quick email to people you care about will be appreciated.

3. Constant Vigilance!

A key ability in managing your startup commitments, personal wellbeing, and other relationships is knowing when and how to say no. You can’t take every meeting, and you can’t see every movie, and you can’t always go out for drinks. Set aside one day, or a specific amount of time per week, for meetings/coffees/socializing, and then ruthlessly prioritize how you spend it. You have to be honest about your time commitments, both with yourself and with everyone else.

Still, remember that first point about relationships being worth the effort. Even if you don’t have the time to meet with someone, do still reach out out to them. People will appreciate that you’re thinking about them. All relationships are, are communication over time. So keep the lines of communication open and keep track of your time. The rest will, so to speak, balance out.