Mattan Griffel Co-founder of One Month. Faculty at Columbia Business School. I write about startups, technology, and philosophy.

Why You Shouldn’t Care About Competitors

2 min read

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.

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Mattan Griffel Co-founder of One Month. Faculty at Columbia Business School. I write about startups, technology, and philosophy.