In the current low capital required, frenzied early-stage funding environment, one thing you can be sure of if you enter an interesting space is that there will be competition. And oftentimes, the competitors product will look eerily similar to your own.
Just a few recent examples that pop to mind are Foursquare & Gowalla in the LBS space, Instagram and PicPlz in the mobile photo-sharing space and GroupMe, FastSociety, Beluga, Kik and others in the group messaging space.
A few things to think about when faced with competition:
1. Market validation. Having competitors typically means there’s something there. Take that as a sign of confidence that you’re going after a real opportunity.
2. Every great company needs a foil. Coke & Pepsi, Goldman Sachs & Morgan Stanley, Walmart & Target – I could go on and on. Having a foil keeps you focused, sharp and on your toes.
3. Be paranoid, but not obsessed. Having a foil can also engender obsessive behavior. While a healthy amount of paranoia and competitive fire is fundamentally important, obsession is defocusing and dangerous. Guard the line carefully.
4. Product, product, product. Put as much of your energy as possible towards building an amazing product that users love. The best products usually win in the end.
6. Quality of user base is as important as quantity.Make sure you focus on who your early users are rather than simply how many of them you have. Real, high quality, engaged users form the bedrock of great web services. You can scratch, claw and buy your way to a lot of early traffic, but if it isn’t organic and/or experience-driven, it likely won’t stick.
One additional point that has been gnawing at me: we tend to describe our businesses as the ‘X killer’ (i.e. Google killer) or the 'X for Y’ (i.e. Twitter for Y, Facebook for Y). It certainly makes sense to frame the opportunity around who you’re going after or how you plan to disrupt a market in terms that are relatable. But when you find yourself doing so, make sure the X you’re trying to kill or emulate is a big, meaningful X rather than a smallish success. This way, besting the inevitable competition has the potential to yield a tremendous result.
When folks are interviewing for a job or looking for an investment, they tend to put their best foot forward. But seeing as you can only have one job at a time or take investment from one syndicate at a time, odds are that the vast majority of those conversations will not end in a new job or an investment made.
We touch more people in the process of looking for work or capital by a factor of 10 or 20 or sometimes even much more than who we end up working with. This is as true for investors as it is for entrepreneurs, given the number of investment opportunities evaluated for every one completed. So while there is only one match at the end of the day, your relationship capital is actually more of a function of everyone else you meet in the process.
When ending those conversations, remember that the close is as important if not more so than the opening. Whether you got the offer you wanted or didn’t, whether you received the valuation you wanted or not, whether you made the investment or not, a thoughtful, honest, courteous and prompt reply – positive or negative – will do wonders for your reputation.
Life is long, and reputation and relationships are paramount. So whether you’re on the giving or receiving end, it is crucial to try and end any employment or investment conversation with as much dignity and class as you start it with. It may actually serve your desired ends of great employment or investment partners over the long-term even more than getting that current job or investment you so desperately want in the short one.
Firmly in the category of better late than never, below are my top music picks for 2010. If only I had consistent Internet reception in Nicaragua, these would have come much sooner. But who’s complaining?
As in the past, my criteria for this list is pretty simple – what I listened to most this past year. So here goes:
As my friends can attest to, I played this album nonstop since before it came out. Not hip-hop, not pop, Kanye is carving out a new musical category that is entirely goodness. A masterpiece from the brilliant and ever confusing Mr. West.
I saw LCD live back to back nights in 2010. And I danced my face off both times. I haven’t done that since high school. Enough said.
The chillest album of the year IMHO.
A beautiful electronic sound that I couldn’t get enough of.
I think I like Big Boi’s solo output even better than his Outkast gems. A proper hip-hop record.
My favorite indie rock gem of the year.
A late entry, but I was fixed on her sultry smooth voice from the moment I started listening.
Didn’t like this album as much as the first, but really enjoyed it nonetheless. This is VW Showing their range.
The most aggressive album of the bunch…I love the energy.
An album as much as any other on this list, Arcade Fire continues to show why they are consistently one of the best *bands* out there.
Honorable mention to , , , , , , and for stellar albums last year.
Kanye West (ft. Pusha T), Runaway
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Round & Round
Arcade Fire, Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
Cults, Go Outside (an extra one for good measure!)
Too many songs for honorable mention, but I do want to point out both Jay Electronica’s Exhibit C and Miguel & J. Cole’s All I Want Is You as two hip-hop tracks that straight crushed it this past year.