Mentoring startups gives one a ring-side view of the way entrepreneurs think.
I have often been in a situation where an aspiring entrepreneur wants to pitch me their idea and hear what I wish to think about it. Travelling across the country and meeting thousands of entrepreneurs also means that I hear more than my fair share of ideas.
Often I come across situations where somebody comes around to pitch an idea, and my immediate response is ‘There is someone does something similar’ or ‘Is this not the same as XYZ?’
What typically happens at this point is this ‘aspiring entrepreneur’ will go back and research the hell out of this supposed competitor and read everything written about them. If this supposed similar company is doing well they get all bent out of shape that there is a strong incumbent and if they are struggling, read about all of their struggles and get depressed!
When you are starting a venture, you need not worry about a competitor, or someone doing something similar. If at all anything, you need to be worried about the absence of competition. If a real opportunity exists, why is nobody else seeing it?
You need to avoid being flustered by competition because:
You need to focus on your own strengths and find the best way to showcase that strength. Also, there is more than one way to do a thing or solve a problem. You need to focus and make sure you are solving it.
The market is large. In a country like India, there is always enough market to go around amongst several competitors. Can you think of any industry where there is only one player? This also means that there is enough diversity and nuance in the market for the problem to be solved in different ways and see adoption.
If you are introducing a new concept, you want many people popularizing the idea rather than you alone. Orange County, Coorg spent crores in advertising popularizing the idea of vacationing in Coorg. No sooner was the location recognized, hundreds of players moved in. It would have been nice to have had some competition in the early days.
The best way to learn is from watching others make mistakes. The other way to learn is to make those mistakes yourself. Having competition is the cheapest way to learn.
If there is no competition in the market even real or is this all a figment of your imagination?
Finally, I would like to leave you with this thought – Google was not the first search engine, neither did they enter a market without competition. Facebook was not the first social network, neither did they enter a market without competition. iPhone was not the first smartphone, neither did they enter a market without competition.
SpaceX is not the first private rocket maker and their competitors where all governments!
Embrace competition and seek it out. Watch them carefully. Ultimately your success or failure is down to your execution.