Don’t let another startup throw you off your game

Giff Constable startups

In the spirit of transparency, I thought I’d share an anecdote about competition and those little gravitational forces you have to resist as an entrepreneur. About a month after we started Aprizi, a “sorta / kinda” competitive company announced on TechCrunch and has since received a lot of attention among the techie set.

eyeofhurricaneIt was hard not to be distracted. This company had put a feature on the front burner that we had put on the back burner (with a different approach to boot), but I could see that some of our goals would be similar. With all the buzz, I had to ask, was I missing something here? Not being visionary enough? Misreading mainstream market tendencies?

Our pseudo-competitor’s design decisions led to a more titillating, even risqué, product that perked curiosity and which I knew would attract press coverage. You combine “money” and a bit of “weird” and the press has a ball (that combination drove much of Second Life’s massive PR coverage).

For a brief moment, I flirted with change, but our beliefs simply differed with their approach. Common sense reasserted itself: it would be crazy to let another startup define our mission. We need to be driven by what our customers need.

As an entrepreneur, you have to resist the pressure for conformity driven by superficial reasons. In this case, I was jealous of the attention (even though it is too early for us anyway!), but put it aside as an irrelevant and unproductive emotion.

A similar problem happens when entrepreneurs start rearranging everything to chase the latest VC bandwagon.

We’re going to watch this company closely and see if its dynamics teach us anything, but we’re going to stay focused on our own mission, our own message, and what customers are teaching us.

For a great post on competition, check out Why I Don’t Worry About Competition, by Slideshare CEO Rashmi Sinha