I was watching Techcrunch disrupt and I couldn’t help but think that there are an overwhelming number of startup companies out there. It’s almost daunting how many companies there are trying to make things happen. My next thought was, “how the hell am I going to stand out amongst all these other startup companies vying for attention?”
This is something I shouldn’t be worrying about. Yes, it is important to know the space you’re working in and have an idea of what’s going on in the tech world in general. However, stressing over what else is out there is futile and self destructive. Carve out a niche, test what you’re doing, then put your head down and plug away.
I learned this at an early age playing high school basketball. My niche was shooting the basketball, specifically three pointers and I plugged away at it, becoming good enough to where I became noticed. If I had worried too much about all the other basketball players I read about in Slam magazine and other publications I wouldn’t have made any progress on my game.
The same can be said for startups. If you read constantly what all the hot startups are doing and what features they are coming out with, it’s easy to lose track of your own company and progress.
As far as direct competitors go there is a fine line between observing what they do and obsessing on what they do. Again, I go back to basketball. Sure, when we were about to play a game we had a scouting report of the other team. We covered it and then moved on. It was certainly not an obsession. I even noticed that when I did think about the other team too much I pysched myself out. “Oh man, they’re too good, they have 3 guys 6'5 and over.” Or “Oh man, they received 1.5 million in funding and have 100 million trillion users.” Be aware, but don’t be scared.
When I first read that a huge company was doing something similar to what we’re building with Social Blendr, I was immediately a little worried. But then I went back to my basketball days and remembered just because we might run the same play as the other team a) we have different players and b) the result is likely to be vastly different. I went back to focusing on what we were doing so we can make the best product possible.
So startups: keep plugging away with your head down. Take occasional looks around you to see what’s going on, but don’t obsess because it can do more harm than good.