It’s so easy to worry about competitors too early. And to worry about the wrong competitors. I know, I do it. I think what happens is that working in a startup produces anxiety, and competitors is a tangible thing to pin that anxiety on. We can watch them, analyze them, and funnel fear into trying to keep in front of them. By working with one eye on the competitor we can feel like we’re addressing the cause of the anxiety. It’s BS.
The true competitor for an early stage project is rarely that other company with a product technically sort of similar to what you’re building. The one we like to look at as the one to “win” over in the game of “startup”. They might become your competitor some day, but not until a customer tells you that they are your competitor. Literally, until someone says “we won’t be using your tool, we’ll use [other company]” they don’t matter. And unless you’re in an obvious land grab scenario, there’s likely no reason to even worry about that scenario ahead of time.
In the early stages competitors are so far down the list of things that are trying to kill your startup that it has to be some pretty sweet anxiety relief you’re getting from watching them. Worrying about competitors early on is as useless as fretting over pricing or what kind of watch to get employees for their 10 year anniversary with the company.