Wed, Jun 15, 2016

Compete Asymmetrically

A classic problem and common thread in many of my conversations with founders is the perceived threat posed by large, well established incumbents.

Of course Google, Apple, Facebook and you-name-it have more resources, more talent, better access to the market and basically every other advantage in the world going for them.

You can’t compete. Nor should you. At least not symmetrically. That is — trying to beat them at their own game.

If you were to build a search engine which competes head-to-head with Google, you fail (Microsoft tried). Same goes if you were to build a social network competing with Facebook — you fail (Ello tried). Build a mobile phone OS to compete with iOS and Android — well… you fail (again Microsoft tried).

And yet — it is doable. Tons of companies successfully build their businesses in areas which are dominated by strong, well established incumbents.

The trick is to compete asymmetrically. Shift the playing field, change the value proposition, deploy a radically different go-to-market strategy, turn the business model upside-down.

Do whatever is prudent in your market, for your customers, with your product — but find a way to change the game which is being played and don’t compete head-to-head.

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