I attended Startup School last Saturday, and after listening to the talks, one common concept stuck out to me - great entrepreneurs steer directly into competition. It was a great lesson for me as I work on my new product Quibb - a new product to reinvent professional news, starting with the tech & startup vertical, which competes with a ton of different products directly and indirectly. Quibb competes with everything from Twitter to Linkedin Today to many other products. So the thoughts from Zuckerberg and Ben Horowitz were really useful to hear.
Mark Zuckerberg shared his experiences in starting Facebook. When deciding which schools to expand to, he purposely chose Stanford, Columbia, and Yale - schools that already had school-specific social networks. Even at Harvard, where Facebook started and grew, a school-based social network already existed.
"I wanted to go to the hardest colleges first - those where we could obviously win over existing [social networks]" -Mark Zuckerburg
For the schools that already had social networks, there was proof that demand existed. The problem then became - was Facebook's product better? Turns out this is an easier question to answer than trying to promote a social network where there was no demand.
Another Startup School presenter, Ben Horowitz (General Partner at Andresseen Horowitz), spoke about this same idea:
"Building a product that matters - It's not a little bit better, but 10 times better." -Ben Horowitz
You need to build a product that's at least 10 times better than any competitor in order to win the market. There's no joy for #2 in technology markets, because market share follows a Power Law curve - the winner of the market has more customers than all the other competitors combined. It's not enough to simply build a product that's a bit better - you need to win the market.
When working on a startup, people are often discouraged when they see or hear about another team doing the same thing. Conversely, those working on a new and novel idea with few or no competitors think that their journey will be easier, without the constant need to look over their shoulders.
With my product Quibb, people often mention the fact that the news space is really noisy, and there are a lot of people trying to solve the same problems as I am. But according to Mark and Ben - competitors shouldn't been seen as a bad thing, but rather as a sign of a large and healthy market where, if you build something 10x better, you can win the entire market.