April 14, 2012

Startup Success Step #8

How long is your head start?

Half of the entrepreneurs we meet, when asked about competitors and barriers to entry, say “We’ll leave them in the dust.” This may stem from heavy doses of wishful thinking with fingers in ears. The other half are full of fear and trembling that the Big Bad Behemoths (P&G, Apple, Levi’s, Disney, Whoever) will crush them eleven minutes after launch. To both halves, we counsel: don’t let your emotions run away with you; get some objective advice about what to expect in the counterattack. To the fearful we add: remember, Goliath lost.

The only big question about barriers is: considering what kinds you employ (patent, process, secret sauce, technology, star personnel, distribution, infrastructure, prayer), how much time do they give you?

There are two good choices of what to do with that time. One is to use the six months or 18 months or whatever you have to make the next set of improvements to stay one jump ahead of the copycats, as we suggested in Step #7. The second choice is to move aggressively to market, grabbing market share as quickly as you can.

Could you “own” the category? If you could possibly do that, imitators will not be able to dislodge from your perch – but to own it requires big doses of courage, capital and commitment.

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