It was the Christmas holiday season. I was home with my folks, and despite being in a different location I found myself glued to my computer. There were just too many things to do! Not least of which was trying to convince an understandably skeptical advisor and potential investor that we were worth investing in. What made the moment even more crucial was that we had only a few days to close the deal.
Finally, after an untold number of messages, calls and emails back and forth, I had succeeded in getting him on board. “Finally!” I thought, as I closed my laptop. As I laid on my parents’ couch, thinking of different movies I’d watch, places I’d go to and people I would see over the next week, I couldn’t help but revel in my temporary accomplishment. Maybe I will check out Twitter and see what’s going on in the world, I thought. And that’s when I saw this tweet from one of my closest advisors:
If you have a startup & you're not working today, you better hope your competitors aren't either (but don't count on it).
— F Scott Moody (@fscottmoody) December 27, 2013
Sighing, I put down the remote, and opened back up the laptop.
It is difficult to overstate the work involved in running a startup if you are doing it correctly. But it is precisely this work which differentiates you from your competitors. Put simply, as a startup, you succeed by being willing to do the things your competitors are not. Just about any other non-patentable advantage you think you have can be completed by competitors. There are many examples:
* Groupon before Amazon Local
* Vonage before Google Voice
So what is it that causes the Airbnbs and Ubers of the world to break through the clutter and establish a brand dominance among so many competitors? They are willing and able to do things their competitors aren’t. For both of these companies, it was actually tackling the hurdles around rental and travel regulations that the bigger guys simply did not feel the need to waste their time on. And suddenly, you’re looking at the next eBay and Amazon.
This doesn’t mean you should throw knowledge out the window. Clearly it is important to have a well-devised plan, strong team, and a passion for the business you are in. But at the end of the day, the one ace in the hole that differentiates you and the bigger guys is your drive.
Don’t take that for granted.