Source | INC42 : By Alexander Jarvis
One of your startup competitors added you on LinkedIn. Maybe a top investor of a competitor found your email and sent you a cold email. They want to meet you. Crap. What do you do? Should you meet them or not?
This is no doubt a scenario that will inevitably happen to each and every founder who starts getting noticed for the first time, once.
tl;dr – You should know all your competitors and the investors in your space. It’s good to have frenemies. Just be careful about what you say.
The time I learnt to talk to startup competitors
I remember in the early days when we set up Delivery Hero I was shooting the breeze, chatting business with the CEO, Niklas who mentioned he was having meetings with the CEO of Just Eat. I thought it was funny he was doing so. I couldn’t understand why that made sense? He told me it was normal and everyone does it.
After that chat, I started doing the same. I added the founders of all our local competition and set up meetings. I didn’t know WTF I was doing, but it was a learning experience. I recommend doing the same. Only, read this first so you don’t figure everything out yourself.
Who are your startup competitors? I wager the top one is you messing up.
Your Competitors Matter
I reach out to all competitors, tangential or not. I like people and I love learning. I’m not dumb enough to share ‘special sauce’ but also, even if I did, would that really change anything? Execution is so hard, if you were given the step by step playbook you would probably still fail. Uber has a ‘playbook’ to launch new cities. If I gave it to you, would you beat Uber in a city? No. You don’t have the funding, access to talent, the tech, the brand etc. Taking the resource dependence theory of the firm; you simple don’t have the resources.
Startups Are Rarely Each Other’s Competitors
I once reached out to one competitor and he responded to me with a point I really like: “Startups are rarely each others competitors.” It’s concurrently dramatically simple and profound.