Compete At Your Peril?

I just started reading “Zero To One” by Silicon Valley innovator, entrepreneur and prominent venture capitalist, Peter Thiel. He presents a unique way of thinking as a key ingredient for startup success. Startups have to generate new ideas and act on them rapidly to grow and expand their operations. That’s really the only way they can survive. They have to think out of the box and react quickly to take advantage of perceived market trends. Because of their small size, they can be nimble and test/document/respond to their ideas and deliver them in market with tight turnaround timeframes.

But that’s not an easy feat when you have to deal with that pesky little problem called competition. Yes, it fuels the creative flames but sometimes it’s hard not to get caught up in the rat race. As a small business owner, you need to make sure your brand stands out from the rest in a positive way otherwise you’ll never get the recognition you need to prosper.

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Competition is healthy to a point. It drives us to excel but it can divert our attention from developing new ways of becoming even better. Think of it this way. You make giglets and compete with three other giglet manufacturers. It’s all-out war between your companies because you are all struggling to be the number one giglet manufacturer in the world, all focused on being more attractive to prospective buyers, using new colors, shapes and sizes to differentiate your offerings from those of your foes, tearing down the competition at every turn, thinking, hoping and praying these methods will advance your sales goals.

But you’re all missing the critical element of innovation. Changing small facets of your product to make it look a little nicer isn’t transformational. It’s imitative and largely ineffective in the grand scheme of things. Focusing all your efforts on competing with others in your space is a waste of time, effort and resources and will only get you marginal results until another giglet manufacturer comes along and figures out how to take the show to the next level. Then POOF! Your giglets are history.

Instead, figure out what your brand brings to the table, what your value proposition is and how you can make your offering more relevant to the lives of your targeted customers. Do something BRAND NEW and go from ZERO to ONE. That type of thinking and execution results in positive impacts to your bottom line. Get out of the way of your competition. Let them spend their precious time battling for that top spot. You focus energy, time and effort on what makes your offering inherently great or how you can GET TO GREAT.

Your path to the top will then be within reach.

Spreading The Seed

I love spinning tales of romance in the Silicon Valley setting. I’m told I seriously over-glamorize the lifestyles of my heroes and heroines but whatever. I write FICTION so isn’t that kind of a requirement? I mean, I have to keep things interesting. right? WINK, WINK

As an entrepreneur, I am fascinated with goings-on in the Valley. There’s such an aura over Sand Hill Road; it’s just bubbling over with innovation, creativity and energy. Being part of that atmosphere, collaborating with fellow creatives and networking with famed venture capitalists must be so charging to a budding startup CEO. And coupled with the drive to build the next big thing? Well, the possibilities seem endless. Sounds like a dream (this is where my romanticizing comes into play)…but what companies really get to LIVE it?

funny silicon valley welcome sign

Enter Y-Combinator.

Y-Combinator provides seed money to a certain number of startups deemed worthy to relocate to Silicon Valley for a three-month period. Seed funding is the earliest stage of venture funding for a company and it helps pay expenses, allowing startups to focus on development with no added stresses.

If selected for the program, startups have access to proven innovators who will help shape and bring early ideas to fruition. They will learn how to deliver a polished pitch to investors and how to close a deal and acquire more funding, if needed. It all culminates in a Demo Day, where the elite group is granted an opportunity to present their work to carefully selected audiences.

All this in exchange for a small financial stake in each company. Sounds like small potatoes, considering most startups would never get this opportunity on their own. Networking is so key…sometimes you need to give a little to get a lot.

Just as an aside, Hubby has already advised me not to get any bright ideas about applying. LOL.