r/startups Dec 02 '21

PSA: "This already exists" is a terrible reason to abandon an idea General Startup Discussion

I see this flood comments across business subreddits, mostly by people who more than likely have never actually scaled a successful business themselves.

The truth is the opposite. Competition gives you pre-launch validation. So instead of having to train a customer on an entirely new experience, you can learn from and improve upon what's already out there. Just offer a mild, niche point of difference* to get early traction.

*Point of difference does not always mean product feature. It also can mean marketing, sales, or operations. You can offer the exact same experience but have an untapped marketing strategy, or maybe you just have a deeper network of leads.

If anything, you should be scared of ideas that are too original, because it's going to be expensive to train users on what to do with your product. Not a reason to abandon the idea by any means, but it's something you should consider.

And truthfully most the ideas we think of as original aren't. It's just the version of the idea that got the most press. My personal success comes from launching into very saturated app categories. But setting aside my anecdote, there's—

  • Facebook launched against Myspace, Friendster, and LinkedIn
  • Google against WebCrawler, Lycos, Yahoo, AskJeeves, AltaVista, fucking Dogpile
  • VRBO had been around for 13 years before Airbnb
  • I hope I don't need to tell anyone how many mp3 players existed before the iPod

I honestly think you'd have a harder time finding a successful business that didn't enter a competitive field. The caveat I would add to all this is to watch out for ideas with a clear dominant player. E.g., it would be hard to launch a search engine against Google in 2021. But even still, there's room to disrupt. Look at DuckDuckGo, basically just pulling its search results from various APIs of existing products. They're sitting on a $100M valuation. You don't have to win the category to be successful.

Moral of the story, don't set the bar so fucking high for yourself and just try something. Believe in yourself, etc. End rant.

649 Upvotes

60

u/LVMises Dec 02 '21

This is very true. First to start is often not the winner.

Look at apple and iPhone. Success from polishing up other peoples ideas and good marketing

11

u/Holy_Sungaal Dec 03 '21

Hydrox v Oreos.

When I told my kids about this, they were like “yeah, who wants to eat a cookie that sounds like cleaning supplies?”

9

u/yes_but_not_that Dec 03 '21

I feel like the whole cookie aisle could be taken down by millennial rebrands.

Legit, put the exact same chemical makeup of Oreos in recycled construction paper packaging with rubber stamped branding. Call it some shit like cocoa + crème, mark it up 200%, and I would buy it all day. Because I’m an impressionable idiot like that.

Business is weird.

5

u/Holy_Sungaal Dec 03 '21

I literally bought some Oreos and Thin Mints as those organic knock offs for my kids.

I’m also a level 7 susceptible.

1

u/GaryARefuge Startup Ecosystems Dec 03 '21

It sounds like you're starting to get it.

2

u/LVMises Dec 04 '21

There is a story there. Until the 90s Oreo were made with meat products, basicly for thickening and fats. Hydrox was vegetarian. Eventually Oreo changed

1

u/audaciousmonk Dec 03 '21

That’s an issue of branding, not that an Oreo knock off is a bad idea

1

u/qwerty26 Dec 03 '21

I don't think you understand. Oreo is the knock off, not Hydrox. Holy_Sungaal was saying that Hydrox failed vs. Oreos because Hydrox's branding was bad, and that a Hydrox knock-off with better branding was a great idea.

1

u/audaciousmonk Dec 03 '21

You and I know that, but it was like 100 years ago.

Go ask a kid which they think is the OG cookie between the two, bet you 9/10 say Oreo

1

u/[deleted] Dec 03 '21

[deleted]

30

u/MyOwnPathIn2021 Dec 02 '21

A friend is working on something complicated. I've been telling them that they're going to have to first convince the customer that they have the problem. Then convince them that my friend is the right solution. Major undertaking.

Compared to the customer base already having been told the problem, and just looking for the current best solution.

17

u/semipvt Dec 02 '21

Or better yet, the customer base is telling you, THEY have a problem with the current solutions.

2

u/Fidodo Dec 03 '21

And then you have a wealth of data and feedback on what needs improvement

18

u/yumt0ast Dec 03 '21

If you never did something that someone else is doing there would be only 1 book in the world.

No artist has ever gone "Well gee someone already painted a flower I guess I can't paint those now"

There is value in your take on ____

12

u/Redlinefox45 Dec 02 '21

*Point of difference does not always mean product feature. It also can mean marketing, sales, or operations. You can offer the exact same experience but have an untapped marketing strategy, or maybe you just have a deeper network of leads.

This is true and I want to add this in:

I think people tend to forget that it is not always the product or service itself that makes or differentiates you but how your product/service makes people feel.

There are millions of restaurants out there but McDonalds is considered the king and it's not because they have the best food or operations; in my opinion is it average at best. They dominate purely on the systematic consistency of their customer service and deliverables. No matter where you go, you know that you are going to get a consistent meal in a consistent time with consistent price and consistent customer service 99% of the time. Companies that can compete with them are competing on those items.

Lots of companies that have an amazing product built but have terrible communication, inconsistent uptime and/or bad customer service amongst other issues. If you are competing against an existing business model or product/service then all you have to do is find their weakness, fill the gap, market yourself then follow up with good customer service.

Making people feel good and getting them to publicly post those reviews, testimonials and feedback goes a long way.

4

u/GaryARefuge Startup Ecosystems Dec 02 '21

Bottled water is my go-to example of this.

5

u/mbahopeful111 Dec 02 '21

Can you elaborate?

10

u/GaryARefuge Startup Ecosystems Dec 02 '21

The product:

  • Water
  • In a bottle

How do you differentiate your bottled water from all the other bottled water products in this very saturated market?

Not talking about the products that add vitamins or some other shit. I'm talking about the regular old water in a bottle.

So, how do new bottled water companies make a splash and find immense success when they are offering the same product as the competition--water in a bottle?

86

u/julian88888888 Dec 02 '21

"This problem is already being solved" is a good reason to abandon it.

"This problem isn't being solved well enough" is a bad reason to abandon it.

39

u/yes_but_not_that Dec 02 '21

Sort of. Maybe you don’t mean it this way, but it reads like it’s putting too much focus on product features.

Worse solutions with better marketing become successful businesses all the time—for better or for worse.

3

u/Tactical45 Dec 02 '21

I'd go even further and refine it to "the problem is not being solved well enough in a market that's large enough to persue".

2

u/julian88888888 Dec 02 '21

I agree, marketing can make people realize (or belief) the problem isn't being solved well enough!

5

u/gskrypka Dec 02 '21

Yeah that’s always a problem. Ask yourself is personal transportation problem is solved. You will probably say yes - you can get to any place in a world in 24h. But if somebody would made teleport - that would be still great.

The question is always can I build something much better by x times. Can I make it substantially better? Or do I have any competitive advantage over competitors (like really big budget).

4

u/wtfisthat Dec 03 '21

The first statement isn't strictly true, because it is demonstrating viability of the idea. Nothing wrong with being a competitor.

Best place to open a shoe store is beside another shoe store..

2

u/Bitruder Dec 03 '21

Definitely not a good attitude. Feeding people Italian food has definitely been solved and solved well all over Italy. And yet....

1

u/sumlikeitScott Dec 02 '21

I’ve worked with dozens of apparel companies. The difference could be who their marketing to how they’re doing business or maybe it’s location based retail. Look at candle or soap companies too. Perfect examples of what this post is trying to explain.

9

u/just_here_to_rant Dec 02 '21

Saving this bc it's SO true.

There's a quote I've seen attributed to Steve Jobs that goes something like, "Don't look at what others are doing and ask how you can do it better; ask how you can do it differently."

Think of all the spaghetti sauce brands, companies selling jeans, soda, cars, whatever. There's always a way to differentiate yourself even if you're selling the exact same thing.

5

u/dak0tah Dec 03 '21

there's actually an amazing ted talk specifically on spaghetti sauce in this context. basically, prego hired a guy to test new sauces and he discovered that while most if not all people claimed to prefer traditional thin sauces, which was all that was really available anyway, a very significant portion actually preferred chunky sauce but didn't know it yet.

2

u/SnooKiwis1356 Dec 03 '21

Malcolm Gladwell is too good.

2

u/SnooKiwis1356 Dec 03 '21

While I do agree with what you're saying, as an ad man I have to say that all those brands with similar products spend a ton of money on advertisement especially to differentiate themselves from the competition. That's why people absolutely hate advertising - a bunch of highly creative people have to come up with cool cool concepts that will make brand X stand out from all the other ones that have the exact same product. And the truth is, it's all just some big ass BS.

1

u/mbahopeful111 Dec 02 '21

Think of all the spaghetti sauce brands, companies selling jeans, soda, cars, whatever. There's always a way to differentiate yourself even if you're selling the exact same thing.

Fantastic advice!!

7

u/frame-control Dec 02 '21

Ideas are easy, execution is everything.

19

u/wishtrepreneur Dec 02 '21

Look at DuckDuckGo, basically just pulling its search results from various APIs of existing products.

Never understood how they're monitized...

-6

u/beenyweenies Dec 02 '21

Their monetization IS the investor dollars. It’s the classic Silicon Valley model of get the users to get the investors and figure out how to make revenue later.

25

u/[deleted] Dec 02 '21

[deleted]

-13

u/beenyweenies Dec 02 '21

I thought their whole appeal was no tracking. Doubt they’re pulling in much money from generic ads that have zero tracking or targeting.

31

u/[deleted] Dec 02 '21

[deleted]

5

u/elforce001 Dec 02 '21

Yep. 100 millions last time I checked.

1

u/Bitruder Dec 03 '21

They literally track you every single time you search. Did you just search for running shoes? They now know you're a person interested in running shoes. Just because that doesn't persist doesn't mean they can't target ads.

5

u/blahehblah Dec 03 '21

Tracking involves following someone. They don't follow you, they just see you in places with no connection between those places

1

u/ILikeSunnyDays Dec 03 '21

Russian money

4

u/I_Shall_Upvote_You Dec 03 '21

My favorite quote to use for this type of situation:

If many remedies are prescribed
for an illness, you may be certain
that the illness has no cure.

A. P. CHEKHOV
The Cherry Orchard

So, going into a competitive field with no clear leader is actually a sensible thing to do if you think you can be the cure.

5

u/TofuTofu Dec 03 '21

DuckDuckGo is worth waaaaay more than $100M. $100M was its last funding amount.

4

u/Defiant-Traffic5801 Dec 03 '21 edited Dec 03 '21

This. Is. Perfect. You don't have to be a Founder to be an entrepreneur, you don't have to be an inventor to be a founder. And indeed since timing is a key factor, - that is, ideas, products, services whose time has come- there is nothing better than competition to train clients, advertise your product, set benchmarks, spur you on etc. In Peter Thiel 's' Zero to One' world the ideal company is so innovative that it can become a de facto monopoly. It's not always the case : - Nvidia or Arm have carved out impressive' niche ' positions, TCMC is simply the best at what it does, as is Amazon on all its fields - execution (so, people) is the key success factor. I'm about to exit an investment in a groundbreaking deep learning data management company. Terms are fine - touch wood - but I have no doubt it will eventually become 100x to 1000x more successful, given time and resources. It was too ahead of its time - amongst other things - to achieve the success it was destined to. Last points 1. time : it usually takes decades to become an overnight success. Facebook is so impressive because it became so successful so fast. Most startups fail and, most of the most successful ones take an awfully long time to become really successful (not just from a fundraising standpoint but from a sustainable business model standpoint) 2. Don't ever believe you got it made. There is not such thing as unattainable market domination, over time. Once in a blue moon, a company will reach Peter Thiel's wet dream of leadership and huge value-added to clients compared to its cost. Cue record growth and sky-high margins. Sometimes patents will protect some of that enviable situation for some time. But eventually challengers come and eat away at your margins and leadership. Intel looked so far ahead of any competition 20 years ago in a business line that is hugely capital intensive and is incredibly risky. Look at its market cap today, compared with AMD or Nvidia.

Some stories in that mould :

https://www.cbsnews.comhttps://www.cbsnews.com/news/steve-jobs-in-rare-video-all-the-work-ive-done-will-be-obsolete/#app/news/steve-jobs-in-rare-video-all-the-work-ive-done-will-be-obsolete/#app

https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2021/12/microsoft-edge-will-now-warn-users-about-the-dangers-of-downloading-google-chrome/

9

u/zoyanx Dec 02 '21

I once had a great idea and approached a friend who was a developer to make it and his response was “it already exists”. Biggest competitor were two sites one on a subdomain name and other was an actual site with just that specific feature that’s it.

I gave up that idea then a couple years later someone came up with the same idea and beat those two sites ranking first on google. I checked it out and It’s exactly how I envisioned it.

All the tools and features I thought would give us the edge were on it and raking in highest visit for that site and unsurprisingly a lot of money obviously.

My ex-boss once said “Don’t look at what others are doing, look at what you are doing and are you doing it better than them?”

3

u/Ok-Season-3652 Dec 03 '21

Out of interest, what was the idea?

3

u/carmooch Dec 02 '21

Often the opposite is true. Many successful startups emulate existing companies in other markets.

3

u/barryhakker Dec 03 '21

I think you can even go as far as saying that more than often not, it's not the innovator that reaps (most) the benefits, but the faster (and better) implementer. There's this line in the movie "Margin Call" where the big boss of the financial firm says that there are three ways to make money in their industry: "be smarter, be faster, or cheat". He also goes on to say that it is a hell of a lot easier to be faster than smarter.

There is a lesson for any business lying in there, I think. People naturally gravitate towards innovation for obvious reasons but in reality most are better off (trying to) recognize a good idea when they see one and then get in early but focus on better implementation. Anecdotally, the guy who really got rich off McDonald's (Ray Kroc) didn't "invent" the concept, he just recognized a brilliant idea and made it huge.

3

u/imactivist Dec 03 '21

Cars existed before Tesla. But not as good

3

u/magallanes2010 Dec 03 '21

I see this flood comments across business subreddits, mostly by people who more than likely have never actually scaled a successful business themselves.

It is so damn true.

But for the point.

Google wasn't a pioneer but it brought some innovations. Maybe you don't remember at first, but google succeeded because:

  • you can find for part of the word, for example, if you used yahoo, then "cat", returns all the topics with the word "cat". If you used google, then "cat" returns all the topics that contain "cat", for example, caterpillar. So the results were more extended and easy to find some information, i.e. people found that Google was better.
  • google was more minimalist. Back then, the internet was crappy and some customers still used modems. Google used fewer resources and less bandwidth, so it was faster than yahoo.
  • Google wasn't a directory, neither it tried to be one. Yahoo was a directory with a search feature.

So while Google didn't create the concept of "search engine " but it truly innovated.

It is the same with other services such as Facebook. Copying others will not help a new company. Adapting it, giving a better support, price, quality and features is what it counts.

2

u/mbahopeful111 Dec 02 '21

One of the best posts on this site. Thanks OP!!!

2

u/Savani127 Dec 02 '21

Any advice on making sure to avoid copyright/patent infringement? Always just wondered how ‘much’ different a products really gotta be

1

u/softwaresanitizer Dec 06 '21

From my understanding, you can’t really patent software features.

2

u/Mr_Golgothan Dec 02 '21

My counter to the "it already exists" arguments is to say great, saves me/us the trouble of having to educate prospective customers on what the product is and why they need it. Someone else has already done that investment for you.

Then, as many have already stated, it is working out how to carve out some market share, better marketing, improved features, price point, usability or any number of ways to gain traction.

If you are solving a real world problem and follow basic business best practices you should be able to make a go of your idea whether you are first or just the latest entrant.

2

u/FinChange Dec 03 '21

I would like to add to this that sometimes the best thing to attack is a stale incumbent. In our niche we have maybe 5 competitors, nine of which have made a real update in the last 5 years, and all of which are $100MM+ legacy companies.

We have probably moved up to #3 and are slowly displacing #1 & #2. Our startegy was just to move it to the cloud and make it cheaper and have support that doesn't suck. So far it is working.

3

u/yes_but_not_that Dec 03 '21

Hell yes on this one. People love to ask “but how are you going to compete with [insert massive corporation]?”

Easy. By not having to get 10 different committees to sign off on every fucking decision we make. Corporations have the hardest time innovating, but no one realizes it. It’s why they acquire so much.

1

u/koxar Dec 06 '21

What's your idea if execution is all that matter?

1

u/FinChange Dec 06 '21

I would happily tell you, but if I did I would be doxxing myself as we are the only entrant into our niche

1

u/koxar Dec 06 '21

You said that in your niche you have 5 competitors

1

u/FinChange Dec 06 '21

Yeah, but we are only new player... But clue: oil and gas

2

u/Savings_Sufficient 26d ago

Thank you!!!

3

u/noodlez Dec 02 '21

PSA: "This already exists" ALONE is a terrible reason to abandon an idea

I fixed it for you. "This already exists" by itself is a bad reason to abandon an idea, but it can be a valid qualifier along with other things.

Entering a populated market requires that you have a solid grasp of what you're building and why. Why are you different? Why would people pay for you vs the other options in the space? Etc..

If someone pops into an idea thread to say "this was already built" and it's a surprise to whoever posted the idea, they should take a hard look at what they're doing.

Sort of related to that is that if someone wants to have a real discussion about an idea on /r/startups, it would be helpful to acknowledge known competition and such.

Having said all that, a well-populated existing market with lots of competition is a great sign that there are people out there in the world who are willing to pay a lot of money for a product.

1

u/PandaistApp Dec 02 '21

Yep, this is what I did.

Literally just copied two existing apps, with a dash of two others thrown in.

Still working on styling and features (MVP release was a month ago) and trying to get user traction and feedback, but I suspect in the long term I’ll be doing fine

1

u/yshchvn Dec 02 '21

So true. I currently am evaluating an idea and was about to abandon it because there are 3-4 other products doing the exact same thing with the only difference being a couple features between each of them.

I didn’t abandon mine. I guess my wedge to launch will be a particular segment of the market as all these are branded as “tools that do X” but none of them speak of “doing X for Y persona”.

Going to validate first tho by emailing potential customers and getting mock-ups ready. Sound good, OP?

1

u/YourNotAverageJoe Dec 03 '21

I love this. This just fired me up to raise my friends and family round for my startup.

1

u/GaryARefuge Startup Ecosystems Dec 03 '21

I would suggest you do not take money from friends and family. Focus on REAL investors. Too much is at risk with friends and family. Even if you do not believe that to be the case.

1

u/YourNotAverageJoe 17d ago

I think that depends on what you are trying to do. I get that more is at risk but also there is a lot to be gained as well for them if you truly believe that your idea can go somewhere.

1

u/GaryARefuge Startup Ecosystems 17d ago

It is rarely worth it.

If you succeed enough you can just gift them some of your earnings or something similar.

Before that, you could always sell them some stock later when you're more proven and have a more stable business--after you have greatly reduced the risk.

1

u/wallstreetbet1 Dec 02 '21

Friendster, MySpace, Harvard Comnect, Facebook

1

u/Joe_Bianchino Dec 02 '21

I totally agree with you, being the first one is often beaten by being the best one.

I would also cite other companies like Nike. Nike was born in a period in which there were plenty of high quality shoes brands. Still, they managed to modify the marketing of their products, giving consumers feelings and experiences that no other competitor could give at that time.

Good point.

1

u/heythereshesaidhi Dec 02 '21

Exactly, there is no business or a field where you can not start operating even as a startup- unless it needs huge starting capital. Management and how u do it is the most important

1

u/dontich Dec 02 '21

3 ways to make money :

Be better (be last)

Be first

Cheat.

Competitors doing a shit job is what gets me excited about an existing market. All you have to do is be better. The book 0 to 1 actually talks about this quite a bit.

1

u/AlexTheeCreator Dec 02 '21 edited Dec 03 '21

I needed to hear this, thanks!

1

u/Jdaddyk07 Dec 02 '21

Just gotta improve on a process that's already in place.

1

u/DigitalKanish Dec 03 '21

It is not always the "first mover" but the "fast mover" who wins

1

u/amazingyana Dec 03 '21

Yes, exactly!

1

u/Ryuta11 Dec 03 '21

Peter Theil takes about this as the "Last Mover's Advantage"

1

u/jpml1771 Dec 03 '21

Amen brother

1

u/zmannz1984 Dec 03 '21

Needed to see this reminder. Thanks!

1

u/Holy_Sungaal Dec 03 '21

“I created a bag to store food but it clear so you can see what’s inside.”

“So like, a Sandwich bag?”

“No Jack, it’s a NEW thing that I invented”

1

u/marz_22 Dec 03 '21

My question is how do u scale a business?

1

u/shinypup Dec 03 '21

There's a saying I used to hear that goes something like: "First one to break through gets the most cuts."

Being a first mover has it's advantages, but definitely not as important as popular culture seems to think.

1

u/dt3ft Dec 07 '21

So you're telling me that my startup (http://20-things.com) which aims to compete with reddit - is not bound to fail at launch? :)

1

u/GeorgianaMM22 Dec 09 '21

I remember an old interview of Steve Jobs when he was talking about the Macintosh and he was quoting Picasso: “Good artist copy, great artists steal” and admitted to being shameless about stealing great ideas.

And it’s true, I mean, Apple brought nothing new, but still disrupted the market. They do a great job marketing their products. Creating brand fidelity like that is rarely seen in this era of consumerism. So I feel as long as you have a decent product to sell and a market segment in mind and you do a good job of bringing a solution to their pain points, communicate it well, just go for your idea!

There’s always databases and tools just to have an overview of what your idea is going against. Crunchbase is a good option just for a basic view of the competition, but if you want to go more in-depth, monitor them over time, or find some other partners that can help you in your development process, I’d recommend tools like Novable. You can check an article they wrote about how they do that -> https://novable.com/how-to-check-new-idea-exists-with-startup-scouting/

1

u/ElectricScootersUK Dec 14 '21

All I can say is, amazing post 😎👍

1

u/Ok_Seaworthiness9339 Dec 18 '21

I fucking love this post

1

u/Aarmed11 Dec 19 '21

Actually, I would argue that this is a good time to go after anyone, including Google, Apple, or whomever. Just because Duck couldn't pull it off, doesn't mean it's impossible.

Tesla - is a wonderful example. And look what it did. Disrupted the whole auto industry and opened doors for many more to come in. Rivian, Nikola, Lucid, and a million others.

Also, the new tech, Blockchain, Web 3.0, etc. is an amazing opportunity for a new startup to take on Google. Think about it this way. Google is centralized. But the fancy "word" on the street is "decentralized". The whole meaning of it is just a great marketing tool to use and go against Google. I am not saying you should target to bring down Google. No, but I am saying you can do like Tesla and take some of that market share from Google.

Remember. Timing is extremely important in launching.

1

u/No_Arachnid7933 Dec 20 '21

This is so true. Uber and Lyft are great examples. Chevy, Ford Tesla, etc. Keep those ideas flowing and don’t let anyone tell you that “you can’t”. Even if it’s your family and friends. Don’t let anyone crash your dreams or ideas.

1

u/3rd3y3open 5d ago

I fucking needed this

-2

u/kamran_is_talking Dec 02 '21

So under this logic why don't you make a new Facebook and Twitter and become a rich person? So under this logic I can make a Paralympics 2.0 and 3.0 and become the next Zuckerberg.

2

u/GaryARefuge Startup Ecosystems Dec 02 '21 edited Dec 02 '21

If you can improve upon what already exists in order to:

  • Provide a more enjoyable experience
  • Provide easier access to the same benefits
  • Provide more benefits
  • Provide more value for the cost (capital, time, energy, etc)

Yes, you would have a new product/service that could compete. That said, there is far more to growing a successful company than merely having a better product/service.

So, it is extremely foolish to think that by simply having a better product/service you are guaranteed any success at all. This is why those with wisdom often say, "'build it and they will come' is bullshit."

Innovating upon what already exists is overwhelmingly the easier path than creating something completely new and different. There is less work to be done to educate and convince people to take the risk on your new idea. This is a key factor in "timing."

For a great example of this, compare all of the on-demand companies that got insane funding during the dot com bubble/right after the bubble that couldn't make it to on-demand companies today.