I have what I believe will be a game changer in my industry. I have been working on a website for over a year now and I plan to take it to market early next year. However, I noticed recently that someone with a very very similar idea took it to market in January this year.
I am panicking. What do I do? Keep calm and follow on with my plan or release now?
Regardless of your launch date - keep calm. Having a competitor or twenty is all but a certainty in our new business environment. It has never been easier to discover a problem, validate a solution, build a product and reach customers. But that goes for everyone.
I'd urge you to consider a few questions:
1. Competitive Intelligence:
If this competitor's offering is very similar to yours - what can you take away from a year (nearly) of their operations? Can you use this intel to modify your own product or approach? What have they learned in a year that you can use as a shortcut? Have they shown success in a particular vertical? If so, can you also focus there? This isn't an exhaustive list of questions on this topic - just pointing out that there is likely a silver lining to this cloud of competition.
The question of "is this ready to release?" "should I do it now, or later", "if later, how much later, when is the right time to launch" is one I field more than once a week.
My opinion always skews to the "as close to now as practical." Watching founders struggle over knowing exactly when to launch as if it's a ribbon cutting ceremony for a bridge is painful for me. There is always a minimum level of development, engineering or design required to get your product into the market - but it is usually well below the perceptions of the founder.
Take a minute to step back and ask yourself what will happen between now and whatever arbitrary time period you've determined is "ready". What features will you be adding? Do they matter to your users? If you said yes, how do you know - did you ask users? A lot of them? If not - you may be adding bloat before you even launch, or worse, doing what I call "building a better Yeti trap". Make sure your efforts are driven by the actual, and not perceived, assumed, or gut intuitions about what they need.
A competitive entrant is always a bit unnerving - but remember that being first to market isn't the race you need to win - that's just the start. Turn this into an advantage by drafting off their momentum.
Chances are, your product is ready for some level of use right now, and that users will derive some benefit from it, and that you'll learn a lot from their usage.
So, for my 2 cents, I'll borrow from my stiff upper lipped ancestors from across the pond - and suggest that you "Keep Calm, AND Launch Now"
I would take it as a positive thing, it shows a level of validation that someone has independently come up with the same idea. You can analyse what they have done and learn from their mistakes.
Other things to consider:
1. Is there only room for one product solving this problem?
2. what can you offer that this competitor does not?
3. have belief in yourself and your ability to add personal value
I recommend you take a deep breath, consider the above, don't make any rash decisions, if they've been live for 11 months another few weeks won't make much of a difference.
It is good you are worried. Goes to show you are in touch with reality. You should always keep an eye on what is going on in your market.
With regards to your plan and if you stick your plan. Please your plan as a startup is already out of date. As a startup you operate in a volatile and dynamic market place. As soon as you finished your plan it was out of date. A bit like a photograph. As soon as you took the snap things changed.
I think it would be wise to re visit your plan and update it as per the changes in the market place. It means you have to take you product to market earlier or in a different way. Depends.
If you are using beta testers for you service then this should be less of a concern. Hope you are.
Ready, Fire, Aim. Do not make the mistake of waiting. Fire away. You may find that you need to make adjustments, change your services, products, whatever. You will never learn this in the lab or a closet. Quit waiting.
Best of Luck,
From the Trenches to the Towers Marketing
I will be glad to help as my time permits.