Startups: Attack The Problem, Not The Competition

About This Blog

This site is for  entrepreneurs.  A full RSS feed to the articles is available.  Please subscribe so we know you're out there.  If you need more convincing, learn more about the site.



And, you can find me on Google+

Connect on Twitter

Get Articles By Email

Your email:


Blog Navigator

Navigate By : 
[Article Index]

Questions about startups?

If you have questions about startups, you can find me and a bunch of other startup fanatics on the free Q&A website:

Subscribe to Updates


30,000+ subscribers can't all be wrong.  Subscribe to the RSS feed.

Follow me on LinkedIn


Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

Startups: Attack The Problem, Not The Competition



Pin It

attack the problem onstartups


Pin It

Do not become obsessed with beating the competition.  Instead, obsess over beating the problem you are out to solve.  There are several reasons for this:

1) The goal is not to win over the competition, the goal is to put a dent in the universe.

2) It's possible that the competitors are not solving the same problem and don't care about the same things.  You are better off solving the problem you want to solve and that you think there's a market for, then someone else's definition of the problem.

3) You will never know all that is going on with your competition.  If you're paranoid, you will think they're doing most things right.  If you're an optimist (or delusional) you may think they're doing everything wrong.  Either way, you're likely wrong.  Don't let the competition define your strategy.  Focus on the problem.


Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Fri, Mar 02, 2012


I mostly agree, don't waste your time attacking the competiton, but I see nothing wrong with exploiting their weaknesses to your benefit.

posted on Friday, March 02, 2012 at 12:30 PM by Karl Treier

Bulls Eye. This is the most important lesson. There has to be a higher goal to a business(The problem).

posted on Friday, March 02, 2012 at 12:44 PM by Jinesh Parekh

I appreciate the enlightened perspective. Its a much more productive approach too. Mr. Sha, I learn a great deal from your postings. Thank you very much.

posted on Friday, March 02, 2012 at 12:55 PM by Steven Chayer

I agree with Karl. Although I think of marketing and product building as separate things.  
Look at Apple. With iOS they clearly don't want to be in the same discussion as Microsoft. But some of their most successful ads have been attacking MSFT. They march on solving the problems they think are important... but they know that no matter how different they are consumers are always going to compare and contrast.  
So... I think I'm saying that it's foolish to 100% ignore your competition.... but also foolish to let them steer the direction of your product and focus.  
I know, in our case, I'm solving a very different problem than my competition is focussed on... but I also know we get compared all too often by our own customers.

posted on Friday, March 02, 2012 at 1:25 PM by josh ledgard

Love the 'made for Pinterest' image :-)

posted on Friday, March 02, 2012 at 1:36 PM by Matt Collins

Hey Josh, good thoughts but the article does not say ignore the competition. It says don't obsess and this is an important distinction. Certainly exploit your competition's obvious weakness(es). It's the un-obviousness ones that the Dharmesh is warning us not to waste time and effort guessing and responding about. Valuable time management and emotional management tips here.

posted on Friday, March 02, 2012 at 1:40 PM by steve chayer

Great post! As others have mentioned keeping your focus on solving the problem needs to be number one, but that must by done while keeping an eye on your competition. This can and must be done without obsessing over them. Obsess over your product.

posted on Friday, March 02, 2012 at 2:54 PM by Don Tarinelli


posted on Friday, March 02, 2012 at 3:30 PM by Michael Assad

you are right, and you put it into words for me thanks and i hope i don't get to wacked out trying to figure things out for my new social media network.

posted on Friday, March 02, 2012 at 9:45 PM by rich poor man

First uncover (or create) the problem, then elevate the problem (ensure the prospect is motivated to solve it), then solve it better than any other option open to the prospect (these options will include things that don't look like conventional "competitors", like DIY, or do nothing).

posted on Saturday, March 03, 2012 at 1:37 AM by Bob Apollo

Sell first. Build later. 

posted on Saturday, March 03, 2012 at 2:18 AM by 4thaugust1932

hi, I read your post and it was amazing , KEEP IT, great job. 
t-shirt torino

posted on Saturday, March 03, 2012 at 11:07 AM by monika

There are countless cases where brands with a better product have failed; VHS vs BETA for example.So, yes, it is important to have a better solution for a perceived problem, but you must also differentiate yourself from the competition. What sets you apart from the crowd? What makes you better?

posted on Saturday, March 03, 2012 at 12:39 PM by George V

Good Post. This way one's Goal is very clear and productive too. Good lesson for all the beginners. Thank you Shah

posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2012 at 3:36 AM by Prewit P

Thanks Dharmesh. I like this strategy because its more time effective and 'less demoralising' than watching how green the grass is over the other side! Cheers, Andrew

posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2012 at 7:05 AM by Andrew

Our company recently built a new website and have started doing some SEO work. We agree that you shouldn't be obsessed with the competiton and should focus on your own products and services and how to make them better. But shouldn't your competition drive your strategy - at least to an extent? Our competitors rank very well online and we don't. In this way, we DO have to worry about the competition! 

posted on Friday, March 09, 2012 at 12:30 PM by Trademark Attorney

This is exactly what we tell our clients while making marketing videos. Focus on the problem, focus on the solution you are providing and focus very little competitors' offering. If client has a unique product/service, we put the spotlight on that.<a>

posted on Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 12:30 AM by Elena

Mario Andretti is quoted as saying "You need to focus on where you're going and how you're going to get there. The best rarely if ever use their rear view mirror in life, because they know that whatever that's behind them doesn't really matter. It's only what's in front of them that counts. You've got to not only push yourself, but once you get it rolling, you still need to keep up the momentum every single day."

posted on Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 4:57 PM by Mike Schinkel

There may be times when you are working with clients, and you decide to check on the status of your competition that is working in a similar niche market. There are benefits that can come from this comparison, but there are also stumbling blocks that can pop up. You might notice that your competition is doing extremely well in a part of the work that they do with their clients. And that you are not having the same success in that area. This can lead to thoughts like: “Should I continue, if my results might not turn out to be as fantastic as theirs?” The answer is “yes”, since your only real competition is with yourself, meaning your past results and behavior. 
A great way to look at this is in a long-term perspective. How many times have you looked back and realized that a competitor of yours did not have a significantly negative effect on your results, but that your focus and hard work was the cause of that which was able to be enjoyed by buyers of your products, programs or services? You may want to believe that your competition is on a pathway, and that you are on a pathway, but it doesn’t make sense to have their pathway cause your path to become less risk-filled or bold. 

posted on Sunday, March 18, 2012 at 3:46 PM by Beverly

I really liked your blog! Nice Posts! 
Keep up the good work! 

posted on Monday, March 19, 2012 at 7:46 AM by Amith

This is a precious read for me. I'm simply satisfied through this post view and impression you did very positively. Thanks mate. :) 
online contests

posted on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 at 6:58 AM by Andrew clark

Comments have been closed for this article.