How do i know if the idea i have in mind for startup is not being worked on by another stealth startup company


I have an idea in my mind, but how do i know if someother company is already working on a similar idea (espeically in stealth mode) or worse if i start working on my idea and half way through if the news comesup that some other company has already started a similar website?

what are some alternatives to avoid this situation?

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asked Oct 13 '09 at 06:59
445 points

7 Answers


Your idea is being worked on by a stealth company.

And Microsoft and Google are working on it.

And there's 17 open source projects and one of them is getting traction.

And three companies just got funding to do it.

You always have to assume all this is true, because it probably is. And if your idea is really good, it will certainly be true soon.

By the way all software companies are in this position, and it doesn't stop anyone.

The only strategy is to be the best in your chosen niche, and work really hard. Nothing else is in your control anyway.

answered Oct 13 '09 at 07:10
16,231 points
  • I couldn't agree with this more, if no one else is trying to solve your problem then chances are its not really a problem and people won't buy your product. – James Avery 14 years ago
  • isn't There is space for only one, one search engine "Google", one money managemnt website " MINT". What good is it going headon with a big player if he comes up with what you are working on half way. – Syed 14 years ago
  • You picked two awesome examples because Google entered a market where their known competitors were Yahoo, Microsoft, and a half dozen other huge companies. Mint entered a market where Microsoft and Intuit ruled the market. Yet I think we would both consider these successes. Also, you don't have to own the market a tiny percentage of either of these markets could make a healthy business. (but don't be deluded into thinking getting even 1% of these markets would be easy) – James Avery 14 years ago
  • Great answer by Jason, as usual – Slavo 14 years ago
  • @Syed -- no of course there's not "only one." Are you saying Yahoo, Bing, Ask, and Wikipedia don't exist? Are you saying they don't make money? Did you know Yahoo mail has more users than GMail? Are you saying QuickBooks can't exist because Mint can? Of course there's room for multiple players, and James makes a great point about Google DISPLACING a big player. Just have a niche and be better AT SOMETHING. – Jason 14 years ago
  • I just wanted to comment (yes, it is probably out of topic), referent to Jason's comments above... Intuit which owns Quickbooks just bought out Mint. I guess if your idea is any good, chances are that you'll sell quick. – Ricardo 14 years ago
  • Not sure that good ideas necessarily sell *quick*, but agreed that any successful company has a good chance of a nice exit. Of course if you have a profitable, sustainable company you win whether you exit or not. – Jason 14 years ago


I'd be more worried if you have no competitors or others working on a similar (or identical) product. Even if you think you don't, you do.

When we were speaking to people about our idea, the first thing people would ask is "who are your competitors". If you don't have any then there's generally two conclusions people will draw:

  1. Your idea is so new and cutting edge that you're the first to think of it.
  2. No-one else is working on the idea because there's no market.

One of my best days was when our main competitor launched, it went towards supporting my arguments that this was a valid niche and showed that others were suffering the same problems and trying to find solutions.

You say it would be worse if someone launches before you with a similar product. I'd argue that first mover advantage can be over-rated and launching second means you have an opportunity to leapfrog the competition by offering something better than they do.

If customers have something to compare you to, it can be beneficial (assuming you provide something better) to be able to compare you to an 'inferior' competitor as validation that they've made the right decision picking your product over them.

answered Dec 10 '09 at 09:34
206 points


All good advice above - I recently found myself in this exact situation, discovering that a competitor was about to launch a service similar to the one I had in mind, for free too. This turns out to be a good thing - as everyone says, it validates your marketplace and you just have to be the best in your niche. That didn't stop me feeling somewhat depressed when I found out though, although seeing what they had to offer did make me feel better :-).

A few things I have concluded:

  1. Just because a competitor is out there doesn't mean you should give up - if you are committed to your solution and believe it can be the best out there, you are in with a good chance of building a decent business.
  2. If (as has already been suggested), your competitors are mostly big firms, their focus is inevitably elsewhere; your focus is 100% on this specific business problem, so it's a given you should (or at least could) produce the best solution.
  3. Because someone gives something away
    for free doesn't invalidate your
    business (although I would guess
    this is less true for the consumer
    space than B2B, as consumers are generally more
    fickle) - if you have something that
    really adds value to someone's
    business, then they are going to
    want to pay you for it. (For a whole bunch of reasons - you pay for
    something you value, you want the
    supplier to stick around, etc.)
  4. Perhaps this is an opportunity to revise your go-to-market strategy - I concluded that going head-to-head with my competitors was dumb, rather that I needed to offer a value-added service (instead of just a piece of software) that was attractive to a set of customers with a specific need (the niche thing again) and build from there.

I hope this helps a little.

answered Mar 4 '10 at 18:03
Steve Wilkinson
2,744 points


I hear that similar startups is relatively common.
If you don't have competition then that should be a warning sign that your idea might not be valuable.

Your main competitors will not be other small startups, but established and dominant players, as well as entrenched habits for your customers.

You should focus on your market positioning, as this will ultimately determine if your company succeeds. You should look at the positioning of your competitors for ideas, but do not necessarily assume they are correctly positioned.

Focus on understanding your customers and developing the correct product/market fit. Understanding your customers is the best way to ensure the long-term value of your venture.

answered Oct 13 '09 at 07:10
Joseph Turian
895 points


Assume they are. That should make you work even harder.

Even if someone releases a similar product solving the same problem, there is almost always room for multiple products. And don't worry about startups copying you - they have their own road map, and if they copy you they're dead in the water anyway.

The solution: work harder. faster. better.

answered Oct 13 '09 at 07:11
744 points


As others said, being the best in your niche is the best insurance policy.

The danger of a better funded company coming out of stealth or copying your idea is very real (Kiko got completely swamped by Google Calendar, and there was a big shakeout in the personal finance webapp space as Mint won).

Perhaps ironically, competition may actually be a good thing. If your strategy is to get acquired, even if your are beaten at being #1 by your better-funded competitor, maybe you will get acquired by the acquirer's competitor if you are a strong #2. E.g., VMWare's success did not prevent decent exits for Connectix and later VirtualBox and even later for Xen.

answered Oct 13 '09 at 09:10
81 points


Pl. follow the excellent advice before my input, the advice is valuable and read up all the QA on this site on Startups including various pointers to founder blogs, including Dharmesh's and Jason's.

The idea, as long as it is in your head, is useless until its productized. If you are afraid of competition then read up on how Intuit beat Microsoft among other examples. Once the product is released your pre-conceived notions of competition will also get revised, if you are paying attention to the competitive landscape. Other than direct competition, you'll get indirect competition from other apps that you may not think is competition but will be because they can absorb your idea. Then you may have to get nimble and be ready to specialize and focus your product to differentiate. One of the biggest problems is when the founders put on blinders and don't listen to customer feedback and non-feedback. These are some items, the list of what you should and can do as an entrepreneur is endless.

answered Mar 4 '10 at 16:44
Gary Valan
71 points

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