Friday, April 25, 2014

On competition

I don't remember how many times I have come across a startup that was asked who its competitors were. And the answer was - 'Oh, we have no competitors.'

Perhaps we are understanding competition wrong.

Whenever I think of competition, I think of alternatives i.e., how else could the person/company do the job they are hiring your product to do.

Let's say you are producing a comedy TV Show. The job your 'users' are hiring you to do is to help them spend some time being entertained, away from their daily grind.  What are your alternatives? Other TV Shows at the same time. Or any other TV Show that can be 'DVR-ed.' Or YouTube. Or board games. Or restaurants. Or computers. Basically, anywhere your users can spend time and be entertained.

Noticed I said users, and not customers. This is TV Shows are a two-sided market. They get attention from viewers, an sell the attention to advertisers.

Back to why I thought this. It is because of news about wearables. This article clearly lays out that wearables - while competing with each other - are now competing with Smart Phones. The latest iOS and Android devices have better tracking capabilities, and so App makers can build apps that exceed the native functionality that Fitbit and others offer right now.

With this increased competition, the first generation of devices is now in danger. New devices offer a lot more capabilities. The question is - how easy will Apple or Google find to build the functionality in the Phone? Does building the same functionality actually degrades phone performance in some way (e.g., draining battery too fast)? Is there a patent or unique technology you have?

The new generation of wearables has to do a lot more to tackle this new competition. I look forward to seeing what works.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The sinking feeling

This tuesday, I was on the train back from NY to Boston. I had been working quite a bit the two days, yet did not feel that everything was right. It seemed that something was....wrong. Or missing. I found it hard to really put my finger on what was wrong; but after quite a bit of reflection I figured out why something seemed wrong.

I had a feeling that I had done zero work in two days. That was despite the fact that I probably got more accomplished in the two days, than I often do in weeks.

I figured two root causes for this.

  1. I (along with several other people) have a mindset that work must feel like work. It has to be something I have to get paid to do. While in reality, I would do most parts of a Product Manager's job for free. Let's say tomorrow, I get $50M and never have to work again. I might still do a product manager's/Entrepreneur's work! I cannot think of a scenario where I sit free, and not do the exciting piece of bringing new products to market
  2. There is also an embedded mindset of work must be done in office. This is no longer true - some of my most productive hours are spent on trains, planes, coffee shops where distractions are actually minimized further.
Over time, I am trying to free myself from both these embedded beliefs. They will hold me back.

What beliefs do you have, that might be holding you back?