A few days ago I discovered a competitor in my space. This is not to say that I was naive enough to believe that I had no  competition before, just that they weren’t focused in my particular tiny arena.

HoneyComb does network recruiting: using your connections to find the perfect person to hire. Before I discovered my competitor, I thought that my competition was primarily in the form of how people do this already: through email, phone calls, etc, and broader forms of recruiting: professional recruiters, job sites like Monster, etc.

That kind of competition is stiff to be sure, but it is still nice to think that you are the only one developing a tool to serve a very particular niche. But it was not to be.

My reactions to my competitor were, in this order:

  1. Shock

  2. Awe

  3. Fear

  4. Fear

  5. Fear

  6. Resolve

That is not a typo. I went through the “Fear” stage in 3 distinct ways. Of course, I found the competition in the middle of the night, which magnified my shock and awe. But most of all, I was shocked because they had clearly been developing for longer than I have. They have a much larger, more experienced team. Their design is much more professional. Their technology is much more advanced.

In fact, their tool does things that I wish that HoneyComb did, but I haven’t been able to add yet.

Then the real fear came: they have money. I don’t know how much, but they have some. They have money, an office, professional developers and designers, community managers, and DOMAIN EXPERTISE. Basically, they have everything that I don’t.

So I signed up for their tool. That’s when I reached “Resolve.” I realized that they missed it. Their offering created a chicken-and-egg problem that I had managed to avoid. They needed to reach a critical mass before their tool offered any real benefit (at least as far as I could tell). 

While their technology is better than mine, it won’t matter as long as my HoneyComb is more useful. So I’m resolved to stay the course. Resolved to keep iterating and improving HoneyComb and stay focused on customer development.

Competition is scary, but also motivating. It further validates the concept, and lights a fire.