The Tree Rings of Competition

I’m fascinating by the evolution of mature markets and how competitors engage in said market to obtain mind share.

Many people question why Founders choose to enter certain markets. Onlookers tend to see juggernauts and feel as if the space is off limits. In my experience, the opposite is true. It’s very rewarding to carve out a niche inside a much larger market than it is to be the high-pressured innovator that is forced to make things up as they go. For one, the market has been validated by someone else, and you may have an advantage having observed what hasn’t worked for those that came before you.

Competition is healthy. And according to a recent article I read about market shifts over the past two decades, it’s the brands that come in later on that end up taking over the market. As proof, consider this list of market shifts from one leader to another juggernaut:

  • Coca Cola (1886) - Pepsi (1893)

  • Yahoo Mail (1997) - Gmail (2004)

  • MSN Messenger (1999) - Skype (2003)

  • Basecamp (1999) - Asana (2008)

  • Myspace (2003) - Facebook (2004)

  • Todoist (2007) - Wunderlist (2011)

  • GitHub (2008) - GitLab (2011)

  • HipChat (2009) - Slack (2013)

The lesson here is don’t be afraid to enter a market to compete for your own subset of customers inside a saturated vertical. Sometimes that’s where the best businesses change the world.