Friday, August 10, 2007

Linkspank has no competition.

Linkspank has no competition. I'm totally serious. Really, I mean come on, what's the competition?

Ok, I'm kidding. In talking with me, one of the things people are most obsessed about is "competition." So I've had the opportunity to think about it and talk about it and so it's an Inside Linkspank kind of topic.

bring it, biatch

How I Don't Think about Competition: Laundry List Comparison

Don't create a list of companies that seem reminiscent of Linkspank and worry about whether they are "already doing" what Linkspank is doing, and whether we "need" something like Linkspank.

thinking inside the box

In my opinion, that is the DEFINITION of thinking inside the box. :-)

How I Do Think about Competition: Consumer Opportunity

Start with the customer. Competition is forever a secondary business question - second to the user and what the user wants.

Thinking about people is how good stuff gets started. I started working on Linkspank because I remarked to myself,

You know, Andrew, procrastination is too much work, it's not as fun as it could be, and it's still really primitive. When I get an email forward, I have no idea where it came from and I don't know whether my other friends saw it. Wouldn't it be nice to know that?

(one man's dream come true... or on the way at least)

(and again)

Also, despite search engines and websites, it's still way too hard to find all the good stuff out there. There are videos that hit the web and are viewed by 3 million people in a week. How do you know what they are, which of your friends are watching them? and it's just too hard to find the stuff you are really going to like - especially new stuff.

When I go to YouTube, I know there's a lot of great stuff. But it would be way better if I could see what my friends were watching, what they liked, and if I could share things with them more easily and save it all to watch it and share it later.

There are all kinds of ways to share links - you can email them, "share" on sites like YouTube, Break, eBaumsworld, you can post on MySpace or share on Facebook, and there are all kinds of techie sites like stumpleupon, digg, delicious, etc, -- but I've tried all these things and I just am not that impressed. Sharing is too technical, too much work, and you still can't do half the stuff I want to do.

Basically, all the stuff out there sucks. And I can imagine a site that doesn't suck. Maybe I should try to make that. Wouldn't that be fun?

And that's how I got started. We created a "customer manifesto" of sorts. And we had a team of people and we researched the idea. We found that Linkspank (as it would later be called) would not be for everyone, but that there was a real opportunity.

there must be a better way

You can only talk about competition in my opinion once you have an opportunity to do something new in mind.

Now, if the opportunity is real, then by definition your competition is failing in some way. They aren't addressing the opportunity, or not that well. Take Digg, which is a great site but suffers from both issues. First, it doesn't really address sharing with friends in any real way (it's a "wisdom of crowds" application, not a friends site or social network). Second, it doesn't really address it right - it's too techie and hasn't grown beyond a slice of the web population.

Even though lots of people have been working at this problem, they have not solved it yet. People still share using email above all - and while email is ok, it's easy to imagine a better world for people who share more than like a couple links per month.

No Competition is Usually a Bad Sign

If there is a real opportunity, then you should expect competition. If there is no competition, you either don't understand the market, there is no market, or you're WAY ahead of everyone. (Of the three, the last is the best, but it's still a rough place to be.)

So How Do You Know if You Can Compete?

If you're competing just on speed, don't bother. The trick is to solve the problem better! And in a rich, interconnected way, as explained by Porter's concept of strategic fit.

To my mind that means, the more complicated your problem is, the better chance you have at being able to compete - if you can solve it. :-).

Just one competitor's thoughts.... ante up.