About once a week someone pitches me a new idea (to them) that is being done by another company. While I don’t believe that competition is bad (it’s the opposite) or that markets can’t support more than one entrant (most end up with at least 3) I do believe that the people pitching me do not really understand what they are copying.
Too frequently, me-too startups miss the point because they only see what is visible and only at a moment in time. I had a mentor who always said that you can’t tell which way a car is moving from a snapshot. And with startups it is all about trajectory not current location. Was Uber just a taxi alternative or Snapchat a photo sharing app? While at one time you could have easily described them as such, that was just what could been seen at the time.
Startups are never “done” they are always seeking new learnings in order to change, improve, refine the value they offer. And while the word “pivot” has long since fallen out of favor and in to parody it remains the inevitable result of paying attention to those learnings. As founders we must do the same.
A friend once told me that you have to start with who you want to be “be” not what you want to “do”. Startups are the same. So the next time you look at a startup and say ” I could “do” that, ask yourself what they could “be” and see if you still want want to pitch me.