Evaluate the Competition or Else
When you’re on the edge of a new trend, it’s easy to lose sight of competitors on the horizon.
If you’re shipping a technical, physical product? It can mean the end before the beginning.
Case in point: smart robot affectionately named Jibo.
Jibo cost a whopping $900 when it launched. It had the following features:
- Stream video calls
- Stream music
- Take pictures
- Control IoT devices with integrations
- Recognize faces
…among a few others.
On the Indiegogo campaign back in 2014, this was a better value proposition than it is these days.
Jibo successfully raised 3.6 million dollars in crowdfunding which is no joke, so where did it go wrong?
For starters, it took until 2017 to fulfill those initial orders – kiss that first to market advantage goodbye!
It was immediately at odds with the much cheaper Amazon Alexa ($179 at the time).
In addition to the lower price, Alexa also offered more features. Ouch.
Those two factors pushed Jibo from a luxury device with some okay features, to an overpriced device with few redeeming qualities overnight.
So what can we do differently?
As indie hackers, our ability to pivot is second to none: pay attention to what’s out there and pivot rapidly based on customer feedback.
Luckily for us, we usually don’t compete on first to market advantage. That means we can avoid getting stomped by competition with some analysis.
You can absolutely do what other companies are doing already if you can provide a fresh take on it.
Sometimes even doing a part of the solution for a more niche audience can be a viable strategy.
The captain obvious bottom line is that if there are companies selling solutions, there is a demand.
Validating ideas like pros – or something like that
Talking to people is standard advice for validating ideas and a great place to start. However, you need to consider:
- Are they your target audience?
- Have they spent money on this problem before?
People can say they like an idea and genuinely mean it – doesn’t mean they will buy your product though.
Pay more attention to what people are spending money on. It’s not incredibly straightforward with online markets, but with some well-constructed search queries, you can probably get a feel for it.
In Jibo’s case, they were close to the cutting edge on home smart devices. Their Indiegogo campaign was a very successful way to validate the idea and get some funding.
Funding isn’t everything
Jibo killed it on funding – but got strangled by competition right out of the gate.
I’m a fan of a bootstrapped approach because it doesn’t typically lead to the kind of prolonged demise that funding can create.
Bootstrapping means you have to have a functioning business model right out of the gate, or there is no business.
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