Should you start a startup if the idea already exists

By Nathan Mullings

The short answer: absolutely. When starting a startup, often founders are scared that their idea will be stolen, or disheartened when they do research, and find out there is another startup already doing the same thing. In most cases, this is the wrong way to think about things. Here’s a few reasons why it’s actually a positive that other companies are doing the same thing.

It’s a weird kind of validation

What’s one way to know if an idea is worth exploring before talking to potential customers? When you see that other people have started working on the same thing. It helps if the other people are recognisably smart. It’s even better if these companies have already raised money and started on-boarding customers. All of these points put together will tell you three things –

  • Smart people think this is an idea worth working on
  • Investors think this is an idea that is going to be big and return lots of money
  • Customers think this is an idea worth paying someone else to do for them.

All of these points are going to make the next stages of research and marketing a lot easier for you.

 The market is being educated for you

I was speaking to a very experienced sales person working in a tech startup, and the issue of competition came up. He said “There is another company offering the same software solution that we are offering, but their product is not as good as ours. The good thing is they have been reaching out to our potential customers, so by the time we talk to them, they already know what we do and their interest is peaked. Even then, if they have already signed up with the other company, they now know what they need and what that looks like. We’re here to provide just that.”

This sales person recognised that even though there may be other products trying to snatch up the same customers you’re going for, they’re still representing the same market as you, and so you no longer have to educate the customer on the what you do and why you can help, but you can skip directly to why you’re better. The customer no longer needs to be convinced about this new product, but rather, which product to go with.

You can see what the competition is doing

If there are already other companies in the market, you now have a great opportunity to find out what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong, then choose the best parts to implement into your own products. If you were the first company on the market, you’d have to find out the hard way by making mistakes and losing customers. Now, this early iterating has been done for you.

Finding a niche and moving faster.

It’s rare that trying to serve the entire market works. If the idea doesn’t exist yet, you’re not sure who within the market you should target first. Smaller companies, larger companies certain sectors, certain industries… If there are other players on the market, you have an opportunity to target the underserved, and move much faster because you know exactly who you’re target market is.

A Unique perspective/insight

One of, if not the best reasons to start a startup because you have an insight that no one else has, and therefore you are the best person to execute on the idea. If this is true, it doesn’t matter whether the idea already exists, because they aren’t addressing the problem in the same way you are. There could be a million other companies with the same idea. If you know something significant that they don’t, that should be enough of an advantage.

Simply put, can you provide a better offering than what’s currently out there? If the answer is yes then by all means, you should start the company.