Person A: Hey, what are you building?
Me: Hey, I am the founder of TapChief. We enable skilled professionals to monetize their time. What Uber does with Cars or Airbnb with homes, we do that with knowledge.
Person A: Pretty cool, but are there similar companies in the US or Europe that's doing the same? What about our next door Koramangala or Gurgaon, anybody similar? You should totally copy whatever you can if there are!
Me: Will look that up. Thanks :| :'(
I may have had this conversation a couple of 100 times by now because it is such a perceived defacto conversation that quite a few people feel they must have with a startup founder.
But I have a slightly contrarian view on this one.
I believe today, for the stage we are at, is the worst time to have any conversation around competition. You may learn a few things about a company in a similar space but any conversation beyond 5 to 10 mins on this is an absolute waste of time in my opinion.
Because I think Kevin is right. May not be right about the crushing but definitely about the cockroach bit.
An early stage startup has so many different challenges to resolve internally more than externally.
Getting to product-market fit; if you have initial signs on that, then building the right team, maintaining burn rates & ensuring enough money in the bank, it's endless.
There is so much scope to look inward & to better ourselves from last month, last quarter & the year before, that any & all talk about competition simply takes the last priority.
So the next time you meet a startup founder, my sincere request to you is to not tell them about 4 or 5 other companies that you may know or have heard of.
Ask them more about what they have been up to and help or offer suggestions in any which way you can.
P.S. Only exception to this is a potential investor where of course you need to be aware of the space at large and the key players & possible threats in the future :)