I have what I believe will be a game changer in my industry. I have been working on a website for over a year now and I plan to take it to market early next year. However, I noticed recently that someone with a very very similar idea took it to market in January this year. I am panicking. What do I do? Keep calm and follow on with my plan or release now?
Regardless of your launch date - keep calm. Having a competitor or twenty is all but a certainty in our new business environment. It has never been easier to discover a problem, validate a solution, build a product and reach customers. But that goes for everyone.
I'd urge you to consider a few questions:
1. Competitive Intelligence:
If this competitor's offering is very similar to yours - what can you take away from a year (nearly) of their operations? Can you use this intel to modify your own product or approach? What have they learned in a year that you can use as a shortcut? Have they shown success in a particular vertical? If so, can you also focus there? This isn't an exhaustive list of questions on this topic - just pointing out that there is likely a silver lining to this cloud of competition.
The question of "is this ready to release?" "should I do it now, or later", "if later, how much later, when is the right time to launch" is one I field more than once a week.
My opinion always skews to the "as close to now as practical." Watching founders struggle over knowing exactly when to launch as if it's a ribbon cutting ceremony for a bridge is painful for me. There is always a minimum level of development, engineering or design required to get your product into the market - but it is usually well below the perceptions of the founder.
Take a minute to step back and ask yourself what will happen between now and whatever arbitrary time period you've determined is "ready". What features will you be adding? Do they matter to your users? If you said yes, how do you know - did you ask users? A lot of them? If not - you may be adding bloat before you even launch, or worse, doing what I call "building a better Yeti trap". Make sure your efforts are driven by the actual, and not perceived, assumed, or gut intuitions about what they need.
A competitive entrant is always a bit unnerving - but remember that being first to market isn't the race you need to win - that's just the start. Turn this into an advantage by drafting off their momentum.
Chances are, your product is ready for some level of use right now, and that users will derive some benefit from it, and that you'll learn a lot from their usage.
So, for my 2 cents, I'll borrow from my stiff upper lipped ancestors from across the pond - and suggest that you "Keep Calm, AND Launch Now"