Marco Arment, the creator of Instapaper, blogged about his expectations for the impact of an “Instapaper-like” utility to appear in Apple’s next version of OS X. Near the end of his thoughtful analysis, he suggested this could be a huge boon for Instapaper, in the fact that it would introduce people to the need for an Instapaper-like product in the first place:
My biggest challenge isn’t winning over converts from my competitors: it’s explaining what Instapaper does and convincing people that they actually need it. Once they “get it”, they love it, but explaining its value in one quick, easy-to-understand, general-audience sentence is more difficult than you might imagine. If Apple gets a bunch of Safari users — the browser that works best with Instapaper — to get into a “read later” workflow and see the value in such features, those users are prime potential Instapaper customers. And it gives me an easier way to explain it to them: “It’s like Safari’s Reading List, but better, in these ways.”
In my last 6 months of working on Postmark, I’ve had a similar experience. For the uninitiated, Postmark is a service created by my friends (and long time Indy Hall members) at Wildbit. We give our customers a reliable way to send and monitor valuable transactional emails – stuff like welcome emails, order and shipping confirmations, forgot password emails, etc – without worrying about the pain of configuring and maintaining a mailserver.
While our customers overwhelmingly love Postmark for it’s approach to this problem, the challenge is in that the product itself is helping define an entirely new market for the need. Many people don’t even know that a simple solution for email delivery problems exists to solve their pain, let alone that it exists as an option.
I’d qualify that as our biggest competition, moreso than some of the companies I’d consider our actual competitors.
Thinking about the business this way keeps us focused on what’s best for the customers.
It Doesn’t Stop at Software
In another part of my world, I’ve learned the value of defining your competition when creating something that never existed before. When speaking to people about Indy Hall, I periodically get asked who our primary competition is. People assume that it’s cafes. They’re surprised when I say that our primary competition isn’t another place – it’s people’s motivation to get off the couch, put on pants, and walk out their own front door.
Whatever you do, don't build your coworking community alone.
Join the 3000+ community builders who get my newest posts, lessons, stories, and tips like "How to fund your coworking space" and "Why I hate the title Community Manager"