When pitching investors, don’t bash the competition. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend bashing the competition under any circumstances – when meeting with prospects, clients, or even internally. It sends the wrong message and positions the conversation around others and not you. Bashing the competition also makes you look petty and foolish. Jason Cohen expresses this very well in his post: The right way to position against competition. He writes:
“Your company is defined by its own strengths, values, customers, and products, not by how it compares with other companies. You need a strong position, something that would be equally clear and compelling even if competitors didn’t exist.”
When talking about the competition be careful about pointing out their weaknesses. You have to really understand if the weaknesses you’ve identified are weaknesses. They might not be. There could be logical or critical reasons why something is the way it is with a competitor that they understand and you don’t. What you call a weakness could be a key component of a competitor’s value proposition.
Try framing and validating weaknesses through your own customer development. “My prospects are telling me that X and Y are important, and those are missing from Competitor A and B.” More importantly, turn this around and hammer home your key value proposition (which should very clearly differentiate you from the competition) and explain your unfair advantages. What are unfair advantages? Going back to Jason Cohen, here are two must-read blog posts: No, that is NOT a competitive advantage & Real unfair advantages.
One of the unfair advantages that Jason mentions is “Insider information.” It’s about having intimate and potentially secret (but not that secret) information about a market and opportunities in that market. Could be tied to competitors, in some case acquirers, and overall market trends. I don’t see this unfair advantage often, and I think it’s because many people are building B2C applications to scratch their own itch or “for fun.” Scratching your own itch may be a good starting point but it doesn’t always scale. Part of the value of a program like Year One Labs is the network we provide, which can rope in the right people with the right information to create the “insider information” unfair advantage.
I find myself often repeating to people, “If it’s a good idea, there are hundreds of people building it right now.” If it’s a bad idea, the same thing is true. Bashing competitors will get you nowhere. It puts your focus in the wrong place, and in an investor pitch it diminishes your credibility. Identify the competition (investors will always ask), demonstrate a real understanding of them (not a hypothetical assessment of their weaknesses), frame the competition properly with validated information from prospects & customers, and turn the conversation back to what makes you special.