I remember when we started Earbits – it was called MyOwnFm then – we were several months into it and had only a blog, some low traffic volume, a board of advisers and a few other business-oriented accomplishments under our belts.  We had no technology and, if I recall, no technology co-founder yet, either.  Needless to say, we had (and still have) a very long way to go before our success was ensured.

On one of those early days there was a news article that came out about a company that, based on the description, was exactly what we envisioned for Earbits.  I read it and thought, “This could be about  us.”  They were going to be launching at a big tech conference and both Yotam and I were scared out of our minds that they were going to beat us to the punch.

The day of their launch came and I sat refreshing the conference video clips page over and over waiting for theirs to appear so that I could watch our idea be unveiled to the world, by somebody else.  Luckily for us, and unfortunately for them, the presentation was a relative dud.  You couldn’t tell at all what they were offering, and the presenter spent most of the few minutes repeating himself.  At the time I felt great afterward – they may beat us to market but at least they didn’t come out with the bang they could have.  In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t relished in someone else’s tough times.  But the point is that, it has now been a bit short of two years and this company we were so scared about is still biding its time, to put it nicely.  The reason, as any good entrepreneur will tell you, is because it’s all about execution.

When you have little more than an idea, someone stealing it or having the same idea is terrifying, because it means they have everything that you have.  But really it’s going to come down to whether they can execute on it, and further, whether they can execute on it better than you can.  Regardless, though, at the time this was among the scariest feelings I could have.

Months later, after we had come much further – we had launched our site, secured hundreds of licensing contracts, built up an audience, hired great people, etc. – I began to realize that I was not nearly as afraid of competition from newcomers as I used to be.  In fact, I started thinking, “Go ahead and try to do this.  At least I’ll have someone else to laugh at.  This shit is hard.”  In all seriousness, I started thinking less and less about other small companies passing us up because I see now how hard it is to do what we’ve done.

But, as comforted as I have been about the low likelihood of a new company catching up to us, I’ve still been relatively afraid of larger companies deciding to do what we do.  With all of their assets, it would obviously be a big challenge, and you always get people asking you what you’ll do when so and so does what you do.  They make it sound so formidable.

That’s why my own reaction to something surprised me today.  Another entrepreneur had tried to put me in touch with a very large company to explore some synergies.  That company could be a great partner but they might easily become a big competitor to us, too.  However, you can’t forge big partnerships if you’re afraid to explore them, so I tried to follow up on the intro.

After they didn’t get back to me my friend said today, “I assume they are either super busy – or trying to copy you.”

It was splendid candor and that’s what I like about this particular friend, but what’s even more funny was my gut reaction.  “Try to copy us?” I thought, “Oh please.  Bring it on.”

This was a pretty big shift in my mentality and it was fun to experience.  A year ago, people asked me what I’d do if the company in question tried to do what we’re doing and I thought about how much that would suck.  Now, I think, you know what?  All that’s going to do is make us work harder and validate that what we’re doing is big time.  And you know what else?  I think we can do it better.  In fact, I know we can do it better.  After all, this is what we do.  We do this one thing, and we do it better than anyone else, and we’ll keep doing it better than anyone else because we care about it more and we have 2 years of experience doing it.  Sure, it will be more challenging to battle the big guys, and by all means, I hope they keep sitting on their laurels and letting us build a killer company.  But even if they don’t, I realized today that I have far bigger things to worry about than someone else trying to start a similar business, even if they are a bigger company with more to work with.

It’s a good feeling, going from scared of a nobody company who has the same idea, to being ready to take all comers no matter how big or small.  The reality is that when you look at the distance you have to go and the massive challenges you have to face along the way toward building a big company – building a great product, getting customers, proving your business model, convincing others to invest in you, scaling at the right time and pace – another company running alongside you is really the least of your concerns.  If you do all of those other things right and focus on your own business instead of someone else’s, there is really nothing that another company can do to stop you from being successful.  If anything, they should really just inspire you even more to bring your A Game.

Joey Flores
CEO, earbits.com
[email protected]
Listen at www.earbits.com
Connect with us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/earbits
Listen on iPhone: itunes.apple.com/us/app/earbits-radio/id397894402
Twitter: @earbits

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