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Don’t fear the FAANG
Things don’t end when a large behemoth enters your sector. Founders can still win.
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Battling and winning against tech giants
It’s a fear that haunts the dreams of founders. What if Google decides to build what they’re building? How do you compete with a company, which made a profit of ~$16 billion in a single quarter? It almost literally has an army of engineers and seemingly endless wealth to throw at a problem. It’s important to remember that the FAANG companies don’t always win. There are always other winners.
Let’s think of parallels. Slack not only survived but also thrived despite the existence of Google’s chat functions. So huge was Slack that it was acquired for over $27 billion by Salesforce. For new entrants, the lightness and nimbleness of their operation can be a superpower.
But how do you unlock this superpower? We spoke to Lalit Mangal, Co-founder and CEO, AirMeet. The company has carved a niche for itself in web conferencing amid the likes of Zoom, Google Meet, Cisco Webex.
“Depth is always key. Can you unlock high economic value?” Lalit Mangal
Give them economic value
When it comes to building value into your product, depth is key, Lalit says. “If that feature unlocks high economic value for the customer, it is worth going for it as a startup idea. To be successful at it, one must go deeper in delivering the economic value for that use-case.”
When he founded Airmeet in 2019, Google had Duo and Microsoft had long been running Skype. To make something in the same space, he believes founders need to find the problems that still need resolution.
“I never set out to build for video calling or video meetings, for example. Because those had been well commoditized. Airmeet decided to make webinars more powerful and premium so that it can hold higher value events for companies.”
The catch here is that even though Zoom or Google Meet/Duo could be reused to run webinars, they didn’t particularly focus on the use case.
“Find innovator personas in your target market and build the product with them” Lalit
Don’t twin if you want to win
How should founders approach building products parallel to those which exist in the market?
Lalit says he looked to the architect of disruption theory for inspiration. Clayton Christensen’s Idea Adoption Curve worked for him. “Simply do this: find the innovator personas in your target market and build the product with, in the best case scenario, them. You will never go wrong.”
So a young intrepid company has managed to build a product, unfazed by large competitors. How does it get customers to choose it over those large competitors?
Differentiate, differentiate, differentiate.
Lalit began with a clear mission statement: delivering better outcomes through better events. He says Airmeet was specifically solving for two use-cases: business prospect or customer engagement, and employee or talent engagement.
With that vision firmly in place, Lalit says, they knew exactly which four vectors to innovate on. For Airmeet, it was: Creating a fun, social learning experience; a branded and immersive experience; zero hassle in session and event management; and unlocking insights with analytics.
Marketing hits different
For a smaller product to be able to edge out incumbents, its marketing needs to cut through the noise. And it needs to do that with nuance.
Lalit says he has so far relied largely on product virality for growth. The likes of Comcast, J&J, HP, etc. came looking for Airmeet because they heard good things about it from their colleagues.
“We are now positioning Airmeet around the value narrative of doing events.” This gives it a competitive advantage versus more generalist products such as Zoom or Teams.
Founders typically need to evaluate the market to see what needs are left to be unsolved and answer why a large company may not focus on that use case just yet.
Another asset that can communicate how your product stands apart is design. So how should first-time founders approach it?
Airmeet did it by institutionalizing customer empathy. “Our Airmeet team is the most demanding customer we have,” Lalit says. “This has involved each of our team members in product improvement efforts in one way or the other.”
There has to be a “take it on” culture that should exist within the team. There is no success without the knowledge that you can beat even the greatest of Goliaths.
Goliaths can be beaten. In large companies, when it tastes overwhelming success in a sector, say cloud for AWS, or search for Google, or operating systems for Microsoft, it becomes harder to be able to focus on everything.
Retail investor pressure starts to drive them to create larger profits and acquire more market share. It leaves lots of opportunities for a smaller, more nimble company to start playing in that space.
The larger the company gets, the harder it is to keep customer support of extremely high quality. Smaller companies can give customers more attention and this in turn helps with PMF.
At the end of the day, it’s never a zero-sum game. There’s always space for more than one player. There is Slack, Flock, Google’s chat, and various others.
What Together has been up to
It has been a bit of a busy month. Let’s run you through them.
We invited Anand Jain of CleverTap to write a long read on how to build your product in collaboration with your customer.
Our colleague Amrutha penned down her journey about her transition from being an operator to a VC and how she imagines
We joined DhiWise in their journey to build the next-generation visual programming platform. The two founders are second-time entrepreneurs and never stop learning.
We also welcomed Privardo to the Together network. The startup automates data privacy compliance. In a world where data privacy is top of mind across the world, the team is building something special.
A little social media popcorn 🍿
Toplyne has some interesting views on founder-led sales.
Weaponizing Product Hunt.
That’s it from us for the month. If you believe you’ve got an idea that we need to hear, do write to us.
We’ve got an exciting guest lined up for next time. Until then, stay safe, and let’s build Together.
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