May 14, 2018

I built something that competes with an indie hacker and I don't know what to do


I recently got some inspiration for a product whilst working with a friend on another problem in the same domain.

It's nearing completion, but a couple of weeks ago I came across someone in this community who is building almost exactly the same thing (like comparing Lyft and Uber). The developer is a bit of an inspiration for me too, he is a great contributor to the site and generally helpful guy. It's quite a niche product too so if one person released after the other it would stink of copycatting.

I'm devastated. Competition doesn't scare me but I feel like I'm going up against a brother. This community does great things and people are generally very trusting. Is this totally against the IH vibe?

Not giving details because I want to reach out privately (hopefully to collaborate), but curious as to what you guys would do in this situation?

  1. 23

    Warning: tough love ahead… Speaking for myself, if somebody wrote to me and said, "Hey it turns out I'm working on something similar to Sweep [my new app], let's team up," I would most likely ignore the email. The thing about competition is that it's merely theoretical until the rubber hits the road. There's no competition until there are actually people choosing one tool or the other. Anything else is just fantasizing about a future that may (likely) never come to pass. You're worrying yourself sick over something that hasn't happened and may never happen, and chances are good that the other person you're worrying over will not view your thus-yet not-even-shipped product with either concern OR interest.

    Your plans shouldn't hinge on what someone else does, and vice versa.

    Ship and see how far YOU can get, first, before you worry about the pains of being more successful than someone you admire.

  2. 19

    Why back off? Pursue your idea independently; execution matters and that's part of the fun/joy/pains :).

  3. 12

    I would reach out. Worst case they don't want to talk and that's their decision. Best case, you can help each other grow.

    Online makers often forget there are many local markets. One idea can be launched in all 195 countries in the world simultaneously and they all have a chance in their local markets.

    The world is immense. There is more than enough space for two small makers with a similar product (or perhaps you both pivot to add on top of each others' offer and extend both your reach).

    1. 2

      I am actually in the same situation. I conducted some customer research and came up with a concept, just to see that somebody else pretty much lunched the same thing here today.

      I think I will follow your approach and reach out to them.

      Thanks for the advice!

  4. 4

    Inspire each other, collaborate, have fun competing...

    1. 7

      +💯 "Have fun competing"

      Classy competition is rare, but definitely makes both parties better. At my old job our #1 competitor would send us a cake every year, and we'd do the same. Was always nice to know they cared enough about being human despite the business facade. Plus it was good cake!

  5. 3

    I think you're making this into way too big of an issue. Competition is part of life and entrepreneurship. Everyone living this type of live knows that... Focus on problems that matter :)

  6. 3

    You compete. Unless you have truly groundbreaking innovative idea( which I doubt), you’ll have other competitors already.

    Best of luck!

  7. 2

    update, i expanded on my answer below, as a blog post:

    i don't know you or the product but here are my thoughts:

    1. most competitors are just "me-too" clones. they set out (Day 0) to build a better mousetrap, but end up with an inferior, cheaper rat poison.

    2. the world's best entrepreneurs are innovators. if you have conviction that an existing product is not sufficiently solving a problem, great. build something new. but if existing solutions are adequate, be honest with yourself: am i an innovator, or an opportunist?

    3. i've personally toggled both "innovator" and "opportunist" status. i believe the best way to get started as an entrepreneur is the latter, and the best way to finish is as the former. for example, in college i did the usual stuff: pin-back buttons, event planning, etc. unlimited competition but unlimited demand, so i made $$ and learned a few things along the way.

    4. all too often, competitors don't simply "compete." they also adjust their moral compass, stoop lower, and do unethical s***. do you want to put yourself in a position where you're questioning your sense of right and wrong on a daily basis? when competition is fierce, it's easy to rationalize bad behaviors. what's a dollar worth to you?

    5. the fact you're sharing this concern publicly means you probably would intend to compete ethically, which is honorable and rare (already noted by @joewadcan).

    good luck w/ whatever you decide. but please don't take blanket advice like "ignore your competitors!" or "just do better!" empirically, that has not helped anyone.

  8. 2

    Nothing much to add to what's been said. In a healthy market that's driven by real revenue / client acquisition there is plenty of room for different players.

    Reach out and see if there is an opportunity for coopetition (cooperation and competition). You don't have to open the full kimono and share everything you're thinking and neither does the other person but rising tides lift all boats.

    I love connecting with competitors or people in adjacent markets. Always an opportunity to learn something no matter how open or closed the other person is.

    So...what is your project? :)

  9. 1

    Go for it! Launch, learn and take your own conclusions.

    If you see the other indie hacker is still working in his project, why not share both experiences?

    Give it a try for 3 months and you will have a LOT to talk about.

  10. 1

    Compete. For every person announcing their thing on IH, there are already x others building something similar or who will in the future.

    I wouldn't bother reaching out. As Amy Hoy said, if someone wanted to team up with me on something I had already advanced, I'd probably ignore it - just too complicated to retrofit someone else and their ideas into a semi-established venture.

  11. 1

    Move forward. Ship. Don't beat yourself over this. Chances are someone else is working on something similar or has already shipped. Or better yet, consider that someone will clone a working business regardless, so why should you not be among the first to market?

  12. 1

    Not giving details because I want to reach out privately (hopefully to collaborate), but curious as to what you guys would do in this situation?

    I'd just do it if I think my execution is better and if I'm passionate about the idea.

  13. 1

    Just keep on going. If you're committed to the idea, then build it and release it. Based on your comment, it sounds like the other developer hasn't released their product yet either.

    Even though your ideas right now may be very similar, to paraphrase Steve Blank, no concept survives first contact with the customer. Your product visions could diverge wildly in the 6-12 months after release to the degree that you aren't even competing for the same customers anymore.

    You've got a good heart to be devastated over this, but it's likely that you're suffering over a future that may never come to pass.

    Keep hacking.

  14. 1

    Keep building! I can almost guarantee you that your vision of the product is different from that of this other developer.

    1. 1

      i don't think this is good advice. how you can be certain this hacker's vision is different?

      unfortunately, in many competitive observations there is little differentiation between the first or bigger co's and the slightly newer ones.

      this is why competitors are often called "clones" -- they typically lack a unique perspective, or point of view, about how a specific problem ought to be solved.

      1. 1

        Very valid counterpoint. This is why the Indie Hackers community is so great.

        You are right, there is no certainty. But I believe the odds of having the same vision are tiny, especially for two people who aren't working together.

        I say that because me and my co-founders have spent way too many hours talking about our vision for Tribe of Five ( And yet, each of us know we're still not fully aligned.

        I'm going to take a leap of faith that Simon Sinek influenced your vision for Fomo since you have "Start with Why" on your about page? Awesome job. You vision is very clear and concise and powerful.



  15. 1

    There are plenty of users for the right product. There is probably only a 0.01% chance that you would ever step on each others toes. I wouldn't worry about it too much. If anything you can probably give advice to one another. Competition is good and it will likely make BOTH products better.

  16. 1

    Same product different people would have different execution in place. So even some of the features are a like it might not necessarily have the same outlook for the future.

  17. 1

    Reach out to them! Consider teaming up.

    It's hard to find people with the same amount of passion for the same exact problem(s).

    Teaming up should happen more often, IMO. Especially in new markets with lots of little startups taking stabs. You could be so much stronger together.

    1. 1

      Paypal came to be like this, btw

  18. 1

    by competing you're benefiting us, potential users by giving us the opportunity to choose.

  19. 1

    Like others said. It’s huge world. Let’s say you have exactly the same product...there’s room for both because they can’t pissoble have all the customers and you have none. Things just don’t work that way. The work is large. What if there was only one Microsoft? Ugh. Boring. Just go for it and you guys will be fine. Heck it’s great validation and you can help each other out. Maybe keep each other in check. Leapfrog each other and everyone benefits.

  20. 1

    Man I can understand how that would hit you right in the feels.

    At the same time... like @shishy said execution is a big factor in whether or not you can get something to succeed or not. Assuming the idea is something that could potentially turn into something with PMF how many people with the same idea could actually get it all the way there? I'd say not so many tbh. He may have higher quality ideas than you about how to market it for example or that might be reversed. If it's a great idea and the world needs it, you kinda of owe it to the world to maximise the chance that a version of that people love actually gets in the hands of those people.

    Just my 2cents.

  21. 1

    Keep going. It's validation you may have a market.

    1. 3

      Another person making the same product isn't validation. Unless their product has paying customers and lots of them.

      1. 1

        2nd this. It's suggestive, but not validating.

  22. 0

    The chances of them feeling the same way about ethics is slim to none.

    If he feels as conflicted as you do, then you've found someone who you may be able to work with.

    Here's what I would advise:

    1. Define what makes your product different

    2. Nail your demographic and build a brand that appeals to them

    3. Once launched reach out and see if there's something that can be done together to combine the best parts of both apps and have more man power behind the product

    4. Build an audience including paid

    5. Study CRO and possibly UX design

    6. Listen to your users

    7. Listen to people who don't buy

    8. Use this data

    9. Make it profitable

    10. Learn as much as you can

    Good luck!

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