How do you handle criticism such as "Why are you making X when Y does the same thing"?

Hey Hackers and Makers 👋

I am curious, how do you handle criticism when someone tells you 'Why are you making product X? Y does the same thing and even more already, what's the point?!', at the start of your journey?

Even if you know that the product you are building will eventually be better or have strong USPs in the future, it's not there yet. So users from your competitors criticise you for trying to make an alternative and judging it based on the current feature set

How do you handle stress associated with such criticism?

  1. 10

    Personally I think it's a silly question, but I can't fault non-technical people for asking it.

    In the "real world" there are many, many alternative choices for any category of product. Just think of coffee, and how many ways that is served up by different shops: some part of a large chain, some independent.

    Software isn't exactly like coffee, but I think the fundamental truth still applies - you can take a product/service, put a different spin on it (price, quality, location, design, health, etc) and as long as the market is big enough there's probably customers out there for you to find.

    I think when non-technical people ask this, the misconception that they have is that the market for tech products is small. It's not, it's huge.

    Example, millions of companies need project management software. You have a new project management tool and you need 50 customers to be profitable. If you work hard and your product is good, what are the odds of you getting 50 customers out of the millions in the addressable market?

    I'd say those odds are pretty good.

    1. 1

      For sure, as a developer, I know that to be the case, but when you hear it over and over again, it sometimes starts to get to you. Many would remain sceptical, even if you try to explain what your product is trying to become (and why it will be different).

    2. 1

      I don't think this is a silly question.

      As you noticed there are many, many alternative choices and people just want to know why they should choose your product.

      And you, as a founder, should have at least some answer to it.

    3. 1

      Well said, it's a silly question and for some reason people don't realize the physical world is full of this (there's one Ford why do we need Chrysler?).

      People often think in terms of winner take all, this is a scarcity mindset, there are billions of people and they have different desires and needs. This translates into the business world and it turns out there are an abundance of people with needs not served with the current market participants.

      In short, every product makes tradeoffs and those tradeoffs are evaluate by real people who have needs and desires that are different. Your job as a founder is to carve out a big enough portion of the market. There's plenty of fish in the sea for you.

  2. 4

    Them : Why are you making X when Y does the same thing?
    You : Is Y perfect?

    Them : No, it doesn't do Z.
    You : Thanks!

    1. 1

      That's a great suggestion, I never thought of doing something so simple. Thanks, I will see how this will work out!

  3. 3

    I just don't make any products.

    1. 2

      That's one way to go about it 😁

  4. 3

    There is no field in the internet that only allows one player to win, so every market has multiple products / companies at the same time. Even google has competitors (duckduckgo, bing, etc...). There are a bunch of ways to diferentiate yourself from the competition, you can be the cheaper option, you can use a marketing channel nobody else is using, you can have a different twist on the product itself, you can have the better user experience, you can focus on b2b, you can focus on small companies, you can focus on consumers, you can be the bootstrapped company, you can be the VC company, it really depends on the field your product is in and what do you want to do.

  5. 3

    Well, you don't really know it's better, it might be worse compared to the competition in terms of feature parity. But there's so much more to a product.

    You are (hopefully) building something according to your unique vision. There will always be a number of potential clients with similar tastes, who are unhappy with existing solutions.

    Nowadays it's hard to create something completely new, revolutionary, and unheard of. Most products are clones of other products, with enough differentiation to make them viable to a certain subset of customers. When a huge chunk of the market is controlled by a handful of big players, this could actually be an opportunity for someone who does it differently. It means there's already demand - and a market - for that thing.

    So my take is, just do what you feel is best, while keeping an eye on the competition. Just don't copy what they're doing because you may not always understand their reasons, and they may not understand yours either. You do you, and don't worry too much about the competition :)

    1. 1

      This is a good reminder of the classic, Myspace is here why do we want Facebook? YouTube is here why would we want Twitch/TickTock/Snapchat?

      Each of them had their unique vision of something seemingly similar and perhaps even better.

    2. 1


      Thanks for a detailed response. I do imagine though, that everyone is trying to build a product, that should be better in some capacity than the competition, but you do mention that in terms of differentiation.

      My question was mostly around handling criticism, when trying to communicate the value of your product to a user that uses your competitor, but getting harsh responses back. Can be demoralising, when you get it over and over again. Perhaps it's more of a psychology question, more than anything

      1. 2

        For sure. I guess it depends how much you let it affect you. To those people I would say "Don't dis it until you've tried it; you might like it".

        There are countless examples of new products disrupting the market, because they dared to be different. Two quick ones come to mind: Figma vs Sketch, and Hey (from Basecamp) vs Gmail.

  6. 2

    In my case, I'm building a Game Engine so you can bet I get a ton of these among many others. When I first started building this there was a motivation behind it. There was something missing and I wanted to fill that gap. Letting them know what that motivation is has worked really well for me so far.

    Most importantly, I don't see it as criticism. As a consumer of my own product I think it's a genuine concern that I keep asking myself all the time. As long as I have an answer I'll have something of value to offer over the competition.


  7. 2

    One example: Flickr was a giant photo sharing site when instagram was nowhere around. Now instagram is a thing and no one remember the other. Key is innovation and dynamism.

    1. 1

      Those kinds of examples keeps me going for sure!

  8. 2

    Ask them why do you think Nike still make shoes when there is Adidas? 🤔

  9. 2

    I rarely answer this question.

    The time you will spend defending yourself is better spent invested in your business.

    People who ask this question are not going to buy from you. Your customers will have worked out the value you're providing by themselves and won't ask you to prove why you're better than X.

  10. 1

    I was once asked something similar.

    Well, there are thousands or even millions of products in the market with similar features, If you are able to create something that the market wants, why not? All the products have their own target customers and segments.

    In short, you just to find your niche, validate your idea and improve it or just move on.

  11. 1

    You don't need to be better in every way than a competitor day 1. You only need to be better in one way. Maybe you have an additional feature that serves a niche customer the big competitors don't? Maybe your price is lower? Maybe your customer service approach is different? I would say be different in at least one way strategically--as that one way will impact your ad copy and how you market your product initially.

  12. 1

    Why are you making a GoPro when it's worse than a DSLR? Why are you making Sketch when it's worse than Illustrator? Why are you making Netflix when it's worse than Blockbuster?

    Remember that a "disruptive" product is one that is inferior to an existing product in many, if not most, regards — it's just better in an important way that the incumbents don't know or care about.

    1. 1

      GoPro has an answer. It's "because you can use a chewing gum to stick the camera to your bike and will take great videos during your ride - what can't be done with your DSLR". And trust me, absolutely EVERY business has an answer - that or this, but has them :))

  13. 0

    I'd tend to ignore it. It's a dumb question. If I can't ignore it I'd ask them back if you can only buy one type of car or one type of soft drink? One type of sports show or one make of TV? Why did sega make a console when nintendo already had one out? Then why did Sony bring one out, and Microsoft for that matter?

    That usually silences it pretty quick.

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