Product Development June 2, 2020

Starting up, against huge competitors


For the past year I have been toying around with multiple ideas for a SaaS. The process was usually:

  1. Come up with an idea
  2. Fall in love with it
  3. Do some market research, only to realize there are some behemoth players in that space already
  4. Get demotivated and move on to the next idea

Should I actually be worried about playing in the same field as the Googles / Twilios / Shopifys of the world?

Can anyone share such an experience?

  1. 3

    For what it's worth, competing against the huge companies is way more fun. There's no fear that there's no demand for your product. With that uncertainty removed, it's all about tactical differentiators, which are enjoyable to dream up and execute.

    Besides that, there seems to be a growing appetite for smaller SaaS providers. I know we look for any opportunity not to rely on the big boys.

    1. 1

      Well, right, but there is always a question: "Why we should prefer your solution if they have A, B, C etc. ?" It may be not easy to answer this question :(

      1. 1

        Agreed, but I would argue if the approach is to try and replicate every single feature a large product has, you've already lost. Your positioning has to be distinct enough to dismiss those feature checklists as besides the point.

        1. 1

          I'm not talking about replicating every single feature. I'm just talking that this question will be raised anyway and you have to have some answers to it.

    2. 1


      Assuming I decide to go against the big guns, how would you frame a marketing strategy that emphasizes me being a smaller SaaS provider?

      1. 3

        Depends on the product category, but two options come to mind:

        • Hone in on one specific pain point you can address. Do one thing, and do it very well. This is our strategy, and it's worked well for us at

        • Simplify. Make a very basic version of the product the large companies offer. For example, I got really excited seeing Plausible by @ukutaht on IH, an alternative to Google Analytics. For some projects, we don't need all the gubbins in GA- we just need to see how many people are visiting.

        My advice is to prioritize the projects where the competing solution has a learning curve, and talk to people. If you're going to go up against shopify, post here and in other places "what do you wish was different about shopify?"

  2. 2

    At we compete vs Wordpress, Squarespace and Wix.

    1 billion+ companies with 1000s of employees.

    We take customers from them everyday.

    I started Versoly because

    • I had a few unique USPs (block based, bootstrap4, code editor)
    • Passion about the space (I hate people wasting time, designers and developers were coding the same stuff over and over again wasting $1000s where they could be working on product)

    I wish I worked more on a distribution channel.

    I should have been building free tools for my audience and building up a newsletter. Then once I hit 1000s of members starting the MVP would be much easier. Also if it didn't work I could have pivoted.

    Free tools also allow you to make courses and sell ad space. That makes it easier to quit the day job and focus on the main product.

    1. 1

      Sorry but most of the modern websites have your main features: block-based, bootstrap, code editor. It doesn't sound like a convincing argument.

      I'm afraid it's not a good idea to start with competing big players - they have more resources and, as usual, more unique USPs. Someone still can find their customers (like you) but it's riskier I think. Another way is to pick up a niche to separate your product from big players.

      1. 1

        Why do all our paid customers pick us?

        A lot of them don't know me and tried tons of other builders?

        Also can you link me the editors that are bootstrap based and have a code editor? Thanks.

        1. 1

          For example, this one ?

          Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to discuss your product's preferences, I just wanted to point, it's pretty hard to offer really unique proposal when there are many players.

    2. 1

      This comment was deleted a month ago.

  3. 2

    Lakebed offers a product similar to AWS/Azure/GCP/Salesforce. I was worried about this too but a friend made a really valuable comment:
    You (Simon) have worked for multiple large, multinational, multimillion dollar insurance companies that are perfect customers for Lakebed. While you were at those companies AWS or Salesforce salespeople never came knocking on the door. There is a huge, viable market that flies well below the radar of those competitors.

    My plan is to continue flying below the radar and build customer relationships locally. Then when I have a viable business and good income explode onto the scene and catch all the big players off guard.

    Similarly, when Netflix started Blockbuster was a huge competitor. When Flickr started Kodak was a huge competitor. When Tesla started GM was a huge competitor.

    Hope that helps,

    1. 0

      Similarly, when Netflix started Blockbuster was a huge competitor. When Flickr started Kodak was a huge competitor. When Tesla started GM was a huge competitor.

      They did have a competitive advantage tho. You can't just expect to sell the exact same product for the same or even a higher price. There's probably more Cloud providers than sand in an hourglass, so you gotta get some edge to your service. Offer them seemless integration with Code/No-Code Tools, genereous free tiers, whatever.

      If you do a local thing like you said, you gotta have excellent over the top service

  4. 1

    Fall in love with the problem. Don't fall in love with the idea.

    Focus on the problem your customer experiences. Don't fall in love with your idea or your product too much.

    Large competitors are just validation.

    1. 0

      This is a huge dilemma. To succeed you don't have to fall in love with the problem. But you can't succeed if you don't fall in love with the problem.