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Three Competitive Landscape Views

Steve Goldberg is a partner at Finistere Ventures, an early-stage venture fund focused on food, agriculture, and sustainably feeding the world. This is our fourth article from a single half-hour interview.

For years (actually for untold millennia because I began this back when dinosaurs still roam the earth and my first company failed to sell them nemesis asteroid / meteorite countermeasures), I’ve been pushing founders to view the competitive landscape differently than they do.

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The first founder-view tends to mirror the well-known Gartner Magic Quadrant, where ascending on the X-axis, goes from terrible to wonderful, ascending on the Y-axis, from crummy to great, and our product is in the upper right. There are cheap products that get wrong answers, expensive products that get the right answers, unimaginably bad products that still get wrong answers despite being expensive, and ours, with absolutely perfect answers while being cheaper than everyone else.

I try to impose a second view: market segmentation. A clearly definable market that we can serve better than anyone else. I want to see a landscape where there would be a good reason to be at the top of X, the bottom of X, the top of Y, the bottom of Y. Strong vs Portable. Easy to learn vs Extremely Flexible.

Steve has a third view, which I don’t have a name for, but I will call, “successfulness of market.” Have players in this space done well? Been profitable? Had great exits?

If a dozen others have done well, easier to believe that there is a lucky thirteenth.

It’s a new way of thinking for me. It sort of feels, at least in a way, like having heroes.

Ask yourself whether there is a pantheon of heroes (perhaps even gods) in your market. Ask yourself whether there is a definable niche where you fit in. Ask yourself before your potential investors as you.

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Written by Russell Brand

Russell has started three successful companies, one of which helped agencies of the federal government become very early adopters of open source software, long before that term was coined. His first project saved The American taxpayer 250 million dollars. In his work within federal agency, he was often called, “the arbiter of truth,” facilitating historically hostile groups and factions to effectively work together towards common goals


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