Everyone Has Startup Competition, Even if You Don’t Know it Yet


Mark Orttung

Here’s a number every company should worry about: a quarter trillion dollars. That’s the amount of money startups in the United States raised in the first nine months of 2021. It’s a record-breaking amount that even exceeds the $166 billion raised last year, according to venture capital database Pitchbook.

The unprecedented amount of money sloshing around in venture capital right now means someone is definitely working on what you’re doing. If your company is not competing with a startup business, you just don’t know it yet.

“Much of the funding in 2021 has gone to tech startups,” according to tech reporter Nicolas Rivero in Quartz. “During the pandemic, investors have been eager to put their money behind the companies that are building software that helps people work, shop, connect with loved ones, and stave off boredom at home. Tech is one of the few sectors still delivering massive returns amid inflation fears, supply-chain chaos, and economic disruptions...”

It’s important to understand that everyone has startup competition. Because if you don’t see it and can’t react fast enough to it, you’ll get beat.

No one wants to suffer the fate of Kodak, a company that once dominated 80 percent of the photography market in the United States and went bankrupt when it refused to embrace the digital world. Examples are all around us — Robinhood disrupting brokerages, Stripe in payments, Bill.com in spend management — and these are the giants we all know about today. There are hundreds of these companies just being formed today, waiting in the wings, securing their funding and gaining traction… quickly. 

Managing Your Startup Competition in 2022

Even if you realize the world has changed and your company is on the wrong side of progress, it’s not enough to just wish you operated more like a tech company, able to bring accelerated software products and services to market.

While self awareness is the first step, the real work involves adopting a product mindset.

Plenty of Fortune 500 companies want to function like Google or Amazon, but they’re still structured in old-world silos where brand managers don’t work with developers. At startups, everyone works together. Legacy companies need to figure out how to replicate that synergy, but unfortunately there are a lot of factors standing in their way. Too often, business leaders and technical teams at companies don’t talk to each other. Addressing this critical gap with constant communication is the first step in a product-minded approach. 

For us at Nexient, the product mindset embraces this need for communication with a fast, flexible and highly iterative approach that fixes today’s problems while adapting what works to fit tomorrow’s needs. We push you to manage the quote-on-quote startup competition by asking yourself;

  • What if our approach placed great user experience at the start of the desired business outcome?
  • What if we built in the flexibility to evolve and improve and grow from the start?
  • What if both happier customers and happier employees drove higher revenues and profits?

All these scenarios could happen, when business and technical people collaborate. Each team member offers a unique perspective that improves the product’s overall development. This is in contrast to traditional project management.

The companies that survive know that a product-mindset goes beyond just embracing agile software development. The agile manifesto is now 20 years old and as important as the concepts are, it’s really just the first step.

Agile is a very developer-centered view of the world. But companies today must move further than agile to incorporate product and user experience. There needs to be a product manifesto akin to the agile manifesto.

Today, every company has to run itself like a tech company. Otherwise they won’t be able to keep up with the proliferation of startup competitors fueled by an astonishing amount of venture capital. Many organizations know this, or at least there are teams within them who are acutely aware. The challenge is galvanizing support to make that transition.

Product Mindset in Action

So, it might be all well and good to talk theoretically about product mindset, and open communication between disparate teams, but we also know that it’s way better to paint a picture. Among our recent case studies, one that stands out is this application development story, where we created an asset management product suite to reduce risk, improve the reporting performance, and improve compliance accuracy. Take a look and be inspired to start change within your own organization.

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