Lessons From The Australian StartupBus: Not Understanding Your Competitors Can Be A Costly Mistake

Understanding the competition is important if a startup is going to develop an idea that is viable.

Somewhere between motion sickness, sleep deprivation and mental madness on this year’s Australian StartupBus, one group learned how important it is to analyse what others were doing in their market.

Coming up with the idea is the easy bit but just because you’ve thought of something doesn’t mean someone else hasn’t. The biggest difference between creating a stellar startup and one which flops is execution.

Part of the execution is having a good team which has done some solid research on their target market and product validation. The other part is analysing other brands and offerings operating in the same space.

One of the groups on the Australian StartupBus learned the the value of proper research about 40 hours into the hack-a-thon – the hard way.

Originally calling themselves Le Spex, the group is creating entirely customisable, 3D printed glasses which you can try on via an augmented reality plugin. There are a few startups running towards this same idea at the moment and also another glasses brand called Le Specs.

The Le Specs brand has been trademarked in Australia since the early 90s.

The team was told about both elements within hours of forming and chose not to let the information wash past them. The group was acting on the idea that executing well was going to be crucial.

But over halfway through, the hack-a-bus startup lawyer broke the news to the team their branding was dangerously similar to Le Specs’, flagging a potential liability.

“The team thought having a change of letters in the name would be sufficient,” General Standards startup lawyer Kurt Falkenstein said.

“It took less than 30 seconds to perform the search to be able to determine there was a trademark registered.”

The group was forced to divert valuable resources towards doing a mini-rebrand halfway through the competition – costing them more money and time. A costly mistake in hack-a-thon world and one which would be amplified in the real world of building a startup.

The group came up with a new name quickly – Spexy.me – and had to develop new designs, landing pages and social accounts.

So aside from learning to fail fast, iterate with speed and understand what a half-decent idea is, understanding what your competition is doing, and how they’re branded is also pretty darn important. Doing in-depth research on your market size, customer personas, regulatory environment and competitors is necessary to build a solid foundation.

“30 seconds could’ve saved six hours in the competition,” StartupBus conductor Mitch Neff said. “I would not take my advice from two Americans and a bus driver,” he told one of the Buspreneurs.

NOW READ: The Australian StartupBus Is Heading North, And The Teams Have Learned Coming Up With An Idea Is The Easy Bit

Alex Heber is on the road with the Australian StartupBus, a three-day trip in which a group of entrepreneurs will try to build a set of innovative technology companies over the course of a three-day bus ride. The journey finishes next week back in Sydney in time for the SydStart finals.

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