I've been thinking about this a lot this past weekend and I'm still actually kinda amazed at how prevalent this is...
I mentioned last week that I had sent a "How can I help you?" e-mail to about 900 people.
The first thing I noticed was that many people wanted help and were asking for it, but they needed to be better at asking good questions.
The other thing - and that's what's been bugging me all weekend - is how many wantrepreneurs are so fixated on a "me-too" idea or business.
This is basically how that story goes: Entrepreneur sees an idea, sees another startup successfully executing on the idea, assumes that they can do it themselves and decides to pursue that dream.
The only problem with that dream: it's one of the pipe variety.
Why is that the case?
I'd think that many of you would assume I'd discourage this "me-too" approach due to the competition you'll have to go up against.
Whilst that's a legitimate consideration (especially if there's one or more big players in the space), that's not the problem here. In fact, the very presence of successful and profitable companies in the space you want to attack, means it as at least validated.
Ultimately there's only a handful of situations within which competition is a legitimate concern.
The real problem with this approach is your assumptions, starting with every single assumption you make about the customer that is being targeted.
The reality is that you know jack shit about another business' customer, whilst they know everything about their customers (or they should, at least).
The incumbent competitor knows what the real pain or problem is that they are solving. They also understand why their customers are paying to have that pain or problem solved.
Whilst it's fine to look at ideas from afar, just the very presence of a successful business doesn't become a good reason for you to "me-too" that.
You might learn quite a bit from this exercise, but you won't learn enough to de-risk your assumptions and execution sufficiently.
So be careful when the "me-too" temptation strikes you. Go about that idea in the same way you would any other idea; whether it's been done before or not.
Do your due diligence, test and validate the idea and most importantly: prove or disprove as many of your assumptions as possible.
If not, the only "me-too"-ing you'll be doing is adding another failed startup to the R.I.P.-list.