Can I compete with an existing idea rather than creating a novel one?

I’m still trying to land on a product idea to pursue.

I spent a ton of time trying to validate novel ideas. It wasn’t intentional, but I was only focusing on coming up with and validating novel ideas. Last week, I decided to take a different approach to product ideas.

Rather than coming up with novel ideas, how about I compete with an existing idea?

So far, this week was dedicated to finding existing ideas to consider pursuing.

Criteria for an existing idea to pursue

My important criterion is that the idea must be in a growing industry. Growth means that there’s enough room for multiple winners. A mature industry will reward the market share leaders. A growing industry is probably sufficiently misunderstood to allow many smaller entrants to compete for sales.

The other criterion was that the idea should align with my current experiences, interests, and skillsets. You might think that this criterion makes sense because I’ll be better positioned to deliver a meaningful product. Yes, that’s true, but it’s actually not the main reason. The main reason is distribution. I think I’ll have an easier time selling, marketing, and talking to a space which aligns with my experiences, interests, and skillsets.

Benefits of choosing an existing idea over a novel idea

In retrospect, choosing an existing idea makes a lot more sense than choosing a novel idea. This isn’t always true, but it can be if you choose ideas with the correct properties.

Here are the reasons why I think choosing an existing idea over a novel one makes sense.

The existence of competition validates the existing idea

Somebody else is already making money off this idea. You probably can too.

Novel ideas are expensive to validate because you have to put in your own time to validate them. If an idea exists already, then somebody else already paid the cost to validate it.

Is competition scary? Yes. But competition in a growing space with room for plenty of winners? That’s a great sign.

Smart people working and investing in an existing idea is a good thing. They’re all signalling that they believe the idea can make money.

Selling an existing idea is easier than selling a new one

When Henry Ford first made cars, people still traveled with horse-drawn carriages. He didn’t call his products “cars.” He called them “horseless carriages.” A “car” is a new word. A “horseless carriage” uses words that people already understand and can appreciate. Henry used existing words rather than novel ones to communicate his value proposition.

I blogged earlier about the importance of the one-sentence summary. It’s important because people need to understand your value proposition before being willing to spend money on it.

If the idea exists, that one-sentence summary is much easier to create, and selling is much more straightforward.

My method to pursue an existing idea

It’s pretty simple. Find an underserved niche within the existing idea’s space and make those customers very happy. If I did a good job choosing a growing industry, then there are definitely underserved market segments.

The rest of the method is still to be determined. I’ll carry out this experiment for another week or two and see how it goes.

If you enjoyed this post or would like to give me any feedback at all, I'd love to hear from you! You can tweet me at @dillonforrest or email me at dillonforrest@gmail.com. It'd make me super happy to hear from you!