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What to do if your business idea already exists

You've got a great idea, but your research unveiled that someone got there first. Damn. Here are some options to mull over before tossing your idea in the trash.

by Catie McHugh
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One night, you’re sitting having dinner and bam - it hits you. A brilliant and original business idea. Over the coming days, weeks, maybe months - you keep returning to it, contemplating it. You decide that this one is worth exploring and fleshing out in more detail. So, with your one-page business plan in hand, you begin to research… and your heart sinks. Someone got there before you.

So, what’s a disheartened entrepreneur to do? With a competitor unveiled, should you abandon the idea completely? Not necessarily. Here are some options to mull over before tossing your idea into the “coulda been a contender” basket:

Do it better.

Just because it exists already, doesn’t mean it’s executed well or is servicing the market’s needs. After all, Steve Jobs didn’t invent the mobile phone (or even the computer, for that matter) - he just revolutionized an existing product.

If you truly believe in your idea, find your own angle. US meal-kit delivery service Blue Apron did exactly that. The overall concept isn’t much different to other services such as HelloFresh. However, they carved out their own niche by targeting socially-conscious foodies with premium recipes, locally sourced ingredients and wine pairings.

Use the market to your advantage.

You already know you need to do it better, and find a niche. Researching the existing market might give you a whole new set of ideas. What need are established businesses not fulfilling in their market? What are their customers already complaining about?

You don’t need to avoid the competition to get ahead - embrace it! Benefit from the seed they have already planted, because the market is already carved out for you. You can topple the competition by differentiating yourself with key concepts that improve and enrich the existing space. Tons of online payment systems exist, but that didn’t stop Stripe from launching their product, which focused on seamless online transacting that smoothed out the bugs and clunkiness developers often faced when setting up website shopping carts.

This step is important for any new business. It’s well and good if your idea exists and you present yourself as a challenger, but thorough research will uncover the critical areas of business you can optimize to differentiate your product or service.

Be memorable, and don’t give up.

When it comes to a new business, you’re the best asset you’ve got. You’re unique, and no two founders will have exactly the same approach. Make your mark and embrace the difference you bring to the table, because an idea existing already is no reason to stop pursuing it in your own way. eBay was not the first online auction site, Amazon wasn’t even the first online bookstore, yet their business has come to represent the benchmark in those markets, with an instantly recognizable brand and offering.

Our research found that successful entrepreneurs don’t wait to act on their ideas, they just go for it - so don’t get too disheartened and bogged down worrying about the competition, just start making your own dream work!
 

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