In the world of the consumer, competition is a great thing. In the world of the entrepreneur, competition can also be a great thing. In the world of the Internet start-up, however, competition is, without doubt, the snotty tissue filled with H1N1 virus that one takes great pains to avoid. Just ask Ryan Janssen, the founder of SetJam, an online viewing guide and search engine for TV shows.
Today, according to a post on its Facebook page, SetJam opens up its doors to 2,000 testers. And how do you think Ryan is feeling? Sick to the stomach? Tense, with a nervous headache? He'd probably merely be excited nervous if it weren't for what he describes as an "$8 million gorilla"—he's talking about Clicker, which describes itself as an online video search engine, and basically does the same thing as SetJam.
Clicker is headed up by former Ask.com CEO Jim Lanzone, and has been given a high seven-figure funding from Benchmark Capital and Redpoint Ventures. SetJam, on the other hand, got $100,000 about six months ago, half of which was put up by Ryan himself. As legendary soccer manager Sir Alex Ferguson would say, it's squeaky bum time.
Judging by some of the entries on his personal blog, Ryan is a kinda cool guy—not iceberg cool, but a normal guy. Slightly panicky. Mind going at a million miles an hour, but with an added sense of humor, and the self-awareness to know when he's giving his team too hard a time.
These were his four pointers for competing with the, as he sees it, over-manicured Clicker:
- Let the SetJam community build its own software.
- Evaluate the competition honestly.
- Know your partners.
- Live within your means.
A fifth one could be added: diss your rivals subtly when making a list about the competition, all the while telling your readers that they seem like nice guys.
The arrival of the $8-million gorilla means that Ryan's success or failure rests on one thing: getting SetJam running as quickly as possible to steal audience share from Clicker. At this point, it looks like David is a whisker in front of Goliath. But in the world of start-ups, anything can happen.
Fellow entrepreneurs, what would your advice be to Ryan? Tell us in the comments, please.