Brand Strategy · Product launch

How can I obfuscate my value/brand MVP enough to throw off competitors while retaining core users?


April 5th, 2016

So currently I am solo founder and am in a bit of a dilemma. I see lots of quality products fail in the long run because the big fish companies eat up the product and market idea once it starts to grow and gain traction - perfect example, pebblebeach smart watch market being eaten up by Apple and countless other brands.

So that's the big concern for me here on one hand - battling entrenched competitors with strong distribution channels. They are beatable though, especially if you have better tech, strategy, and a bit of favor and luck (facebook is a great example here, so is Google). The other concern - the opposite extreme - is that although I know it can grow fast with proper optimization obfuscating the brand or product may get in the way of gaining enough traction fast enough.

I have a very clear picture of the product, market testing, several years of experience in the industry leading product and management for top companies - one of which is the global leader in the world. I just currently lack the distribution channels I need to release what I think is the full MVP with patentable tech. I'm also located in a hotspot for tech entrepreneurs so I know I can get funding and a team together.

I've been right about a lot of other "ideas" and am more or less paid for them - to predict and designate what the market will go after - with success in various software markets. So I have a lot of faith in my vision for this product. I also have a formal background in Economics and several years experience in entrepreneurship.

I've put significant work in putting together business processes, studying the market, and also have a few ideas that will require patents for my product. I'm currently building out some incredible tech and spotting incredible opportunities.

Within the next couple of months I will have continued putting in a lot of legwork to meet my goal of: creating a cashflow positive product, gain partners, and then investors so that the company grows as the product grows...very very fast (once it's been released).

How can I go about releasing quickly, gaining traction enough to win more of market, while staying away from competitor radar?

Some strategies I've considered:

A) Release full MVP product guns blazing. Worry about team, sales, and investors later.
B) Release product with 25% of it's already MVP (even less of its) core features.
C) Release decoy MVP product and decoy brand then pull it off the market (to gather data and analysis); and then build team, sales, and investors.
D) Release decoy MVP product, tell users it's being updated, and redirect to newer product; while building team, sales, and investors

Chris Owens

April 5th, 2016

I think you're worrying way too much about people copying you.  Ideas are a dime a dozen and there are so many of them out there. You won't get singled out unless you are already creating so much traction that they can't ignore you. But by then your resources will be different and the game will have changed.

Assuming you've got the NEXT BIG THING, even if a competitor SEES what your idea is that's no reason to think they will have the foresight or understanding to recognize that you're the person to copy before you have clear traction.

You can run around driving yourself nuts worrying about this aspect of business.  You're better off just forgetting about that as a concern and moving ahead to get the business built.  Don't optimize for PROTECTION, optimize for GROWTH.

Michael Barnathan Adaptable, efficient, and motivated

April 5th, 2016

If you're the one they're copying and you've become the leader in your niche, chances are they'll start by trying to acquire you. Doesn't make sense for them to build it themselves if they can buy you and your users for less.

An MVP is a "minimum viable product", so releasing a percentage of it doesn't make sense. If they copy you, it will be later - you defend against this by innovating quickly and entrenching your leadership in your niche; e.g. by offering value-adds that bigcos can't easily duplicate, or leveraging network effects / your existing user base.

But before any of that happens, you need to grow big enough for them to care!

Stan Podolski CEO at Nimble Aircraft.

April 5th, 2016

the very simple answer. You competition does not care about your MVP. Try to sell it to your customers first, then you should worry about competition stealing your ideas

Usually you have to pay to steal your ideas

Chuck Bartok Social Media Consultant, Publisher, and Contrarian Curmudgeon

April 5th, 2016

I have never heard of such concern and worry about something.
If it is a stellar product who gives a twit what the other guys do.
Your example of "others" failing probably was result of POOR management and lack of understanding the Market.
I have never been concerned about what someone else does when I introduce a product, If it is GOOD, priced relevant to use, and I know the market, it will succeed.
BUT not everything does.
So what!
An entrepreneurial mindset does NOT care.
The thrill keeps on delivering positive results

Matthew Mellor EVP of Innovation at Zelis Healthcare

April 5th, 2016

I echo some of the feedback here. Job one is to prove to yourself that you have something worth protecting, not protecting it. And you'll never get that market validation in a way that's meaningful without a full MVP.

Stick your neck out--it's okay.

Ema Chuku Product Developer. Founder.

April 5th, 2016

If you spent too much time worrying about being copied or watched you are going to end up losing focus and not meeting your goals.

So how about "F" Release a core product and grow with traction and metrics, because you are going to experience some roads of pivoting.

Scott McGregor Advisor, co-founder, consultant and part time executive to Tech Start-ups. Based in Silicon Valley.

April 6th, 2016

I agree with what others say. 

You can't win with 25% of a MINiMUM viable product.  That's what  Minimum means less than minimum is not sufficient. 

You also  by confusing your customers. You need to be serving your customers and have clear communication with her. That's more important then confusing your competitors. Eventually your competitors will talk to your best customers and they will learn what people love and by that time you need to be able to compete on some other bathing suits then confusion and secrecy. 

If you see a kernel of corn in the dirt, neither you nor a grizzly bear are likely to find it soappetizing  you would fight over it. But tiny Bacteria and little ants will be all over it. And a couple of small birds might fight for it.  

But once there is a whole ear with hundreds of kernels you and the bear may both suddenly find it worth fighting for and small birds and ants had better look elsewhere

So it is with small companies and large companies. While you serve a market so small that big players are not already in that market they will probably focus on their big markets. 

But if you and your market grow together, by the time the competing bears show up you won't be a little bird any more but will now be a full size human ready to compete with bears.  But probably by that time you won't compete on brawn alone (though you may use your new size to intimidate small birds), you'll compete using brains and the bears will try to use brawn.

Lastly, as others say, big companies don't usually replicate small company's work! If you are the market leader you are the most attractive Acquisition candidate.

And that is an Exit strategy which is how you get paid for building a big company over years. Do not fear that outcome.

Jerven Carter Founder/Chief Experience Officer JRC Development, LLC

April 8th, 2016

Have you read Lean Startup by Eric Reis? If not, I suggest that you do. He basically uses real world examples of why what all the above responses are accurate.

Brian Keller Technical Solutions Leader, Mobility/Cloud at AT&T

April 6th, 2016

It's always the case from my humble point of view that someone with an idea feels like it is the "best" and that others will copy it. Well, if it is that good of an idea I could see that happening however, if you live in fear you'll do nothing. So stop fearing and start doing. 

Suryanarayanan A Head, Incubator consulting services at Bhiveworkspace

April 5th, 2016

I echo what has been said. Never worry about what the biggies will do eventually. Superb execution and customer wow is the key differentiator. 
thinning margins, employee attrition and increasing competition are a given.Rapid flawless Execution will keep you ahead.
Launching a quick MVP even if it is not 100% ready will tell you what the customers want and you can accordingly tweak your product.