I've been working on a web-based product for about a year and a half. Right now, we have a landing page, and I've been promoting it on Twitter & Facebook. The plan is to release the MVP in February of 2018. A few months ago, I stumbled on the MVP of a competitor product. Same idea, slightly different implementation (I think my product will be better in some ways, but potentially worse in other ways). Because they have an MVP and users already, they are ahead of me. Based on their "above page", there are at least four people working on it. They seem to be highly qualified and to have more resources than me (not least of which is the pure manpower, because I work on this part-time while holding down a full-time job).
Now I'm debating whether to get in touch with them, meet & greet, and see if it makes sense for me to join them instead of creating a competitor product. But I'm debating whether I should do this at all or whether this is the right time. Would I be harming myself by alerting them to my existence (as far as I can tell, they don't know)? Should I wait until I release the MVP so they take me more seriously? (The downside is that I pay some programmers, so waiting until the MVP would be somewhat costly in terms of money). Would they not take me seriously at all because I'm not doing this full time? What other considerations should I have in mind when deciding if, when, and how to contact them?
Part of the appeal of reaching out to them is that I would love to do this as part of a team and not by myself. Ultimately, I think the world would be a better place if this product exists and is well-executed, so I'm less in it for the money than to build something awesome.
We are all trained to "look bigger than we are". Do not fear a competitor in the space: If there were none, then you would not have a space. Resources is a different issue. Setting aside we do not know what you are doing or how you would differ, but understanding that being in a team that can execute together is desirable, first you should see if you have any common connections. I would not go direct unless that is your path of final resort. If you have connections, you may be able to have one broker a discussion. However, if they are not aware of you, they will be if you lead with your "I have the same idea but ..." approach. Even then, you can introduce yourself as a "student" of the space and lead with a "I am trying to get to know everyone in the space" approach. I agree that your best strength is to launch your MVP since you are that close, but if that is a bridge too far, then outreach to like-minded people is usually productive.
The question is how long it may take before your revenues start flooding in. If they are 4, they may not want to split their shares more unless you bring to table something they need and don't have on their own. It depends how far they are located. I'd approach them now to learn more. If you approach them after MVP launch (1,5 years sounds long) they may tell you, ok nice let's wait how your project works.
i'd be happy to advise more, but would need to know what the idea/product/competitors are...
My recommendation is to talk to their customers first if you can. Treat it like a science experiment. Ask them what problem that are trying to solve, how well the other solution meets their needs, where the needs are not being met, how did they try to solve the problem before seeing the other product, ho . If you do decide to join them, you will have a great deal more value to provide due to your deeper understanding of the problem and the customer you are looking to serve. BTW - They may not be solving a problem worth solving.
I would be very interested in answers to this also. I am in a similar position where it might be better to try and sell out to a competitor vs. sticking it out.
If you're in it for altruistic purposes then tell them and convince them why you'll be an assett.
When I realize break even
When you launch your MVP public, your competitors will notice for sure, as they will also monitor their market. As you plan this in 3 months, its not a lot of time anyway. So if you go to them or not, makes just a difference in 3 months.
Not sure, if I got you right, but it sounds it bit, that you want them to think, that you are bigger, than you currently really are. This combined with a partnership is probably not a good start.
Think you would be in the role of your competitor, would you take you in now, or what would be your reaction.
I would not wonder, if they would decline your offer now, because you cannot offer a lot. It seems they have more resources and they are already launched (faster). So what can you really offer them.
But if you launch your MVP and you acquire customers, it is a different story. Then they will speak with you for sure!