Don’t Create Something To Compete, Create To Replace

Black Sports Car
What will replace the car?

Some of the most successful entrepreneurs change the rules.

Most people look at the world and think about improving what already exists.

A few people are able to look at what exists and wonder how they could totally change the rules.

It’s not necessary to do this for success. It’s also not very easy to accomplish. When something has never been done before it’s very difficult. But if you’re audacious enough to first, think this way and second, take on the challenge, the rewards can be great.

When you hear about creating something “10x better” than the competition, what often is actually happening is the replacement of something that seems pretty good right now. Most can’t comprehend a parallel universe where things are totally different.

Most people look at a car and think, “Yeah, cars are good enough.”

Most entrepreneurs look at a car and think, “Yeah, I have a few ideas to make cars better.”

Unicorn entrepreneurs look at a car and think, “I want to replace cars…”

That’s basically what Uber is trying to do. Maybe not replace cars, but replace the need to drive cars.

For decades, the library and the librarian were the sources of finding information. Then people started putting information online. You had to know where to go to find it. Then Google said, just use our search engine to find anything you want. They replaced the way we found information.

A favorite example of mine is Lone Wolf Treestands. In the 1980s, the founder, was obsessed with deer hunting. For centuries, people had hunted animals basically from the ground. The treestand was a new idea. There were a few around. But the Lone Wolf treestand was molded out of aluminum. No squeaks. Very light. Easy to carry on your back and put in a tree within 10 minutes.

That founder replaced the way humans had previously hunted with a product that is basically the same 30+ years later. You can create a treestand to compete with it, but it’ll be nearly impossible to create a better treestand. The only way to compete would be to replace the need for a treestand…

It’s easy to look at certain industries and wonder if companies have monopolies. But that’s the nature of business. Industries mature. Efficiencies are required and usually one company is able to provide the best product with the most efficiencies. And it becomes impossible for someone to create something slightly better.

But the threat to every monopoly isn’t really someone that creates a similar type of product. It’s someone that replaces the entire industry with something new. Something better for the consumer. That saves time, effort, and money.

Sure, Standard Oil had a monopoly. But the product they mostly provided, gasoline, fueled human technological growth in the 20th Century and continues to today. It will continue until something replaces gasoline. And it will happen. It probably won’t be an oil company that comes up with it.

It can seem like Google has a monopoly in search. And it’s true. But only because they provide the best search engine and people want it. As much as ever. Nobody will likely beat them by creating a competing search engine. But someone, someday will beat them by replacing the search engine with something better. Who knows what it will be.

You can make a good living by creating something to compete with what already exists. But you can be really audacious and think about how to replace entire industries. It’s crazy. But it happens to most industries. It’s just difficult to know when it will happen.

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