The big company vs a bootstrap

Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen some very large companies launch products that compete with products created by self funded startups.

Few notable examples: 

Yesterday, Nike launched an iPhone app that no longer requires a separate sensor in your running shoes. The new app is a direct shot at RunKeeper.

A few weeks ago, Google lanched Priority Inbox which is a direct shot at SaneBox.

The idea of big companies going after self funded startups is nothing new. Happens all the time and always will. 

The founders of RunKeeper and Sanebox both wrote excellent blog posts about their motivation in a world where the 800 pound gorilla is the direct competitor now. They are both excellent and worth a read. 

Here’s Stuart’s (from SaneBox) response to Google Priority Inbox:

My answer is that I still believe in the honest democracy which is the Internet and that the better product will win.  

For the record, let me say that if Priority Inbox is ever more accurate and easier to use than SaneBox then Google deserves to win this one. And, I will be the first to admit it.  But, so far, that doesn’t appear to be true.

And here’s Jason’s take from RunKeeper:

So, what is Nike to do?  Well, as of today, they have jumped into the game with their own GPS fitness tracking application.  Bravo, it is about time Nike!  Except for one problem.  All of you big guys jumping in with major marketing budgets, you are doing this as a brand play.  We are not.  You are doing this to try to ultimately sell more people your footwear/apparel.  We are not.  You are big and slow moving.  We are not.

So, before anyone asks, our plan is this:  We plan to stay intentionally independent, and avoid aligning with any one major brand or equipment maker.  Instead, we will integrate with everyone, so no matter what device/equipment you use to collect your data, you will ultimately be able to participate in the RunKeeper system.  We will make bold moves with how we capitalize the company, and we will plow forward with a slew of new improvements, many of which are well underway.  And in the end, our input-agnostic approach, our headstart, our ability to move quickly, and our ability to push the envelope in areas that would make big companies uncomfortable, will prevail.   And while it is scary to have these big, well-resourced competitors jumping in, we believe strongly that our approach is the right one, and that the independent system will win in the end.

Competing with big companies isn’t easy.

Many self funded startups don’t have the ability to pull it off.

But history is filled with successful bootstrapped davids vs goliath stories. Craigslist is a perfect example.  And naturally I’m  more than biased because my life’s work is in helping create, operate and invest in the david’s of this world.

Here’s to the crazy ones.